This morning, before Richard and I headed home over the mountains, running ahead of the forecast wave of snowstorms, I was sitting with my mom, feeding her a cherry danish broken up into tiny pieces so she could chew it. She was sitting up, her frail body more or less held up by the hospital bed and several pillows. After I fed her a bite, she suddenly said,
“How do I get out of this hospice stuff?”
“What do you mean?”
“I want to know what I have to do to get out of this hospice thing,” she said.
I thought for a minute. “You mean why you need it?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said. “I don’t want to be here.”
“Well,” I said slowly, thinking, How do you tell your mother she’s dying, especially when you don’t know if the words will make sense in a brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease? “The doctors at the hospital evaluated your health. They looked at your bedsores and the fact that they’re getting worse instead of healing; they looked at the break in your arm from last August, and the fact that it’s not healing; they looked at your weight and your general health, and they concluded that your body is wearing out.”
“In order to keep you out of the hospital, to keep you at home and keep you from having to suffer through all sorts of invasive procedures, they recommended hospice care. They idea is to get Dad the help he needs in caring for you and to help you be comfortable as your body winds down.”
She looked at me with tears in her big blue eyes.
“You have a strong spirit and lots of willpower, Mom,” I said. “That’s what’s kept you going through these decades with the terrible bouts of rheumatoid arthritis. But your body is wearing out. That happens to all of us.”
Richard sat down on the other side of Mom’s bed.
“People do “graduate” from hospice care, Joan,” he said. “Miracle cures happen. It’s not impossible, but it’s not likely either. None of us know what’s ahead, and we all want the best for you.”
She turned her head back to me, her blue eyes wide open.
“I love you,” she said, after a minute. “Thank you for being here.”
“I love you, too, Mom.”
(The photo above is my mom during high tea at the Brown Palace Hotel last spring for her 79th birthday.)
We were quiet for a bit, and then I noticed that her gaze had drifted to the plate that still held half a dozen tiny bites of cherry danish.
“Do you want more cherry danish?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said. She opened her mouth, trusting as a baby bird, as I fed her each tiny bite. Then she closed her eyes. I kissed her cheek.
“We need to get on the road before the snow moves in again in the high country,” I said.
“I know, you need to go.”
“I love you. We’ll be back.”
“I love you, too.”
We gathered our stuff, hugged my dad, and headed off. Sometimes words are just not enough. But we do the best we can with what we have.
Take the time to tell the people you love just that. Because as my wise husband said, we don’t know what’s ahead and it’s much better to feel a mite sappy and sentimental now than to be sorry later.
Love isn’t a finite resource; the more you use it, the more you have.
A brief bit of good news: My WildLives CD is now available through the largest distributor of independent music on the internet, CD Baby. It’s also available through iTunes (search for either “Susan J. Tweit” or “WildLives”). The physical CD is $14.99 through CD Baby, but you can download it for just $9.99 for the whole album, or $.99 per track. (With 29 tracks, downloading the whole album at once is a much better deal!) The download is quick, and makes a great last-minute Christmas gift.
Thanks for supporting my work, and happy holidays!