Saturday, June 26, 2010

Saturday Purge

The room smells peaceful, not the hospital smell I expected. There aren't a lot of machines, just an IV, a morphine drip. No beeping, no nurses in and out, just family. No white hospital floors and hospital sheets, but colorful comforters cover and protect her cold body and plush pillows that support her weary head, as she waits to pass. Pass to a world free of disease, free of pain, free of anxiety. Her checks sunken in, her body cold and lifeless. She labors to stay with us. She works to breathe. Family members come in and out, touching her arm, letting her know they are here, sending their love. Telling her she doesn't have to fight anymore. She doesn't have to be strong. She doesn't have to be in pain.

So this is what the end looks like.

I'm not good at death.

I am never sure what you're supposed to say to the person dying. And I am not sure how you're supposed to feel. Case in point, my father has congestive heart failure. Before he was diagnosed, we thought he was dying. I was away at college when he was at his sickest, barely able to breathe and speak, my mother not sure if he'd make it another day. I was a member of my college's women's swim team and during this time, we were on our Winter Break training trip to Arizona. I remember having dreams that my father had died. Dreams that startled me awake, in a deep sweat, heart pounding so hard I though it would jump out of my chest, wondering if it wasn't a dream and indeed, the truth. So startled, I would have to call my mom to confirm that my dad was still alive. Thankfully today he is still alive and doing well.

But now we wait for the phone to ring, to get the call about my Aunt June. My mom's second sister in three years that will have passed, passed from Cancer.  Cancer that she has been fighting for 10 years. I went to see her yesterday. She is a mere shadow of her former self, or at least the woman that I saw just a couple weeks ago, although sick, vibrant and full of life, full of hope and strength. She now lays in a bed, arms crossed over her stomach. Skin hanging on to the body that is left, lifeless, not moving, barley breathing.

So this is what the end looks like.

June doesn't open her eyes. Her head doesn't turn toward the voices. She continues to work to breathe. Through the pain, she works to breathe.

And she hangs on.

Maybe she hangs on to the voices, hangs on to the memories, hangs onto the strength of her daughters that are with her day in and day out and hangs onto family. Although she knows what is coming, she won't go out without a fight. Her last battle. Although her body is suffering, her spirit is alive and well. Her spirit fights on, fights for one more day, one more hour and one more minute.

So this is what the end looks like.

I hope that cancer doesn't follow you to the after life.

I imagine her passing through the light, becoming painless, her body full of life. Her skin warm. Her eyes awake and alert. Almost ethereal and angelic, her body now matching her soul,beautiful. Her heart full of the love she received before she past and her mind at peace, no memory of the battle she just fought. Memories of those that loved her, those that helped her pass peacefully. I pray she is not alone, but greeted by her sister.

Hopefully that is what the end looks like.

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