For the last eleven days I have been rather idle, sitting around reading, talking to many relatives and taking mental notes of the folks coming and going from my mother's hospital room. I didn't realize my actions at first and I blame fatigue and my own emotional state for that. After a few days, the writer in me woke up and began filing away tidbits of the many layered ways others approach the dying.
I'll begin with the nursing staff. Most will agree with me these professionals are very special people. John's tone of voice was very different from Kim's. Kim talked softly but directly to my mom, using her name. Kim touched my mom with gentleness, rubbing her fingers across my mother's arm in a tender caress. Her glance to me looked for verification to see if this manner would reach my mom. She included me instantly in the care of my mother. John's voice was deeper, with a touch of authority in its sound. His fingers rested on my mom's shoulder waiting for her to acknowledge him. His smile seemed to awaken something elemental in my mother because she rarely spoke but watched him closely as he explained to her what he intended to do. She watched him with child-like fascination and maybe, just maybe she thought he was cute.
Doctors must see death more than the average person, yet their vagueness in the discussions of the future became frustrating. My mother had four specialists and each one hid behind their professional jargin in order to say what they had to say. I learned quickly most doctors hold their feelings in their eyes. Dr. Smith, the infectious disease specialist, always talked directly to my mother, never looking to my father or me. His examinations were thorough just as the other doctors, and when he turned to leave, he asked if we had any questions. When we did, he walked back into the middle of the room and gave us his attention. We didn't always understand what he said, he knew that and didn't deter from his medical explanation. The kidney specialist was frank and monotone in his words, but his eyes gave him away. The only lady doctor we had repeatedly told us, "good luck," which I realized was her code for this will not end well. Her slow nod and crimped expression confirmed my understanding of her message.
When family came in life entered the room with them. My aunt hustled in relying heavily on her cane, but her joy for living swirled around her. She stood at my mother's bed and talked and talked of the good times, speaking directly to my mom, laughing at her own stories, telling my mom, "I know you remember that day." Mom never opened her eyes, but I believe she heard and remembered. Each time after my nieces or my own children would leave, the room grew too big and empty. I liked remembering the silliness of their sparing over some past family gathering. I hope my mom felt their rambunctiousness, their energy and yes, their concern for her.
My sister, dad and I have sat in the same room now for many days, watching family and friends parade in and out. My husband has spent many hours in waiting with us. Nothing much has changed except the days on the calendar, the changing shifts of the hospital staff, and the smile fading from my father's face. We're in a holding pattern, trying to bank the pressures of today in order to be with Mom a little longer.
I wonder who will walk through her hospital door today. Whoever it might be, I know they will bring love and concern with them. Hopefully they will share a funny story to brighten the day, brighten the light in my dad's eyes would be even better.
Til next time ~