The Death of Denial
I was helping Mom in the bathroom when suddenly she slumped over, unable to hold herself upright. Her hospice nurse was scheduled to come later that day but had previously offered to come sooner if needed, so I immediately contacted her. As soon as she saw Mom, she looked at me and mouthed that she thought Mom was dying.
Mom had been under hospice care for more than a year so I should have been prepared for the inevitable, but as it turns out, I was not. The nurse said the actual dying process had started and the body was shutting down. She estimated it would happen within a week or two.
I had to embrace denial in order to function as a caregiver while bearing witness to mom’s gradual yet blunt decline. Uterine cancer had metastasized to her lungs, leaving her frame tiny and frail. Alzheimer’s had slowly robbed her of the precious time she had left, stealing happy memories and replacing them with sad ones. But she had already surpassed the doctor’s timeline three times over, so in my mind, I still had more time with her. Hospice immediately began visiting twice daily. Denial was still in charge: I gladly accepted the extra help without accepting the reason for it.
With the exception of Mom being bedridden, the first two days seemed to go on almost as normal and my fantasy was allowed to continue. Mom was still alert, drinking fluids quite a bit, and showing no signs of slowing down, so my denial remained intact: “If she’s this thirsty, maybe she would get hungry again and surprise everyone. After all, her doctors always say that she was a miracle.”
The third day came with a nurse’s warning to call loved ones, which I did while still somehow believing that the nurse’s timeline was inaccurate.
Even after Mom began sleeping a lot and eventually stopped talking, denial ensued. Hospice provided a little book that described the active dying process, and it said that there was sometimes a surge of energy hours or days before the actual death. My denial began to fail me when my eyes could no longer lie. I began to hope for that energy surge, but on the sixth day, denial gave way to a full dose of terrifying reality.
Mom died on the evening of Thursday, April 25.
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