Yesterday, my “step” sister and my nieces had to put their cat Max to sleep, a week before that my sister and her mum, lost their 23 year old cat quiet and peacefully at home. In November 2014, my mum was dying. She’d been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer in May and it was bad and got worse during her try at chemo. She wanted control so she stopped chemo and we lived. She spent time with friends, family, and was in Florida with her brother when we knew that the end was so very close. She barely made it back and I think only she and I knew that she wasn’t going to be with us much longer.
My physicist step dad had told myself and my Uncle Jon in an email that his in depth research had “projected” that mum would die around the middle of November – turns out he was right to the day and that he really didn’t believe that. Mum was really weak and way to uncomfortable, especially when she got off that plane. She looked 6 months pregnant with all the fluid that had gathered in her stomach. We had a quiet Saturday as I introduced her to binge watching and we got quickly addicted to Alpha House. Sunday, mum seemed better she had more energy, my cousin’s daughter and her girlfriend came by and mum ate (brie and potato chips – try it). Afterwords, one of mum’s dearest friends, one of the ladies’s she fiddled with came by and the stayed up for a while and mum picked up her beloved fiddle and they played a few tunes.We also finished binge watching Alpha House. She hated that cliff hanger…
It wasn’t surprising the next morning that mum was tired. She and Lorna played the same tune, Pat Cooksey and her pet cat Hannah, created specially for mum three times and then she put away her fiddle. We had to take Lorna to the train station and as mum tried to put on her shoes I knew that she couldn’t come. I didn’t want to leave her even for a few minutes and I was crazy with worry for every second that I was gone. I needed to be with mum. I got back and she was on the couch. The hospital bed arrived that day, and mum went to rest on it and that was the last time she was up. That night she slept in the bed and I was on the couch in the living room, I was up and down all night, hyper aware of mum.
Mum was awake on Tuesday and up for a visit with her closest two fiddling friends, they stayed with me for a while and then we were alone. That was when mum and I had “the conversation”. I don’t know if it was fair or right but I had to know.
I asked mum if we were in the “right state” would she have wanted to take advantage of the right to die. I knew the answer but still had to know, had to hear it, was hating myself because I hadn’t known in time that NM, our old home, where my dad’s 2nd wife, the one that I thought of as my step-mom, still lived. NM was one of the 5 states that allowed right to die. Another courageous woman dying at that time – her story told me that there were 5 states rather than the two I knew but I didn’t find out in time. Mum wasn’t going to make another move, she didn’t have time, and I wasn’t going to have the loving nurse I could have had caring for my mum and for me.
Mum wanted that, she wanted it badly and she told her hospice nurse as much when she arrived actually interrupting us as we talked. Her hospice nurse didn’t like the conversation she had with mum as mum railed against having to live when our pets got the mercy of death. That nurse resisted giving mum more morphine and mum was so uncomfortable. I hated it.
The next day I found out from the social worker that comes with hospice that the word “comfortable” was key. Mum had to say she wasn’t comfortable and she wanted to be. Comfortable meant she was knocked out on morphine. My step dad hated that – he wanted mum to be able to ask for what she needed. He needed to be able to help her and he believed the nurses that mum was so strong that she would be with us for at least a couple more weeks. I knew better. Mum wasn’t fighting any longer. She was ready to go. She left us on Saturday. She hadn’t been conscious since Thursday and I was heartbroken and so relieved that she wasn’t in pain anymore.
I’m still angry that she wasn’t given the choice that she wanted. California has the right now just to late for her. I’ll let go of the anger eventually, it’ll turn to regret and perhaps one day to peace and maybe one day the mercy that is so easy for our pets will be as easy for our parents, our family, our friends, for us.
Life is important but so is acknowledging that life is not always the answer sometimes letting go is what we have to do even when it leaves a hole the size of a fist in the middle of our hearts. Sometimes what is right is the letting go, acknowledging that whatever else is out there it is what is right.