What Was & What Will Never Be
Short stream of consciousness.
The COVID lockdowns stole the last several months of my mother's life.
It's been 3 years, but I don't think I will ever get over being angry.
When I think beyond just my personal experience, read all these accounts of similar situations-with memorials held via Zoom, and loved ones having to arrange things online rather than in person, I get furious.
My mother never had COVID. Several years ago the doctors found a spot on her left lung and she opted for radiation treatment first before diving into chemo. After several treatments, the cancer was no longer present and it bought her a few more years. Unfortunately, the radiation left a huge cavity in her lung, which would later become unmanageable.
In the fall of 2019, she had pneumonia, and by January 2020 she was admitted into ICU. I remember getting the call and then driving several hours to go see her. They had her on a ventilator and heavily sedated. There was no way to know whether or not she knew anyone was there talking to her or not since she couldn’t respond.
That was the last “visit” I would have with my mother in person.
She spent the next several weeks in ICU, and at one point seemed to be out of the woods. They removed her ventilator and actually moved her to a nursing home to continue recovering.
I tried to get in there, but the nurses wouldn’t allow it-same as the hospital. I called for days trying to get one of the nurses to go to Mom’s room and let me talk to her. The problem was, she’d been on a ventilator for several weeks at this point, so when she was able to speak it was a faint whisper. I would need to read her lips if I was going to be able to understand her at all-which wasn’t going to happen.
I finally talked one young nurse into going into Mom’s room at the nursing home and using Facetime. This call would be the last time I’d ever speak to my mother. The call lasted less than 2 minutes. Mom started to get upset because everyone around her was having a hard time understanding what she was attempting to say. She started coughing really badly and I didn’t want to upset her any further so I told her how much I loved her and that I would be down there as soon as they would allow me to come in and see her.
She threw up the “I love you” hand sign, which she did each time we departed. Thank God I thought to screenshot our Facetime call because it’s the last thing I ever got from my mother and I would just have to accept that. The screenshot shows us both in the call with her hands showing her saying that she loved me.
Three days later, I got a call that things had gotten worse and she was back at ICU, and back on the ventilator. Heavily sedated and unresponsive.
This would only last another week before I would get the call from the doctor saying that “it’s time”. He told me that only two people could come into the hospital to say their goodbyes and sign to remove the ventilator.
When I arrived, I sat outside in the hallway while the nurses removed her ventilator and prepared myself for what I was about to do.
I went in and stroked her hair, I felt her skin and held her beautiful hand through her last breath.
From start to finish, it was 28 minutes.
I found my father dead in 2008 but had no time to prepare for that. This was different. I’m grateful for being able to be there when she passed, but I can’t describe what it’s like seeing the person who gave you life fade away in real-time.
Each breath was more shallow, less labored, but honestly, very peaceful. She wasn’t in pain, and I think she was more than ready after being so sick for so long.
COVID lockdowns robbed us of time I could have been there for her. No one knows if people who are sedated or unconscious can hear you or not, but I would have liked to have the opportunity to at least try to speak to her beyond the 28-minute countdown I was allotted.
Not even sure why I’m writing this other than for therapeutic reasons. Maybe this will resonate with someone else. Maybe I just need to release it into the ether. Maybe one day I’ll stop being angry for the time lost. Maybe one day I’ll understand why it all had to happen this way.
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