Have you had a Moment of Awakening you’d like to share for possible publication? If so, please send it to Rita Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was taking my 93-year-old mother out to dinner one Sunday to a vegan restaurant in Fountain Valley. We got behind a car with young people in it, cigarette smoke wafting out of the windows and into our car.
“Mom, why do you think people still smoke when they know the end result is not pretty?” I was just talking without expecting an answer. But she had an answer.
“Well, Rita,” she said rather softly. I looked over at her. “I think they feel like they’re missing something.”
“Like what?” I said.
“Something inside.” She was searching.
“Like unconditional love?” I offered.
“I want to say…um, infinity.”
Oh. Now we were getting somewhere.
“The feeling of being part of something bigger.”
“Wow, Mom, that’s deep. You’re becoming a sage,” I said, sincerely.
She turned to look up at me from her scrunching-into-a-mushroom, Yoda-like posture and said, “I think I’m going to come back as a counselor.” My mother’s a Catholic, they don’t come back.
I grinned. From a Midwestern beef-eating bank executive and wanna-be matriarch to a vegan and counselor. Not a bad re-entry.
My mother died a few weeks later.
She called me on a Wednesday morning, sounding distraught but clear-headed enough. She asked me to come up. This wasn’t unusual for this time in her life, and I’d drive up whenever I got the call. She was working with an end-of-life psychologist to help alleviate her fears and remorse. It was a tough time for her so the call was oddly routine.
When I got there, a hospice nurse from a large and highly reputed local hospital was sitting in one of my mother’s comfy, low-back chairs, looking nonchalant. My mother was lying on her side in the hospital bed we had placed in the living room by the picture window.
As I walked in, the nurse calmly said, “We just gave your mother a suppository. She’ll be gone within 72 hours.”
“What?” came blurting out of my mouth. “She sounded fine an hour ago. You mean I’ll never see my mother again?”
I went straight to my mother’s face and opened up her eyelids so she could see me.
“Mom, I’m here. I’m right here.” I stared back at her. Hospice never even asked my family if that was something we wanted, never mind asking my mother. They never even gave any of us a chance to say good-bye while she was still cognizant.
“She was hitting her caregiver and getting violent,” said the nurse. One time? So? Who wouldn’t at that stage of the game? Her caregiver had been with her for 10 years, she could take it. My mother had lots of health issues, she was already on borrowed time, but give her a break. One foul and you’re out? I couldn’t speak.
I later learned that type of behavior at the end of life is called terminal agitation. Hospice made it terminal, and fast.
I stood at my mother’s bedside in shock. Her breathing was heavy, slow. Her little shadow, a miniature apricot poodle named Brandy, was lying between her legs, muzzle right on her crotch.
A friend of mine, a psychic, came over later that night when my family was milling around. He sat in the dining room where it was dark. I noticed he was writing. (Part 2, Radiance January-February 2018)