The cycle of sadness

Yesterday I apologized for writing another post about my mother on Facebook, and people replied not to apologize… One man even said he loved those posts because it expresses exactly how he feels about his mother who died six years ago. It’s weird how my most personal posts, the ones I at first expected to be ignored, are always the ones that people share the most and identify with. We aren’t that different after all. So maybe reading this can be as therapeutic as writing it.

I just made myself breakfast, and in the process discovered a large container of cereal that only my mother ate. Likewise there is a calcium supplement and some kind of Berocca, a brand name and also a supplement, laying on the kitchen counter. I have not been able to find the will to move or remove them.

Last week I finally arranged for a helper to come clean the flat, which seems weird because I have never in my life had a maid. That’s something my parents would do when I was a child. In the process of cleaning up, she found two cups in the fridge, one filled with leftover gravy and the other cheese sauce, because my mother had cooked a roast for us as usual that Sunday before she died last month. Those two cups are still in the drying up rack a week later. I have not the strength to remove them.

The above sums up how I have felt these last 4 weeks. I remain in shock. She died so quickly… every day I recall that last phone call to me at work when she told me the procedure that would be carried out in the hospital. I was to attend my work’s year end function, and had planned to leave early so that I could be on time for hospital visiting hours. My only worry was that she might go home before that, or be in transit while I left the work function. Her death, only two hours after that call, took me by such surprise, it remains fresh. Every day, I replay that call in my head. Every day I hear her voice telling me that the bronchoscopy had failed because she had an asthma attack, and that they would try to remove the fluid from her lung with a needle. Every day I relive the shock of her sudden death. I expected her to be home soon, and certainly before Christmas, and it’s like I can’t move forward… I’m stuck in December 7th 2018, reliving those hours over and over again.

Tomorrow Josh starts grade 5. I must still iron his clothes and get fresh bread so that I can prepare lunch for him. I’ll be on leave still the rest of this week, and must also call Harold, who runs his lift service, to say I will drive Josh to and from school the rest of the week. I must also find out about aftercare, since my mother no longer being here means I can’t let Josh come home and be alone while I am at work (from next week onwards). I may have to cancel the lift service completely, and then leave early from work every day to collect him from school in future. As with everything else, I think of these things, the practical things to do today. But then later I will remember to be sad again. It’s a cycle I’m repeating… distract myself with everyday life and menial tasks, then my thoughts wonder back to that phone call, or something else, some random object triggers a memory, and the cycle of sadness repeats.

I have more to write, lots more, but will save it for another day.

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I am not coping well with this grief

It’s after 1AM and in my insomnia I just raided the fridge, settling on six tablespoons of double cream Clover strawberries & cream yoghurt. But in my search I stumbled on the plastic container still containing two nectarines my mother left there. A week before she died earlier this month, she’d asked me to bring a nectarine to the hospital. But seeing them still there now nearly broke me down again.

I’m struggling. Sunday is not Sunday anymore, not like it was. Sunday was the day my parents made a roast, until February 13th 2000 when my father died, on his 57th birthday. Then my mother took up that custom. For a time, I wasn’t around, but after she moved into my flat in 2011, having no place else to go, she brought the custom here. I do not have the strength to continue doing so myself, not yet. Somehow preparing meat, potatoes and vegetables myself will defile the day for me.

I used to hate her fucking potted plants. Everywhere. There are seven or eight of them around the edge of my tiny balcony, and more on the corner piece of furniture in the lounge. She used to call that the knick-knack or something – I forget what. I remember only my name for it when I mocked her: the crap-knack. And there are more plants in the kitchen. I have not been able to make myself get rid of a single plant.

Just a short while before she died, she sat beside me as she often did in the evening, half asleep and half watching me play Diablo 3. I’d recently bought the Necromancer pack, and played my new character through story mode and into adventure mode… she asked how I could see what was going on on the screen… because with this character (unlike my demon hunter that just attacks everything in all directions non-stop), I kill enemies and then raise some of them to fight for me and kill others, which I then raise, and so on… So there are always monsters all over the screen, some of which are on my side. She found it confusing. Today this conversation came back to me, as if she were sitting on the chair beside me.

Again, in my mind’s eye I saw her sitting at the dining table, holding her head in her hands as she struggled to breathe. And I heard her voice when she called me on the day she died, called to tell me what procedure they were going to do. I thought she would be home by Christmas.

This grief. This loss. It’s horrible. If I may give any advice to anyone who might listen… don’t let a parent move back into your house in their old age, don’t get too close, and don’t let them become a dependent to you, if you can possibly help it. Because it hurts more than you might expect when they die.

How fragile is human life?

Yesterday my mother died suddenly. I’m not coping with the loss very well at all.

This has all been a shock. Two weeks ago, I dropped her off at Edenvale Hospital before going to work. It was just supposed to be a checkup, but I found later that day she’d been admitted. She had an enlarged heart due to fluid on her lungs. They also picked up something on her chest but didn’t know what it was, so she was scheduled to go to Johannesburg General hospital for a test, a bronchoscopy. But things did not go as planned.

They let her come home, and she was scheduled to go for the test this past Tuesday. I dropped her off at 6AM, again at Edenvale hospital, and their “messenger” as they call him took her to Johannesburg General hospital. But she hadn’t been told not to eat breakfast, so she had to return home. The messenger berated her, bullied her, telling everyone it was her fault. This was the second time he did so; the prior week another test had to be aborted because of a seafood allergy (which she had disclosed) which left her sensitive to the drip. So on Tuesday after making her walk from one side of the hospital to another (It’s a huge hospital.) because he parked on the wrong side, he let her wait three hours for the transport to go back to Edenvale. Is this how you treat a 70 year old woman who is struggling to breathe because of blood clots on her lungs? is it fun to bully an easy victim?

So on Wednesday, I took her back to the hospital again. They took her back to the larger hospital, where the bronchoscopy had to be abandoned because of a complication caused by her reaction to the medication. But I wasn’t notified. After work on Wednesday, I went to Edenvale hospital, but nobody knew where she was, so I then had to go look for her at Joburg Gen myself. It turned out she was in ICU, where she stayed overnight. After that amount of stress and no sleep, I stayed home on Thursday – I could not go to work in such a state of mind and without having had any sleep.

But on Thursday she was OK. She felt much better, was happy and in good spirits; she even joked with the staff there and made friends.

I went to work on Friday, dressing smarter than my usual jeans and t-shirt because we had an office year end function that afternoon. I planned to attend, and then leave early because visiting hours are 3 to 5PM.

She called me around 10AM to let me know that the bronchoscopy had not been done. Until then, we thought it had and that we simply had to wait two weeks for the results. I was under the impression that she was coming home. But instead, another procedure was going to be done where they would drain the fluid from her lung sing a needle. I asked if she would be anaesthetized but she told me she didn’t know because they had yet to explain it to her. I wished her luck, not knowing that this was the last time I would speak to her.

At 11:55AM I got the call to get to the hospital as soon as possible, but by the time I got there, she was already dead. She had again reacted badly to the medication, went into respiratory arrest, and while they tried to resuscitate her, went into cardiac arrest. They did resuscitate her after 30 minutes, but did not manage to wake her, and after another 30 minutes, and her not responding, they gave up.

The whole thing has been a nightmare. It happened too quickly, and I am shattered. My son and I have depended on her for so long now, but that’s not the worst part… I’ll find a way to cope with all the tasks that need to be done, but so far, I have not been able to make myself go through her things. Apart from her room, her toothbrush is still hanging in the bathroom, as is her towel and her toiletries. Her writing pad is on the dining room table, and I cannot bring myself to disturb those things. It seems sacrilegious somehow.

This is so much more difficult because of her staying with my son and I. In the years before this, we were not so close. But now, having her stay here these seven years had brought us closer together, and I was closer to her now than ever in my childhood.

How fragile are we, that life can so abruptly end? No time to say goodbye or even, “I love you, mommy”. There’s a part of me that fears that it is somehow because I didn’t tell her that I was worried in that last phone call, that somehow if she knew how much I cared and how worried I was, she might still be alive. I know it’s not true, but this part of me believes that if I’d said, “Please don’t die” that maybe she wouldn’t have.