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Posts Tagged ‘keeping vigil at a parent’s deathbed’

untitled-sadness4Today I visited a friend who’s near death. Her husband and young adult children were in the hospital room when we arrived. For days, they have seldom left her side. They are close enough to hear her whisper her needs. They hold her hand, and she lifts theirs closer to kiss. There is overwhelming sadness. Losing a mother is never easy.

It is late summer, 1998, and an old futon stands sentry at the foot of my mother’s bed. For hours, I’ve lain there awake, afraid to close my eyes, afraid that when she needs me I won’t hear. I needn’t worry. Her first movement knocks a glass of water off the nightstand, and I bolt upright, a sharp pain of alarm in my chest.

Our mother is dying at home, and tonight it is my turn to keep vigil.
I jump to my feet and rush to her aid. My mother lies on her side, a small pillow between her knees to ease the pain of bone against bone. An intravenous line administers merciful morphine into one arm. With her free hand, she reaches for something on the nightstand behind her.

“Are you okay, Mom? What is it you need?” I ask. I grab the hand towel that waits nearby and begin to mop up the water that’s spilled.
“I’m so much trouble for you girls,” she murmurs, as her hand continues to grope blindly for something just out of reach. “The music stopped,” she says, and finally I understand what she wants.

A small compact disc player sits behind the monitor at her bedside. A cord runs from it to a small, flat speaker beneath her pillow. The music helps her sleep. I press “play” and it begins: a concerto of nature sounds and orchestra, melancholy and soothing: Stream of Dreams. A year earlier, when she was still healthy and vibrant, when it seemed she’d live forever, I’d bought each of us a copy.

I glance down at the woman lying before me now. Her skin has thinned to translucence, pulled tight over cheeks grown hollow. I push back the graying curls that have fallen too close to her eyes, eyes now glazed by pain and sometimes confusion. Within seconds, sleep allows her a gentle escape. I switch off the light, and return to the futon in search of rest.At home the next morning, I wander towards the stand where my own music collection is stored. I select the disc, insert it into the player, hesitate for a second then touch “play.” The sound of the music my mother listens to as she prepares to die fills the rooms of my house.

A nearby armchair waits to hold me. I fold myself tight within its embrace, and allow the tears to fall.

 

 

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