This morning I was bustling around the house getting ready for church. I was desperately trying to remember everything I had to do to get ready – my usual predicament. I went upstairs to get Mom’s dishes to get her breakfast and took one look at her and knew something was not right. Her face was flushed and her eyes big with fear. I said to her, ” You’re not feeling OK are you. I’m not going to church. I’ll stay here with you.” I could tell she was relieved that I was going to stay home with her. She said she was coughing a lot and as I listened to her coughing I realized it was a lot worse than it had ever been. It was gurgly, and loose and she was wheezing and sometimes whistling as she breathed. She said she had been coughing all night. Was her heart failure worse?
Again, I went into hyper-alert mode. Organization mode. The first thing I did was call the nursing company and ask for a nurse to come and see Mom today. I got her breakfast. I got her pills. I got her nitro patch. I messaged my pastor to pray. I went through all the motions while the silent screams filled my head. Were we getting closer to the end. Was this it??? I wasn’t expecting this. She seemed to be doing well. We were just kidding the other day that she would be living to 100.
I made a cup of tea and sat with her sipping silently, listening to her struggle as she coughed over and over again almost to the point of gagging. When that cup was gone I made another and did this over and over most of the day sitting by her side. She dozed on and off. We watched a bit of TV.
Later on she decided to lay down for a real nap. I went downstairs and listened to the news about Hurricane Irma reaching Florida. The news droned on as I sat in my easy chair trying to make sense of what was happening today. Somehow what seemed to be way in the future was now right in front of my face staring me down. Daring me to face it head on. My own hurricane of sorts. Was today the day she was going to die? Or was this another false alarm? Maybe a false alarm but a giant step closer to what I did not want to face. Yes, Yes, Yes….. I am ready to let her go. I can’t hold on to my Mom forever. I have rehearsed this moment over and over and over in my mind. The moment she goes to be with Dad in Heaven. I see them embracing, so happy to be together once again. I am happy for them. I am happy Mom is no longer suffering. Then I remember. I am now alone. Alone without Mom but not alone totally. I have Jesus who is right with me holding me, and I have my beloved kitties and I have my friends and my church family. No, I am not alone. But oh, it sure feels that way.
The nurse comes. We wake Mom up and the nurse gives her a good going over. Nurse’s advice – phone her doctor tomorrow and tell her things have changed. The nurse tells me in private that most likely her heart failure is worse. I say good bye to the nurse and go upstairs while Mom continues to nap and I clean my room. Might as well be productive in a crisis. I start to feel sick to my stomach. I feel I am going to throw up. I realize that listening to Mom coughing is bothering me so much that the stress of it is making me nauseous. I agonize for my Mom as she has to go through this. Some say those with autism do not have empathy but with many of us just the opposite is true. We are so empathetic that it distresses us greatly. Maybe not in the usual ways but it does cause us great grief. I go downstairs and put on my christian music to help me cope, to ease the panic, and the stress I feel. The nausea does not go away. And now a full blown headache rears up. I wrap my blanket around me and rock back and forth, back and forth. Hurricane Irma is now a catagory 2. My hurricane has just been elevated to a category 8. A 10 and I will explode into a million pieces.
I call my brother in Ottawa and let him know Mom is having a hard time. He relates to me all my nephew’s hockey practices this weekend. Hockey season has just started again. It is intense. He says they will have to try to get down in the next few weeks. I hang up. I feel empty.
I don’t know what will happen in the days to come. I don’t know whether this is just a bad day or whether this is the start of a new reality for both of us. I will stay close to Mom, my beloved Mom. I will cherish her every moment. Even if each moment stretches into months down the road or stops tomorrow. I just know each moment is precious. And I know that when it is the darkest, God’s light shines the brightest. He will be my light to maneuver through whatever lies ahead. And I will rest in the shadow of his wing.