What I still remember from 5 of the last conversations I had with my mother before she died
It has been 10 years since the last of several strokes took my mom from us at 52 years old. I was 19, my sister had just turned 23. Afterward, I was diagnosed with PTSD. Even now my body has a stress reaction to the month of June - I have nightmares, cry at seemingly random times, and seeing/hearing an ambulance creates inescapable panic.
- 1.She accepted some responsibility for being sick and apologized that she wouldn't be around to see my sister get married, meet the person I fell in love with, or be a grandmother. She said she regretted how quickly my sister and I had grown up because of our parents' divorce and because of her diabetes (and alllll of its complications.)She told me that she was happy my sister had found her husband because we had always had to be strong and he eased some of that burden for her. She encouraged me to find someone that helped shoulder my struggles too. She said, "that isn't all love is, but it is a big part."
- 2.She pleaded with us to believe she wasn't dying. I still wonder if she felt trapped inside of her own body and knew what was happening the second time. I wonder if she suffered because of my choices. I still have nightmares where everyone believes I am dying and I can't tell them because I can't move or I have been given a tracheotomy.At the beginning of June my mother fell into a coma and our family discussed, from her bedside how long we should wait to place her on palliative care. Then, just as suddenly, she woke up screaming (SCREAMING) Dylan Thomas's Rage Against the Dying of A Light. One of the first things she said to me and my sister was, "I kept trying to tell you I wasn't dying but you couldn't hear me." For the first year or so I woke from those dreams with deep claw marks on my throat.
- 3.She believed I had given up on her and sobbed that I was leaving her.At the time she fell ill, I was living with her in one half of a duplex. My grandparents lived in the other. My mother's family decided it was time for me to "move back in" with my Dad. Shortly after she woke up and said she wasn't dying they forced me to tell her that I was doing so. She was heartbroken and cried that I was leaving her. She begged me to stay. I now understand why my extended family needed me to move but I will not ever forgive them for making this conversation happen.
- 4.She gave me the best advice I have ever received and made me promise not to commit suicide. Most of this happened the very last night she was lucid but I realize now that a lot of our conversations were aimed at making sure I didn't kill myself in this one she actually made me promise. I asked her "What am I supposed to do without you?"She said, "You live, sunshine. You do good. Trust yourself to know it when it comes to you...Trust your heart, trust your experience. You see parts of the world other people look right through. Use that...Can you do that?" "Yes." "Can you promise me?" "Mom—" "You have to live, baby. You have to keep fighting. I want you to promise me." ... "Okay. I can. I promise I will."
- 5.She begged me to let her die. She basically asked me not to get help or call anyone if her condition deteriorated. I did not do what she asked; it took several days after her last stroke for her to die. I have always felt all of the extra suffering was my fault. Therapy has helped me so much since but that guilt will always be mine and mine alone.I still can't really talk about this one. She said she needed me to let her go and at first I thought she meant her hand that I was holding but then she made it clear. She told me she was tired and needed to rest. She said it was just me and her and that that comforted her. (I recognize that was a manipulation, but knowing my mother felt like this was all she could do to get peace still haunts me.) When I told her she would die she responded with, "But I will be okay. It will be okay."