If you had one song left inside your soul
What would you sing tonight?
If you had one chance left before we’re old
The last song of your life
What is it you wait for?
Tell me who you are
Not what you’ve rehearsed
All the other parts
Friday, August 2, 2019, exam room 13 (I think), Concordia Hospital Urgent Care.
That’s the new line in my own timeline.
I noticed my 84-year-old mom felt more tired than usual but caring for your soon-to-be 95-year-old husband does that to a woman. I filed it away to keep an eye on it. A phone call at work from my brother alerted me to something new.
“Mom doesn’t want to eat, she feels nauseous,” said my brother, “but she wants to wait until she sees the doctor next week. Can you try to convince her to go to urgent care?”
Mom? Not eating? A woman who will finish your plate if a morsel of her favourite food gets left over? A woman who can be just as stubborn as I am at times.
“I will see what I can do,” I replied.
I had a break at work, and I called, speaking in our usual English and Portuguese. I listened and finally said, “Mom, let’s go to urgent care. I can take a leave at 11:30 and come get you.”
“But what about work? I don’t want to…” She protested
“Look, we are dead over here, and people will understand, but if you need antibiotics, we better get them sooner.”
I really thought it was a stomach bug. Intellectually, you know this moment will come but have a vision of something akin to the long decline of her mother. It’s what Roger and I mentally prepared for in the past two years. We thought dad would go first. Dad thought he would go first and said as much to her cousin from Fall River.
Instead, after two CT scans and my gut saying two scans? Something feels different here. The doctor came in, pulling up a seat, and said the following, “I am sorry to tell you you have pancreatic cancer, and it spread to your liver.” I had my hand and on mom’s shoulder already but my grip turned firm, anchoring each other over the news.
A pause before she replies, “I have 84 years old. I lived my life, and my kids have own lives. I worry for my husband.” The slow decline instead became a runaway train. Her friends felt stunned, while we tried to keep up with the admission as a palliative care patient with home supports, her hopes to finish her days at St. Boniface’s ward. Instead, her end came at the beginning, at Concordia Hosptial. She was close to her, in fact, next home to the care home where my Avo had passed in 1990. She had her own room, the Health Care Aides let me eat the untouched suppers after I came to the hospital straight from work.
I sat by her bedside as she slipped into a coma, reading about the film My Zoe showing Toronto International Film Festival on my phone. I remembered in a past interview, well before, Richard Armitage praising Julie Delpy for her direction and for being an ear as his mother left on her journey in the final stages. Me too, Richard, I thought, I also envy you because you got to play an angry character to channel that stage. I had to scream in my car on the way home one night.
In the ending of my post about her passing, I wrote about the next hard part taking a lifetime. It’s also a new song, the one without mom, but she did end up being her authentic self, and I got to see it. She knew life was not a dress rehearsal, and she wiped my tears, telling me to go with my life, as I discussed what medications she would like to stop taking. I played this song on repeat from the time of her diagnosis to well after she passed. I miss her and I will for the rest of my life.