It seems fitting to write this at the end of the Mysteries of Wesir, because while I have not been marking the days myself, I have been Living them.
Many of you who are friends and acquaintances already know this, but for some this will be new. My mother passed away on Veteran’s Day after a long battle with cancer. Somehow just writing that sentence in that way feels fitting. Veterans. Battle. And my father was a veteran as well, along with his three brothers.
She was dealing with her second round of metastasized cancer. The first was in 2010 in the liver. This one was diagnosed just over a year ago, and was in the lung. She followed both conventional and holistic protocols, notably with dietary changes and supplementation. But the cancer continued to grow. This summer, she was on IV chemotherapy for two rounds, which did not work, and the second one was a drain on her body.
I’ve been helping her out for several months, because she could not move around as much with her breath being stolen as it was. The less she could be up and active, the more my workload rose. And this with my own chronic health issues.
She also did not want people to know she was sick, so I did not tell them, and thus did not have any outside support. Well, some people knew, and I shared some details, and my best friend was able to add up the numbers right. She wanted to come up and help me where she could but mom did not want visitors because they would tire her out. My mother, the Swede and good host, still thinking about others. So she and I decided that when the time came, whether she went into hospice or passed away, she would come up. And bless her husband, who said that she could come for up to a month, so long as she brought her one year old daughter. As my sister (which she is in all but biology) works freelance, she does not have daycare for the little bit, so it made sense and I looked forward to being able to spend that much time with both of them.
In the weeks leading up to the end, I did have chances for some incredible experiences. I saw my beloved Secret Chiefs 3 open for Goblin and met yet another member of the fan community. I attended my first Vodou fet outside of Danballa sevis at Pantheacon and celebrated some of my community members becoming hounsi. And decided that next year it would be my time to enter the djevo. The weekend after that I saw Pearl Jam, met some people I knew from THAT online community, and engaged in a three hour singalong. I got to hear three of the four songs I wanted to hear…
My new theme song
Another theme song
and one other song from the new album which has felt quite meaningful since I first heard it. My voice was gone by the time this came on but I found it enough to sing along again.
The other song I wanted to hear but was denied was Just Breathe. But I think this one more than made up for its lack. Also, I went a little nuts at the piano starting in the hopes that it would be the full package. It was.
I also feel no shame that this was one of the songs which had me ringing up that same best friend and holding out the phone so she could hear it as well.
Those moments kept me in mind of life still happening, and friends, and love.
On Tuesday, the fourth of November, mom’s visiting nurse called me. When I was able to call back, she told me that I had to start FMLA the next day, because she was getting wobbly when she walked and needed someone with her at all times. Before this I had not even thought to start the paperwork, hearkening back to her not wanting people to know. The nurse also told me to cancel my travel plans to Florida (for seeing the best friend) at the end of the month, because we had suddenly gone from thinking in terms of months to weeks.
Each time I saw some change which meant she was not getting better, I would weep. Those moments, I had already started to mourn for the time when I would not have her here with me in the Seen world. And that day I cried hard. When I got home and we talked about it, I felt the tears well up as I said “I will miss you so much.”
Within a day there was a hospital bed here, I would picking up extra supplies to help in her care, taking a day off to be able to stay with her, going into work late the next day and getting my desk in as much order as I could in case of change. On Friday the 8th, her condition changed just from the time she woke up until the nurse came three hours later. I’d already planned to take a day off then to see Thor: The Dark World with one of my local friends, but we decided to cancel earlier in the week with mom’s changed condition. The nurse came at 11am, asked mom if she wanted to go into hospice, she said no. The nurse asked me, and I was not sure, so I said I would respect my mother’s decision.
Within an hour she had changed her mind. I think that was the first day she started to feel any real physical discomfort. Yes, through all of this she did not have pain, just the flagging energy levels and lack of breath.
I called one of our mutual friends, who had been helping out a lot in the preceding weeks, to tell her and ask to drive me to hospice. I also called two of her sisters, one in Sweden, one in Arizona. Her Swedish sister thought the call from me meant she had passed, so at least I had not had to tell her that news. But they started to call other relatives and let them know.
She got settled into hospice, and slept for the entire time she was there. The first two days, she was more lucid, knew when people were around, and even tried to get up. Forever the Swede, I am sure she was thinking that she had to get up because there were guests.
During the time she was getting settled in on that Friday, and I was handling paperwork, talking to people, finally getting the bulk of the FMLA papers handled, I called my best friend and told her it was time for her to fly up. Bless her parents, who paid for her to have a more comfortable flight with the little bit, and she booked it to arrive here around 2pm on Saturday.
(And I just realized I am turning this into a full chronicle of her passing, because I don’t know if I could write it all again. Thank you for staying with me to this point.)
Friday night was spent getting the house in a little more order and having dinner. It was a little eerie to be here, with the silence having the meaning it did that evening. She was never going to come back, and my heart broke even more.
The next morning I took care of buying food, saw some friends and was finally able to tell people what was happening, and get the support I needed. Then it was off to the airport with another local friend. There was no way I would make that drive alone.
We collected the sister and the little one and went right to hospice. Got there, and mom knew there was company. She tried hard to open her eyes to see the little girl who was there, but at hospice she was on some medication to help her straining body. And I think by then she was fully worn out. I talked to her, said all I could think to, then the four of us got food, and we started to get settled here.
Sunday was another visit, and mom was sleeping peacefully. The nurse pointed me out to some physical signs which meant that death was close. Each time I left hospice, I made sure that the last words I said were “I love you,” since I did not know if I would be back again.
Sunday night hospice called to say that she might not make it through the night, and would I like to come up? I declined, because I knew I could not handle being present for the moment of her passing. I put that in because in the last few weeks I have had enough people ask if I was there when she passed. Not everyone can do it.
Sister and I woke up the next morning, and our first thoughts were of shock that we had not been woken by the phone. I decided that morning to drop off the FMLA papers so I could have that done. Thank God and Gods that my boss and boss’s boss are so understanding so knew I would not be in that day. The night before I called more of the relatives with whom she had not been in as close contact to let them know what was happening. Some wanted to rush right to hospice, and I told them no. I did not want anyone to see her like that and instead remember how she had been. Plus, I knew that she would know who was there, and that would have caused her more stress than she needed.
Come Monday, the friend who’d driven me up to hospice went up in the morning to sit by her bed. During the night, a worker at hospice had stayed at her side the whole night. Bless that person, and bless hospice for all the good work they do. It has to be one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Said friend stayed the whole day, and I think another of mom’s friends was over for a visit. Even the minister of the church in which I grew up found her name on the role and paid a visit. Mom had become agnostic and me, well, I write this blog and live this life.
Shortly after 2pm that day I was on the phone with yet another person she knew to tell her why mom had not replied to her query about a visit the previous day, when I heard the call waiting beep, and I KNEW what it was. I wrapped up the call and within a minute hospice had called on my mobile line.
She went to the ancestors at 2:13pm that day and I know she was greeted by quite the crowd.
And as I spoke to the hospice worker with flooded cheeks, my little niece saw me crying and tried to hand me a biscuit. All I could do was hug her and cry more.
Then came the whirlwind of contacting people, having them tell others what had happened, and dealing with the logistics of the end of her life. The friend who went with me to the airport came over, having not gone to work that day due to her intuition telling her to stay home. And my boss, along with her wife, stopped by to visit for a little while. Later two of mom’s and my shared friends visited while I fielded more calls.
I’ve talked to friends and family I’d not had a chance to speak to in ages. Reconnected with old friends. Gotten closer with the more current ones. Gone out daily. Had someone cook dinner for me on a daily basis… save for the nights when we went out. Have had reminders daily of life going on, thanks to one adorable little girl. Got reminded of how much love I have. Planned for my beloved to come for a visit (he arrives on Tuesday morning and will stay a week). Learned two other members of my community lost a parent in the same week. Had people close to me either deal with serious injury or come close to death themselves.
This month…. I can’t even begin to describe it in full. The past week has been the start of the time of my actual mourning, needing that time in between so that it would not overwhelm me. And I know I will mourn in some way for the rest of my life. My mother was an awesome, generous, funny, interesting person. She may be on her way to becoming a star in the body of Nut but the world is still a dimmer place without her in it.
I am ready for this year to be over. To cleanse and purify. To take stock anew and start considering what to do with this part of my life. At least one person has suggested that perhaps the reason why I have not yet found a new job was so that I could be near to help care for her at the end of life. That is entirely possible, because I shudder to think what it would have been like to rush out here from somewhere else, just drop that relatively new life for a time, and handle all this. I’ve been present for everything, able to help, and able to see each of those final steps.
Hail to you, mom. May your ka be justified.
Wesir has passed West again. He again becomes King over the beloved dead. The cycles continue.