the days are slowly stretching longer again. right now i'm sitting in my apartment's turret, looking over the streaming morning traffic. ah, unemployment. i love you. spring has finally sprung and summer, with its sweat, discomfort and smog, can't be far behind.
summer brings thoughts of my mother. she died july 8 about 4 years ago and her absence is a something i find extremely hard to fill. her death was sudden. actually, to be technically correct, the cerebral event that killed her brain that led us to decide to let her die was sudden. everything after that seemed to move in slow motion.
first there was the call from my father, his deep voice careful and pastoral even to his daughter. "Something has happened with your mother. I'm on my way with the ambulance right now. I've called your sister. She's alive but she's gone, baby. She's gone."
then there were the hours of waiting for the doctors. words like 'massive brain bleed', 'blown vessels', 'brain activity none' were floated. then there was another call. "We're going to have to make a decision," my father said. my sister agreed we had to make a decision. 2000 miles away i agreed. and so, like we'd done everything else we made this final decision - as a family. my father, sister and brother in law standing in the bright california sun outside daniel freeman hospital; i huddled in my chicago apartment, my roommate waiting on her cell phone with our firm's travel agent, getting ready to fly me back home. and i was the one who had to say it. "Yes. Do it. Shut if off."
and then the absolute worst week of my life unfolded from there.
throughout that week there was no one who didn't know what we had decided. even the doctors were taken aback. they expected us to dither in hope that her brain would suddenly come alive after blowing itself apart. but that was not where our hope was. my father's congregants asked us how we could decide what we did. how could we put into words the recoil we felt looking at a husk kept alive by a tube? what other choice was there?
this is what you think right before you decide to turn off your mother's life support: will she feel it? will she suffer? what if they're wrong? what if she wakes up tomorrow? what if she wakes up and she's a vegetable for the rest of her life? what will we do? how will dad cope? jesus. will she suffer if we turn it off? will she feel it? what if they're right? she's dead. let her go. she's dead.
the political circus that this family's ordeal has become is only part of the terry schiavo tragedy; greedy eyes peer into their lives and now we're all voyeurs. the larger tragedy is how destroyed their family is. we were fortunate; my family stepped closer to one another, hunkering down, closing the windows and shutting the lights. my sister and i have talked about this many times and we thought the same thing at the same time: dad can't live like this. that's what made our decision (and i'm pretty sure dad thought the same about us.)
it's trite and very Lifetime Television for Women to say it this way but it's 8.53 in the fricking morning and i haven't had coffee yet. by deciding to let our mother die we made a decision for the living. in the end, that's who our decisions are really for.