You know what’s weird about waiting for someone to die? You’re waiting for someone to die. Just like you’re waiting for a cake to bake, or clothes to dry or the cable guy to show up. You sit. You watch the clock. And wait. Everything needs to be put on hold because you don’t know if it will happen today or tomorrow or next week or the week after that. Some days you don’t feel like it’s going to happen at all. Life gets put on hold because someone else’s life is being extinguished. It’s a selfless act that tested me in more ways than I was comfortable with.
As my mom laid in her hospice bed in the middle of the living room, we all watched the clock. Every day. She watched it, too.
“Am I still here?” she’d ask.
“Yes, Mother, you’re still here.”
“Shit,” she’d respond.
And we’d all go back to watching TV. And watching the clock. And sometimes even saying “shit,” ourselves because we didn’t know when it would happen. And our lives remained on hold.
You feel guilty for thinking about the things you have to do other than being with the person dying. In my case it was Christmas. The parties I was missing, the decorations I would never put up, the popcorn that wouldn’t be strung this year. I kept counting the days saying, “If my mom died today, and we had a funeral, would I get home in time to put up Christmas lights?” So wrong, but it’s the stuff that goes through your head.
And then there were the Bob Seger tickets. I felt extreme guilt for not giving up a pair of tickets I purchased for a show at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. I couldn’t bring myself to return them. Just in case. Just in case she’d go a couple days shy of the show. They were really good seats; great seats, in fact. The most money I’ve ever paid for concert tickets in my life. One of the perks of being married to a musician is that you get into just about every concert for free. With VIP passes. And backstage access. And after parties. But my tickets to Bob Seger were just as a mere civilian. A fan from Detroit who was looking forward, more than anything, to seeing this show 2,294 miles away from the living room I was sitting in now.
The concert was December 27th. One week from today. My mom’s blood pressure was still perfect, her heart was still beating, her spirits were still high. She didn’t look like she’d be going anywhere anytime soon. And, admittedly, I was antsy. I was hoping the process would speed up so that I could go on with my life and go to this show. I can’t believe I’m saying that out loud, but I am. I’d had enough of diapering and poop wiping and tooth brushing and hair combing and body flipping and care taking. I wanted to end the grieving. I wanted life to be normal again. I wanted to turn the page and let Bob Seger roll me away.
As I stood beside my mom’s casket, in front of the church altar on December 27th – the day of her funeral, the day of the show – I never thought of Bob Seger once. I could only think of my mom’s laugh and how I wished I could hear that sweet song just one more time.
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2 thoughts on “On Waiting For Someone To Die”
FROM THE AUTHOR: This might be too honest of a post for some to process. However, I know I’m not alone in my feelings.
It’s a sad reality that these days we have a hard time just “being” anywhere without being distracted by where else we should be at the time. Even if it’s on a phone checking emails when we should be at church or a kid’s soccer game or at the hospital visiting grandma. I think that’s a universal truth – I’m not saying it’s a good truth – I’m saying it’s sometimes difficult to be present in the now. And when you’re waiting for someone to die, it’s a very strange concept. You know they’re going at some point, and every day you ask the nurse, “is it today?” She says, “no, not today,” and you just have to go on with your lives like normal until the nurse comes back tomorrow and you ask her the same question again. Eventually she’ll say “yes.”
Thinking about real life beyond that living room is what got me past the sadness. It was a trippy time.
I can’t be with my beloved husband of 60 years, owing to poor health. I have visited him almost every day for 15 months in the home he is now in and he has been ‘end of life’ for several weeks. Now he is at the very end and hos he is hanging on I do not know because he is not earing or drinking. I am bereft at not being at his side st thie time and, in any case, the senior nurse has advised me not to even try as he is now in a very poor state and very thin. he mutters all of the time – is he asking for me I ask.
I have to have a heart procedure and bowel operation quite soon and my health is very poor. This is not an excuse for not being there but reality. I am alm ost 80 and ole age is beginning to win the battle.
Does anyone else go through this kind of situation? Audrey