If you had one song left inside your soul
What would you sing tonight?
If you had one chance left before we’re old
The last song of your life
What is it you wait for?
Tell me who you are
Not what you’ve rehearsed
All the other parts
Friday, August 2, 2019, exam room 13 (I think), Concordia Hospital Urgent Care.
That’s the new line in my own timeline.
I noticed my 84-year-old mom felt more tired than usual but caring for your soon-to-be 95-year-old husband does that to a woman. I filed it away to keep an eye on it. A phone call at work from my brother alerted me to something new.
“Mom doesn’t want to eat, she feels nauseous,” said my brother, “but she wants to wait until she sees the doctor next week. Can you try to convince her to go to urgent care?”
Mom? Not eating? A woman who will finish your plate if a morsel of her favourite food gets left over? A woman who can be just as stubborn as I am at times.
“I will see what I can do,” I replied.
I had a break at work, and I called, speaking in our usual English and Portuguese. I listened and finally said, “Mom, let’s go to urgent care. I can take a leave at 11:30 and come get you.”
“But what about work? I don’t want to…” She protested
“Look, we are dead over here, and people will understand, but if you need antibiotics, we better get them sooner.”
I really thought it was a stomach bug. Intellectually, you know this moment will come but have a vision of something akin to the long decline of her mother. It’s what Roger and I mentally prepared for in the past two years. We thought dad would go first. Dad thought he would go first and said as much to her cousin from Fall River.
Instead, after two CT scans and my gut saying two scans? Something feels different here. The doctor came in, pulling up a seat, and said the following, “I am sorry to tell you you have pancreatic cancer, and it spread to your liver.” I had my hand and on mom’s shoulder already but my grip turned firm, anchoring each other over the news.
A pause before she replies, “I have 84 years old. I lived my life, and my kids have own lives. I worry for my husband.” The slow decline instead became a runaway train. Her friends felt stunned, while we tried to keep up with the admission as a palliative care patient with home supports, her hopes to finish her days at St. Boniface’s ward. Instead, her end came at the beginning, at Concordia Hosptial. She was close to her, in fact, next home to the care home where my Avo had passed in 1990. She had her own room, the Health Care Aides let me eat the untouched suppers after I came to the hospital straight from work.
I sat by her bedside as she slipped into a coma, reading about the film My Zoe showing Toronto International Film Festival on my phone. I remembered in a past interview, well before, Richard Armitage praising Julie Delpy for her direction and for being an ear as his mother left on her journey in the final stages. Me too, Richard, I thought, I also envy you because you got to play an angry character to channel that stage. I had to scream in my car on the way home one night.
In the ending of my post about her passing, I wrote about the next hard part taking a lifetime. It’s also a new song, the one without mom, but she did end up being her authentic self, and I got to see it. She knew life was not a dress rehearsal, and she wiped my tears, telling me to go with my life, as I discussed what medications she would like to stop taking. I played this song on repeat from the time of her diagnosis to well after she passed. I miss her and I will for the rest of my life.
3 thoughts on “Music Monday: The Last Song Of Your Life by P!nk”
Fatima, I don’t know you but I feel I know you. I feel your pain and you don’t know me but I feel you do. These posts have been incredibly helpful to me. My mom will be 91 in November. She weighs 87 pounds now. My dad finally got help a month and a half ago. My sister has been there all the time in the summer before she went back to teaching. I was looking up air fares for December to fly to Texas where they live when your blog post popped up in my email. I get it more than you will ever know. In so many ways as I cry now writing this reply your honesty helps me in that phone call that will come. I hope not for a while because my mom is mentally there. She knows what is going on but her body is failing her now. My dad is 82 now as of last Friday. We worry the toll of taking care of her has had on him. I just want to say thank you for your honesty and opening up this incredibly painful period for you to your readers. I am deeply grateful to you. Again massive hugs from me to you.
There’s always a shock to me between my perception of dad and what other people (who don’t see him constantly say), and I definitely can identify with the tendency to think, whatever it is this time is probably something run of the mill (as it always has been). It’s good that the hospital / professionals were so supportive to you.
Maybe it’s good that we often don’t know. When my mom left the house the second-last time she thought she was just going to the doctor: instead she was admitted to the hospital and the last time she was at home (with a physical therapist) it was more or less with the consequence of establishing that she probably would never live there again. She never got to say goodbye to any piece of that project, which she’d spent so much time on over fifty years, and this will always trouble me, but on the other hand I wonder how it would have been for her had she known what was about to happen. If you knew it was the last time you’d read a story to your child, because they’d age out of that phase of childhood, would it overload the moment? I would never say “things happen as they happen for a reason” but sometimes maybe the way they happen ends up being “the way of things.”
Not sure what I’m saying here except that I never knew what to do with my grief in that situation either other than continuing to do what I was doing. In the end I hope that what she taught me when she was living her vibrant life was both sufficient for me and sufficient to satisfy her, even if the end wasn’t what she anticipated. She let go with grace, as it sounds like your mother did.
Thanks Serv. It’s something I thought about too.
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