For 25 years we have known, but it doesn't make it easier when things shift- when my mom was rushed to the hospital by ambulance for respiratory failure. COPD brought on by a genetic disorder that my kids and I carry, but don't, thank God, have. Our lungs are fine. Our lungs can repair themselves and then behave as they should. But hers have been on overdrive for years, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, like an OCD housewife wearing holes in the carpet with over enthusiastic vacuuming. Hers are puffed up like balloons that can't, won't, deflate properly.
She hasn't been able to talk very well. Not her usual rambuncious self. Not her normal bossy pants self. Not her 'get me a vodka tonic and don't be stingy with either' self. A breathy whisper. The vocal chords need air to work properly, it turns out. Without it, they just get tight and squeaky.
The drugs are good. We have grown to love morphine. It is the thing that helps keep her calm when the air decides to quit. That and lorazapam. Anti-anxiety. I am ridiculously grateful because without them she is drowning in fear. Her body betrays her spirit, fighting for air. Better living through chemistry. Living through chemistry. And maybe a gentler death, too.
I have been praying with her. I send her little texts at night as I head to bed. I quote scripture or just wish her a sweet and peaceful night.
I am jealous of her time, of solitude with her. I know you are her friends, have been there for her, love her. But get out of her room now. Let me have time alone. I need to hold her hand and speak of things you cannot overhear. I need to ask her questions that will haunt me forever if left unspoken. I need to strain to hear the truth inside her whispers. I need to let her love me. I need to love her.
My kids have met death before. They met it face to face when their friends' mom died. The one who made sauce and meatballs and let Noah stay over every weekend. The one who sat in the pew at church with us, week after week, Sunday after Sunday. The one who died one night. Who just didn't wake up. Who left us all grief stricken and in shock. They have met that death. The angry, forlorn, shocking death.
But this one is different. Not the same shock. Or the sense of outrage at it's unfairness. Instead, it is a quiet grief. My mom considering this a teachable moment. She wants them to walk on this journey with her. To not be afraid. To step to the edge with her and feel the love that surrounds us all.
I am crying a lot.