Mary and I sat quietly together, talking about her dying. Light increases her headaches, so she lays in a dark room most of the day. She is rather pragmatic, facing her death many years before she ever expected with frequent stark remarks like “I don’t have anything left to do now except die” and “This is the first time I’ve ever been dying”. She has said that there really isn’t any big thing left on her “bucket list”. I asked her what did she need today? Her answer…..“More time”.
No surprise to me, I actually thought those exact words as I asked the question and she paused a brief moment. More time… I feel the same, she is too young. I would be asking that question “Why?” … some people get 90 years. So arbitrary, it seems.
Then she asked a question that is always hard to hear, and even harder sometimes to answer. “Am I getting close, then?”
As we sat, Mary shared a new sensation and asked me what I thought. She described a feeling of running as fast as she could, not aimlessly, but also not certain of her direction. And something behind chasing her… certain a huge monster was chasing her. No matter how fast she ran, it was behind her. “Sounds scary”, I said.
When I was a little girl, my younger sister and I shared a room. With six children, there was always sharing involved. Your bathroom, lunch, clothes, toothbrush and even gently chewed gum was shared (I know that sounds gross, but if there was flavor left in the gum, this was announced and someone always wanted it). The room sharing was a significant part of my childhood. Then the older girls left home and the three of us still living at home had our very own rooms. But my younger sister spent most nights in my room anyway. We used to say she was a scaredy-cat. I was thinking of this little sister the other day, the one who had great fear of the closet door being left open at night. Just like in Monsters, Inc….that closet, we all know, is where the scary things live in the dark, but if the closet door is shut they can’t get out. We ALWAYS closed the closet door tightly before jumping into bed (you jump so that nothing can grab you from UNDER the bed, because once you are in the bed it is SAFE!)
Some things are the same, no matter how many years we live. Our fears might take a different name, but “as I lay me down to sleep…if I should die before I wake…” that is a fear we carry with us in some unnamed place, that we try to ignore- but all of us will have to face someday.
Mary knows the scary thing is out of the closet. She is so brave, in her fear, to look back and see the monster chasing her. One of these days, fairly soon, she will stop running. I can visualize her throwing off the covers, bravely putting her two feet on the floor, throwing open the closet door, and like Lucy in the Narnia tales, walking through the wardrobe. I think she will find something truly awesome waiting for her.
I just found your blog and read through the whole thing. While it was hard to do- it reminded me of the wonderful hospice nurse that provided my mom comfort and my sisters and I guidance on how to say goodbye.. While nobody knows for sure what she could hear, a tear streamed from her eye as we told her how much we loved her and what a wonderful mother she is. Thank you for writing here…and for doing what you do
One evening, close to her death, my daughter Molly told me she saw a woman running in the back yard, through the trees. We were sitting in the family room, with windows that looked out into the black night. I was rubbing her feet, something I did almost every evening. Foot rubs were one of the few things that helped her feel good for a little while. But seeing a woman running in the back yard seemed scary. I just nodded, as if to say, yes there are those things to be seen when you are this close to another world. Sometimes I wish I would have said something more, but at the time it seemed just accepting what she saw was important. I have never told anyone until now. When I read about Mary, I remembered my Molly. I think Molly was scared, then accepting, then okay. Well we know she was ok, because on her dying day, her last words were, “I’m OK.”Molly was whole when she died, and one of the biggest factors in making her whole was the help of hospice, and specifically the help of Amy, the blessing of Amy’s presence that very day.