Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sunday morning mortality

Sunday. A tranquil morning, drinking coffee, reading the paper, thinking I should start getting ready to go to church. At this point things start to fall apart. The phone rings and caller ID tells me it’s my mother. I can’t ignore a call from my mother. What if she’s in distress? What if she has called 911 for a medical crisis and I have to meet her in the emergency room? (I thought, please don’t let the ambulance take her to either Laurel Hospital or PG Hospital—rings of hell. Please take her to a decent hospital.)

I answered the phone. She seemed amazingly lucid and energetic this morning, much to my surprise. The crisis was that she wanted me to take her to the thrift store today so she can get some little gifts for her friends. Today happens to be half-price day at the thrift store in honor of Veteran’s Day. Do you have any idea what it’s like in the thrift store on half-price day? It’s like the Social Security office combined with the DMV except that people have shopping carts and there are broken toys and plastic food containers, mismatched stinky old sneakers, and 12,000 pairs of jeans on the floor. People are trying on clothes in the aisle, children are wailing, and the toilets are always broken. Into this ring of hell (still better than the hospital emergency rooms) I am invited to bring an 88-year-old woman who can barely walk and is dependent on her portable oxygen machine. Her favorite is the crystal aisle. She thinks everything in the crystal aisle is genuine Waterford. God bless her for her optimism. She loves the thrift store but the mean, impatient daughter in me said no can do. I was hoping to go to church. That didn’t happen but I ended up doing the Lord’s work so I’m sure I am forgiven for missing church. Again.

From there we got into a discussion of all the people she knows who have just died or who are going to die soon. She said she thinks all of her organs are failing and she doesn’t think she has much quality time left in her life. I told her about the book I just finished reading last night (Being Mortal by Atul Gawande) and how it has deepened my convictions about modern medicine and choices about dying.

I have been given medical power of attorney for my mother. One of the things Dr. Gawande stresses in the book is how important it is to truly understand what a person’s wishes are when faced with life/death decisions. I already knew much of what my mother’s wishes are, but since she brought up the topic it gave me an opportunity to clarify what she wants when her days are growing short. So we talked and I feel that I have a firmer grasp on what she wants. It was great, but sad.

Sad and stressful to hear my mother talk about her fears, facing the end of her life, and how much she still misses my father. (I still miss him too.) She says Daddy would be really mad at her to see how she’s living now—staying up until 2 in the morning, sleeping until noon, eating sweets. She wonders if heaven really exists and if she’ll really get to see him again. I assure her she will. Please God, make it happen for her. All things for those who are called according to His purpose.

I missed church, I had a sad but necessary discussion with my mother, and I hadn’t had breakfast. My solution? I ate half of the package of candy cane Joe Joe cookies that I bought yesterday at Trader Joe’s. I don’t know how many cookies that is. I am afraid to count. Now I have a stomach ache to match the sadness in my heart. I know the good Lord will forgive all of my failings but the jeans are not so forgiving.

No comments:

Post a Comment