Bungling through…the dying process. Part One.

Rule #1: It’s all guesswork.

Okay, first of all, when someone you love is dying in a hospital, there will be PLENTY of people who will give you advice. Most of them will deliver this advice with a good degree of authority, and thankfully with a good degree of compassion. Accept that advice, but realize that no one really knows anything for sure, and few will admit that.

When you get to the point that the doctors start telling you there’s nothing further they can do, you’ll be told to gather the family for any final goodbyes. You will likely feel partially dead yourself. You will likely question what you’re being told and you might ask things repeatedly and still not be able to hear what’s coming at you. It’s important not to be alone at this time, to have someone you love with you; what you don’t retain, they might. You will likely break down, contort your face into unbecoming poses, suffer from an undelightfully runny nose and care little about it until hindsight kicks in. If it does.

The doctors will probably give you a timeline. Realize they may be wrong. In my case, what was expected to take four hours took forty-eight. No one really knows.

You will probably say your goodbye, and feel lightheaded, confused, and slightly psychotic. And then you may glance at  the various vital signs monitors. And then you will say goodbye again. And then you will glance back up at the monitor. And then you will repeat your goodbye, and then you will study the freaking monitor. And then you will wonder if you should summon an emergency surgery because maybe it’s not her time to die. And you will act on this thought. And the doctors will look at you with pity and feeling and tell you again that she’s dying.

And then you will watch the monitor again. And then will start second-guessing yourself. You will wonder if she’s waiting for you to say something important. And then you will scour your heart and soul for anything that requires closure, and you may hear yourself saying something like, “And I’ll make sure all your library books are back before the fines kick in.” Or, “I’m sorry I gave you such a hard time about your composting obsession.” Or, “Thanks for not buying me Jordache jeans when I was in middle school. It actually DID give me character.” Even if you’re still bitter about the Jordache.

And then you will hold her hand and wait. And then your knees might get tired and you might sit down on the chair next to the bed, still holding on to her hand for dear life. Or death.

And then you will get tired. And the nurses will start circling the room. And you’ll feel okay, you may even start to feel hungry when you realize it’s been fourteen hours since you last ate. Or took a pee break. And then you start to feel ridiculous — how can I take a pee break when my mom is dying? How can I be thinking of a banana nut muffin, for God’s sake, AT A TIME LIKE THIS??

These things can happen. Don’t worry, it won’t last forever. You’re just bungling through.




Bungling through….

I said goodbye to my mom on the Sunday before last.

Well, actually, I said goodbye to her that Friday. And Saturday. And that Sunday, for the last time.  It was probably the most emotionally significant and unexpected thing that I’ve been through. I’ve thought about how best to honor her, and here’s what I’ve come up with. A series of “Bungling Through…” blog posts. Death isn’t anything most of us specialize in, emotionally, logistically, medically, legally, or any other adverbial way. It just kind of happens. And you kind of learn as you go. At least that’s how it happened for me.

Of course, I may look back in a year or two and wonder what the hell I was thinking, but for now, knowing my mom and her wonderfully inappropriate sense of humor, it seems like a brilliant idea. And if in a year or two — or even a couple months or weeks or days from now — I look back and question my judgement, there’s always the wonderful, underestimated power of the delete key.