When You Don’t Die Fast Enough
My brother Chad and his family haven’t seen Mom in years, and for a long time I hated them for it.
I felt like they should have been more present. They felt like they had a right to remember her the way she was.
I felt like not visiting her was a sign of weakness. They felt like not visiting allowed them to move on.
I felt like I was alone. They felt like I wanted to be alone.
So when I called Chad to tell him Mom was live discharged from hospice for outliving the standard three-month deadline placed on the terminally ill, I wasn’t totally surprised when he didn’t seem to care much.
“Bummer,” he said.
“Yeah,” I responded.
There was a bit of an awkward silence before we riffed on a few inside jokes we’ve shared over the years to break the tension.
Then I told him I hired an end-of-life doula.
“That’s the dumbest idea ever,” Chad said. “Why would you do that?”
I quickly put up my defenses. “Because Mom deserves it,” I said, clenching my jaw, holding back what I really wanted to say, which was, “How dare you even ask that when you haven’t been there this entire time?”
“What she needs to do is die already. It’s what would be best for her. For everyone,” he responded. “Look at her quality of life!”
I didn’t know what to say.
On one hand, he was right: Mom has outlived her life expectancy by six years. Nonverbal, bedbound, chairbound and completely dependent on others for her to sustain life, it makes one wonder what quality is left.
On the other hand, he was totally wrong: There’s something about Mom. Something about her energy and presence in the room that makes me think she still loves life. There are still parts of her experience on Earth that are worth hanging around for, and our end-of-life doula, Kathy, has brought out that brightness in profound and life-affirming ways.