I am blessed indeed to have so many intuitive, sensitive and loving women in my life, be they family or friends. What I am now going through with my Mom is as old as time. The cycle of life. Everything that has a beginning, has an end, and we are coming to the end of one cycle. It is how you get through that cycle and how you come out at the other end that matters. It is one of the most difficult times a person goes through, and it is the people around you, who have been through it before you, and who have the ability and the willingness to share with you the benefit of their very personal, painful experience, that get you through the difficult times.
I am blessed because I have many of those. My childhood friend who has not let a single day pass, during those past two weeks, without calling me long distance, half way round the globe, just to let me know how much she cares and that she is with me, if not bodily, but in spirit. My other friends who are physically much nearer and who continuously call, and even those who come visit and spend time with me, trying to break the monotony of the hospital day, or giving me a change of scenery and mood by taking me out to lunch. Then there are those who have taken it a step further and have shared with me their pain and given me their advice by telling me how they handled it, what to do and what not to do. First and foremost: guilt. Whatever you do, there are certain acts, thoughts or gestures that will inevitably come back to haunt you with guilt. This is the one subject they all touched upon. We are all human, we all have our own frailties, we cannot be as perfect as we want, and we do fail. It is natural, normal, and something we have to accept and try to live with. I took some time out yesterday by going back home for a direly needed night of good sleep, a desperately needed hot bath, and some down time for recharging my batteries. On coming back to the hospital half way through the day, I found my Mom fast asleep on the chair. I asked the nursing staff and they told me that she hadn’t slept at all the night before. So I just sat quietly there giving her time to recuperate and catch up on her sleep, the best healer when the body is ailing. But when that sleep went from two to three hours, I started getting a bit worried, but into the fourth hour I tried to rouse her just to make sure she was alright. I could feel the effort she was making to try to open her eyes, she was extremely drowsy and when I asked her questions to try to alert her, her speech was slurred and mostly did not make sense. I tried not to panic, called the nurse and asked her if she was given any medication that would make her drowsy, the answer was no. So I called her doctor who said that it was probably because she had not slept all night and was making up for it. I was not convinced, why should she have slurred speech if that was the case. I got the nurse to check her vital signs, which turned out normal, then called the doctor on call to check on her. He came by and said there was nothing wrong, but that if there are any more developments to let him know.
At that time one of those intuitive women, a cousin, called. I told her what was happening. A few years ago she had lost her mother to cancer, so she too had been through the wringer. She gave me the benefit of her advice, she told me that one of God’s blessings is the ability of the body to impose sleep to give it a reprieve from the pain and a chance to heal. She told me that with her mother, she was always waiting for those periods of sleep, where she was not in pain anymore. She was trying to help, but my Mom was not in pain and I was worried about the quality of her sleep. After that call the nurse came in and we tried to rouse her again to give her supper. She did wake up but with difficulty, ate a few spoonfuls, but was still very drowsy. After taking her medication, she lapsed into sleep again.
That is when I got the second call from a friend who had recently gone through the same experience. With uncanny intuition she started to tell me what her feelings were during that period, the ever hovering guilt, the down-to-earth practicality which kept her grounded and saved her many a sleepless night later on. The fact that there is really very little that anyone can actually do to help the person going through their own cleansing fire before the reprieve. All we can do is just be there, go through it with them and try to make them as physically comfortable as possible, and assure them mentally and emotionally by a softly spoken word, a gentle touch of the hand, a loving kiss on the forehead.
A few minutes later my Mom opened her eyes, looking exhausted. I started talking to her. She was lucid, her speech was better, she was more alert. I was relieved. Not for long. It was then that the discomfort started. Yet she dosed off again.
Another friend called, this one has more spiritual transparency than most and was trying her best to help me through this period. Her message was that people who are very close, like my case with my Mom, sometimes hold on so tightly as to make it difficult for the one who needs to go, to leave. I understood the message very well, it is the application of it that is very difficult. But the rest of the evening showed me that all three had really given me the best advice that anyone can give to help in such situations.
A few minutes later my Mom woke up to real pain. And that is when our tortuous journey started. The infection she had suffered from last week, flared up again with a vengeance. The pain was unbearable. I called the resident doctor and he prescribed a pain killer, examined her and prescribed a topical ointment that should relieve some of the pain as well. Waiting for the painkillers to take effect was hell. She alternately called upon God to help her endure, to lift the pain, and then called upon anyone to just take that searing stake out, that she has had enough and cannot take anymore. I thought that was the worst and gritted my teeth to endure it with her. Then she started alternating between begging us to take away the pain, then cursing us for the insensitive people that we were. Even at her lowest ebb, she had a way of saying things that made me laugh in the middle of my tears.
The next half hour was hell. The painkillers were not doing anything, so I called the resident doctor and asked for a stronger painkiller to be administered intravenously so that it takes effect quickly. After a few minutes, which seemed like hours of torture, hearing her screams and begging God to take her out of this painful world, the nurse finally came in with the long looked for medication. Two minutes after it started to flow into her blood, I could see her begin to relax, her screams turning into little whimpers of pain. Then she shook me up. Twice she said “Mamma?”. Instinctively I just said: I am here. She looked so relieved, then started slipping into sleep as the painkillers took effect fully. I waited half an hour to make sure that she was really sedated before going back to the apartment. I was drained. I had received several calls when the crisis was at its most crucial point where I had to shut off the telephone, so I just called one friend to tell her that I really couldn’t speak to anyone, I was too drained. I must have taken a chill last night, it was pretty cold by the time I left the hospital and I did not have my coat. It is now 5.30 in the morning and I have a very sore throat, but will drink my hot tea, take some medication, finish this article, which is my therapy, then get ready to go to the hospital. Will have to wait for the driver though, as I cannot drive the way I feel.
In all this, where are the men in my life? They have taken to the hills! The one man who has the right to do that is my brother who is going through the same pain I am, but being a man, his way of coping is to bury it deep inside and bury himself in his work. The rest of the male population do their best. They text, or some brave souls even tried to call. The “stronger” sex, has taken to the hills, bless them. The “weaker” sex are giving me their all. Thank you God for all of them, strong and weak, without all of them my world would have been the poorer indeed.