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Friday, 11 October 2002

The hospice nurse showed up this afternoon and was surprised at how alert my mom seemed. We put her on an egg crate matress pad, learned how to irrigate her catheter, were once again instructed not to give her food or water. Margie continues to ofer my mom food and water tho. My mom refuses most of the time, but she's been having a few swallows of fruit juice a day. I've been putting eyedroppers full of milk thistle extract in her juice. Margie credits them to my mom's being alert.

You have to understand that when I say alert, I'm contrasting with total unconsciousness. I'm talking about her eyes being open, not her having full coversations. But she was talking; she was waiting for something. Maybe Chuck and Paul.

Chuck showed up in the afternoon, stayed a while. He was scared to hold her hand, but he still stayed in the room with her and talked quietly, not really to her, but she knew he was there. Paul told my dad he would come at 4:00. Chuck left at 4:15. We kept telling my mom Paul was coming and she would smile broadly. But she got more and more agitated. She got out the whole sentence, "when is he coming?"

At 7:00, while my mom's pain was greater than the morphine could dull, I reached Paul on the phone. He wanted to come in the morning since he was asleep. I told him no, come right now. christi grabbed away the phone and started yelling at him. He hung up. we called back and he didn't answer. We called Mitch and asked him to come over to take Christi and to go drag Paul from his house. My dad reached Paul's housemate on the phone, who said Paul had left to come here. Mom got more pain medicine but was still agitated. She was tense. She wanted to know where he was. We gave her more sedative. It started working right before my brother arrived. Or perhaps his arrival calmed her down.

Paul is asleep on the couch. My dad is in his room. He's pulled all of the family photos out of his dresser on to the floor. Margie is sewing up her pants, then puttering around the kitchen, then checking on things around the kitchen, out of the way but maybe nervous. Christi is with Mitch and Sarah D off someplace getting takeout food. They'll bring it back and some people will eat in the kitchen or the family room or the dining room. It's probable that my dad and I will both decline to eat with them. My mom is lying in bed. She's had morphine, which in addition to killing pain, opens air passageways. Her bed is tilted up so high that she's almost sitting upright, which also helps breathing. Her oxygen in turned up to 4 litres per minute, the highest flow we're allowed. My mom is breathing laboriously, snoring and almost gurgling, occasionally gasping. I've left her side to sit below the foot of her bed and type this. I don't know why.

She's got nothing left to wait for. Everyone has been here and said everything they're going to say. It's ok for her to go now. I want to tell her that, but my throat closes up if I even think the words. But I still will it at her, hoping she'll read my mind.

We have an array of holy candles. The one burning the lowest is St. Jude the Apostle, patron saint of lost causes. I thought the candle would be out yesturday, but it's still burning. Even his candle is a lost cause. Which will burn longer, the fire in it or the fire in her? They both have little fuel left.

My fuel is oreos. I've eaten a bag of them today. And had a cup of orange juice. Maybe I'll have some dinner. I've called my neighbor to water my plants and feed my cat. We're still waiting here. Death is ritual. Family member gather and wait. Friends come and say things and go. Other friends bring food and then go, or perhaps cluster. Last night they watched a silent movie on Christi's laptop. The ritual falls into place on it's own. People bring flowers, cards, prayers. Bits of religousness descend on you. Things are briught thought to be spiritually helpful to the dying and their family, like more holy candles, or relics or bags of oreos. The dying also know their part without being told. Everything my mom is doing is what everyone does. The dying move their arms, reaching up and out towards death and then bringing their arm around in a defensive move against death's blow. Horrified and fascinated, she's making up her mind. She's waiting for whatever she needs to wait for, for as long as she can wait before it becomes too much. Her body hurts her, it's failing her. She reaches towards the other side and finally, she must make the descision to cross over. It's too compelling to resit for long. Her body cannot hold her here.

Perhaps she still waits. Perhaps she's decided to continue on the journey her body is taking her on. She breathes like she's decided to go. Perhaps she could be woken back up and persevere for a while longer, paying for each moment in additional pain. But maybe every need has been met. Every request has been filled or else deemed not important enough to delay her. So I sit and wait. I haven't written her biography. I'll ask my godmother for help when the time comes. The hospice nurse says this is a sacred time for my mom: the descision, the waiting. And so we wait for the ritual to finish. It's ok mom, you can go.

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