My mother loved to make photo albums. After Dad died, she put together a two-volume photo history of his life that is quite remarkable. Beautifully done. My siblings and I have been pouring over those pictures in the last ten days, discovering new things about our parents, and remembering our childhoods. It's been wonderful and precious and exactly what we needed. So I've been thinking of the amazing trips they took--to China (for Dad), Uzbekistan (together, to visit the Dump and her family), to the Virgin Islands, all over this country. Countless camping trips, hikes, family vacations.
I turned to those albums again tonight after another very long day at the nursing home. An excruciatingly long day. How can this woman continue to live? It's really quite unfathomable. She stopped eating and drinking weeks ago. Hasn't had a single ounce of water in over a week, yet she continues to hang on to life. That room in which we sit--now just three of her five children, after a weekend of the whole family being together in town--has grown as small and diminished as she is in the bed. We sit and micro-analyze every nuance of her breathing, and minute movements. Are her shoulders moving? Is she more still than she was an hour ago? Are her fingernails turning blue beneath the inexplicably-silver painted nails (I mean it, don't ask me!)?
BB, RE and I sat in that room today and were ready to pull our hair out, we were so bored. Punch-drunk with boredom, emotional exhaustion. Trying to figure it out, trying to plan our lives around this giant thing that apparently absolutely cannot be planned. Obviously. Trying to relax against the tension in our shoulders and necks. We might have made a few inappropriate remarks. Might have deep-sighed when we came back from coffee-runs and lunch to discover that those shoulders were still moving up and down. Threw up our hands in disbelief...dismay. You'll have to forgive us. If you sat an hour in that room, you'd understand. Those of you who have been here before us know exactly what I'm saying here.
This living with the dying is just plain hard work.
And this last trip of Mom's seems to be one she doesn't want to make. There's some ride she refuses to get on. That's what the head nurse at the nursing home thinks anyway. And that sure sounds like Mom. Deep down fear of what she doesn't know. Even though she believes. "Have you tried telling her it's okay to go?" The social worker asked my sister helpfully. RE didn't even have to answer before the nurse answered in the affirmative. If only they could see how often, how many ways we've been telling Mom we love her, that we're okay, that it's time for her to go. As I said today, I don't have any new ways to say it! And that's saying a whole lot for me. So, until she can relax (though she barely seems more than a piece of rock at the moment!), it could go on forever...
In the meantime, here we are. Watching her shrink before our eyes but still continue to live. We'd never have imagined it possible. But I just keep reminding myself that 'her times are in His hands.' There is no more clear picture of God's Sovereignty than these days, in a way. He will do what He will do. Even if it drives us crazy in the interim. We'll try not to think of what we missed to get here last week, what we gave up to get here in time. Just keep living each day with each other (thankfully not alone!), and with this little mother who continues to breathe.