By Natalie Dekel. » на русском Read in Russian.
Mom was battling cancer for the last eight years. This is my diary of being besides her bed, in her last three weeks.
Have faith even in the most difficult situations because underneath the mud and the rubble is a core of steel in you. A core of steel that is not bending with the weather or circumstances. It is as strong as the light around you and it will brings you comfort and strength, and let them blossom when the time is right.
Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so love the people who treat you right, forget about the ones who don’t and believe that everything happens for a reason.
If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it!!
[if a family member died and you need help or advice, you can contact Natalie here.]
21 Oct 2009
Yael-Louise, my daughter, was talking about mom non stop for the last two days. She packed her little nursery bag and decided to go and see her ‘Baba Luda’. I feel something is coming this way. I KNOW it comes round this time. Yael-Louise also got our sofa-bed out in the living room and whenever she does it she is unwell, wanting to lie down. Right on the spot two days later she got high temperature.
So I definitely know it is coming with mom.
I phone mom four times a day, to keep her company. Always first thing in the morning, before the lady that looks after her comes in, then at tea time while I am at work, and then sometimes the other tea break and after work in the evening. Lately mom gets more and more pain and is tired to speak to me. Sometimes I speak and she just listens and I can hear her breathing through the phone but it is never enough. At least I can hear and sense her there.
28 October 2009
I know things are going down for her. The dilemma is how do I get over to her. She lives in a different country. Got no money, I am the only one who works. How do I leave it all and get there and then how do I know I will be there on time. I am terrified that if I wait another two weeks, she will leave without me. Also, my last visit in August was so difficult to bear. Each time I looked at mom, I felt the pain in myself at what she is going through and how she suffers, and there was and still is NOTHING I could do! Do not know what to do. Do I leave it be and just wait till the funeral call or do I fly there asap…
I spoke to my friends. I even turned for advice from the lovely people from the shelving team here at the library in Southampton University. What do I do?! Karen the ex-nurse told me, ‘…just do what you can cope with emotionally. That is the best thing to do in such situations’. This is what I shall do, even if it tears me apart. I will probably not go, and I will have to deal with what is coming as it comes.
29 October 2009
I phoned mom at 10:30am. It is my second call for today. She told me they are already at Zefat Hospital coming for her next chemotherapy. But she feels so bad. Vomiting has not stopped for the last few days, and her system is totally down. She fainted at the reception. So when I phoned at 10:30 this morning they were going to hospitalise her. I just KNOW now that I HAVE TO GO NOW! THIS IS IT!
OMG! I feel that time is pressing; I have to get there as fast as possible! I raced home on lunch break at noon, and waited till Gil and Yael-Louise (she is still unwell) came home from a Halloween workshop at the local library (12:30). Already I booked flight tickets online, just need to pay for them, and have checked the national express online to book the coach ticket to Heathrow.
By the time I explained quickly to Gil what is happening and started to type my visa details for the first flight available there were no more available sits left. So I have to buy the next available one which is much more expensive. Never mind, I must. We book the tickets. So that is EL AL flight which is probably for the best. The flight is for tonight and will be arriving at Israel at 5am. I then booked the coach which amazingly enough leaves from the station next to my work at 5pm! Excellent.
And so I kiss Y-L and Gil and race back to work (no clothes with me, just my work bag and passport and tickets). Yes, I am going!
I am all nerves. Did I mention that I am nervous about travelling on my own or flying? Well I do. Linda (my colleague) sensed that and so she comes and waits with me till the coach arrives at the station. It is very kind of her really, to stand in the cold weather after work.
I am on the coach, time flies, I cry and it slowly goes to its destination. Too slow for me, I feel. I cry silently. Do not want anyone to notice.
I am in Heathrow. It all goes smoothly and I am waiting for the plane. Can’t wait. I need to be there as soon as possible, it is a matter of life and death, literally. Why do they move so slow, I need to see mom. Everything is so slow. Perhaps I shall sleep on the plane.
Nope. My neighbour turns out to be an over-friendly chatty guy from London who now lives in Bet-Shemesh and shares his photos of family with me and his work past present and future etc’ etc’ till he himself keels over and sleeps. I can’t now. Not with an hour left. So I wait. Looking out of the windows of the airplane to see if I can see the hospital, ridiculous of course – I cannot, it is miles away.
30 Oct 2009, 5am
The airplane is landing finally. I am rushing through the check-out as I have no luggage. Then train. The weather outside is colder than in the UK. The rain lashes mercilessly on the train windows and the sky is black. How appropriate. The train finally stops and my tired under-slept body propels me out into the rain.
I see dad. My poor dear dad stands patiently outside, near the conductor, waiting for me to alight. Gosh how I missed him and mom. He hugs me briefly; He is preoccupied, even though he is glad to see me. In his mind he is with mom non-stop. He is with her every living moment. Is he lucky or what.
We are driving in his car to their house so I can have a quick shower. Then he gives me some money for the tickets. How strange to see the house which I always associated with mom, her vitality, her energy that filled it to the breams – now empty. Her presence is not there. This is where she spent the last three months on the sofa in the living room. How strange to have the sofa empty, unlived in, as if she has already left.
I do not stop to feel it. Mom is alive. We have to go to see her now. We rush by to get some clean things for mom from the house and we leave to the hospital. All in all we spent two extra hours before I can see her.
We are going to Zefat city. Mountains after mountains on our way. Serpentine roads are swirling in mist and rain that is still lashing at us as if we are guilty of all that is happening. It is beautiful but too serene for me as if it is already mourning. But I am not ready for this so I ignore it. All I want is to see mom.
As we rise higher and higher on the mountains, I see an amazing beauty of almost forgotten Galilee, where the clouds hover beneath the mountain peaks. Mount Meron is touching the sky and I can see lightning running up and down in thin zigzagy stripes from the deep of the stormy sky to its peak. Scary and at the same time it feels majestic and remote. I see but I do not feel it happening. I am an observer.
From that moment on, I switch my feelings off. From now on, I am an observer, and I will do what I have to do, what I came to do. I KNOW IT.
We arrive at the hospital. I can’t wait for dad to stop with the parking and would run ahead if I knew where I am going. The building is made of old and new parts merged ungainly one into another. It is a mix of the architectural blocks of the 1970’s with their narrow glass windows and lots of grey concrete. It looks to me like a coffin with sad eyes. We enter this coffin.
People work here, I smell hospital, nurses rushing by, cleaners and patients in their governmental pyjamas. Nothing is personal here. We come to do what we need to do. But mom is so personal to me. I do not know how to adapt this impersonal attitude.
We finally arrive at her room. I run ahead and see my mom. Instead of the energetic woman that has never had a sick leave off work there is a fragile thin woman who aged before her time. Although I saw her deterioration in the last five months it still comes as a shock. Mother has always been like a LIFE machine, full of energy, the engine that drives us all to our destination. Now we are crowded around her thin body with her bones protruding in all directions and huge intense blue eyes look at me trying to see me all in one go. She is connected to some medication that stops her vomiting. She did not eat well for a while and if she does – it goes back. So this medication stops nausea.
Her hair wisps ethereally round her head. She looks so fragile. But she immediately takes command of her strong voice, and tells me how they have arrived and were hospitalised and asks me if I need to eat or rest. She is in charge. Still. She is in control. Never complaining, not of the intense pain that I can be seen in her eyes, nor of the circumstances or her condition. Not a word. Instead she is concern with the nurses, how can she help them. She is concerned with the doctors – how can she help them find a vein, as the chemotherapy in the last eight years has burned her veins almost completely. She is there to help to her last breath. She apologises to the nurses for being clumsy and unable to move.
One of the first things mom said to me was: I am so embarrassed; here I am taking a bed of a patient… And I thought, how many people in her situation, knowing she is going to die any moment thinking about others? She was also knitting in between bouts of extreme pain. Night or day, she knitted a big grey scarf for Michael (the colour close to that of her eyes). She has knitted one for me too and posted it over to the UK earlier in the month. It is beautifully made, warm, embracing and smells of mother’s favourite perfume. And here she was now knitting another one for Michael. I suggested her to rest a little as the knitting needles fall out of her listless fingers. ‘Oh no’, she said, ‘I have to finish it while I can, I haven’t got much time’. She knew she will not be discharged from this hospital alive…
And so she has knitted carefully. Sometimes could not help herself when a moan of pain escaped, but kept knitting. Even as the pain continued she continued to knit. At some point due to pain she could not concentrate and started making mistakes. She looked at me as if to say ‘do I go on to finish it as it is or do I start from scratch to make it perfect?’ Will I have enough time to finish it? I said, ‘do it a little but properly as you have time, do not worry’. This is who she was – a perfectionist at heart. And so, she undid the whole section and started again. Working, working into the night just like a princess in Anderson’s tale when it is a matter of life and death and her knitting can save others.
Meanwhile I slept on the bed next to her, staying with her day and night in the same room. It felt comfortable the first weekend. We were all there together as we have not been in years. Mother, father, Michael and me. Just us, the family. Mom knitting away, dad is fussing around, busy with making everyone feel good. Michael tapping away on his laptop, and I reading a book and tending to mom. It was sunny all of a sudden. It felt comfortable and calm, like a night before the storm. It was a day or two full of LOVE and perfection of us as a unit. I absolutely loved it and we all felt so calm and complete as we have not done for a very long time.
Then on the first Saturday, mom suddenly said, ‘go with dad, I want you to buy yourself something from me, a dress perhaps.’ I was perplexed why she would want me out when I just have arrived but liked the idea of having something from her. So off we went while Michael stayed with mom. We went to the nearby village Tarshiha and spent a lovely time in a little shop. It was like a magic cave full of beautiful clothes and an attentive assistant. I have never had such a quality shopping experience before. I was served as if I am the Queen herself. The most unexpected pleasure out of the blue… The shopkeeper run around me with different beautiful dresses and trousers and was genuine trying to help. It was so nice to have someone treating me and caring for me, I was totally blown over. Dad did not mind the prices too and got me two dresses and two trousers… We went to the house, I had a quick shower and got some more wool for mom to knit, in case she finished Michael’s scarf and had no more wool to distract her from pain.
This has never materialised as the next day the pain got worse, way beyond human sufferance levels, even for mom. She had to start with intravenous morphium which reduced her abilities and supped her life as surely as her consciousness and ability to communicate. She could no longer knit.
We were back and Michael went home. Dad too gone, as he had to go to work early the next day. And so routine was set where I was with my beloved mother day and night. Dad was going to work and coming in the evenings for a few hours and Michael was racing after work to sit with us for a couple of hours each evening. Time has lost its meaning. There were no more ‘weekdays’ or ‘weekends’, ‘morning’ or ‘evening’. There was only the timing of morphium dripping, and changing empty medication bags that were dripping in at all times. These medications run out every two-three hours. Her body position needed to be changed often so there would be no wounds or bleeding from prolonged immobility – every two-three hours. Massaging her body to improve blood circulation; changing the stoma bags every few hours or less depending on circumstances. However, these were not as important as the experience with mom so let me start again:
Once we were back and that night when the pain increased, at first mom still refused help or morphium. Being a nurse herself, she knew very well the effects that will take place and will stop her existence as we know it (of which we were totally unaware). And she tried her best to avoid it to the very last minute, even by arguing with us regarding which medication to take and which not.
She and I had a long chat. She told me what she knew is coming, telling me what she would like me to take from home back with me to Britain – some of her clothes, and certain things she wanted me to have. Worrying for dad, for his physical and emotional wellbeing. Asking me to be there, what she was before – a guardian of peace in the family. She then told me that once the morphium starts she will not be able to talk and that the dozes will be increased by the doctors gradually, leading to one outcome.
She also mentioned that she asked for Dr Vaksman, who was her long time friend and operated on her all these long eight years. She asked him if he would increase the dosage of morphium so that she will not have to suffer in between. However, due to moral issues, he could not do so.
And so the next day dawned. Mom got the morphium but it took too long to receive it and the pain was unbearable. She was rocking from pain, tears running down her cheeks and I was crying too for my inability to help, trying to hug her as if by that I would absorb some of her pain into myself. Mom asked me to stop crying. She said ‘one of us is enough’ and so it was.
I was running up and down the corridors to ask the nurses and the doctors for when the doze was ready – I did not know then that each time the morphium is given that papers needed to be filled and prepared specially, and so from that moment on I had to run routinely every two-three hours to get it ready for the next injection (afraid to miss out and inflict extra pain on poor mother). My routine was now established.
I felt useful. I did not cry. I was silently helping mom. At first, the first day of morphium, she was still able to talk and even managed to sleep a few hours. I was so happy as it was the first (and the only) day she actually truly slept in months, without pain. The second day brought with it confusion and some hallucinations. She was apologetic once she understood she was confused (such as thinking the pills were purple not pink or different sizes). She still tried to be in control but this was slipping rapidly from her. Both I and she were so happy that she was with no pain, at first. It was a relief from months if not years of pain and suffering. She kept thanking the staff and saying how wonderful it was to be without pain again. She was so happy. She rested. The next day people from the hospital came in and she still recognised them drifting in and out of her dreams that were enforced by morphium. Her eyes remained open for the rest of the time I was with her, two weeks from that day. She stopped recognising dad and Michael or me although she could hear our voices and respond once her name being called.
I looked at her and my heart was in my throat, how vulnerable she looked and how different from the powerful woman my mother is. I was changing her position from side to side so she will not have the wounds caused by immobility of the body, but they came anyway and with them the bleeding and more pain.
She was so heavy and at first when she woke up to recognition, these little islands of the old mom, she refused any help from others. She said that I and she can do it. We do not need to disturb the nurses. But she was now more off than on and I could see by her dilating pupils the pain she suffered despite the morphium. Only now she could not even tell me about the pain. And so I started asking for help. She was so heavy that doing the lifting on my own was impossible.
Her body stiffening up as if she was already dead, her hand crooked up in a way that was probably uncomfortable but I could not straighten it as it hurt her too much. All that time there were needles that needed to be inspected, as her veins were poor and any move meant that the morphium was dripping into a puddle on the floor rather than into her body. Several times it happened. Each time the sheets had to be changed, her gown had to be changed. All around had to be changed.
Her legs got purple and bloodless too so I had to lift them up to allow better circulation. Normally she liked her cleanness and was very conscious of herself, so to keep it up I washed her every morning and changed her nightdresses and sheets and even perfumed her with J’adore so she will feel herself as normal as possible.
The nurses loved her so much, that there was a constant procession of good wishers, to check up on her; the doctors, the cleaning staff – all loving this amazing woman who happened to be my mother. I also met an interesting woman next door in the hospital ward who was also a nurse (like mom). More importantly, she had tarot cards and Osho books, and she was popping in and out to see me or me popping over to her room to uplift and encourage each other. I was fortunate.
Mom stopped even trying to eat. First it was because I could not wake her up enough for her to swallow even though her eyes were wide open, but she was not with me. Even sitting her up did not help. She did not swallow. The swallowing reflex died along with the kidneys. Everything was going inwardly and her body was swelling to an enormous size. Her tummy was really large like a balloon. And standing next to her holding her hand, trying to wet her lips and mouth, seeing her not eating, not drinking, not really living, just being there brought the enormous memories of her mother (my grandmother) dying. She also had swollen body at the end of her life, and did not respond to us. And me standing now next to the body that does not respond either. I was praying then that I do not wish for myself the same death.
I thought, well she is not in her body anymore but her spirit was so alive caged in that frame unable to get out. And so I started talking to her. I was telling her to go to the light, to let go of the body as there was no way back. The pain was so intense that the body was doubling her up, making her lift and twist in her bed (a body that otherwise even four people had difficulty lifting). The morphium did not help anymore.
Then one night, despite that she was already not talking nor recognising anyone, she suddenly said very clearly, ‘There is a man in white standing near my bed, tell him to go away. Tell him I do NOT WANT TO GO. I am staying here.’ I knew what she was seeing, she was being asked to move on to the Spirit World. But knowing this did not make it easier for me to let her go, nor for her to understand what I am asking her to do. So I said to her that he is my friend and really there is no way back, but for the next few days she kept seeing him (I could see where she saw him) and being afraid of getting close to him. It was all so violent and so scary. I did not know what to do. I was helpless again. How can I be useful now?
Karen, my dear friend, phoned me. She had an idea. She suggested that I would help mother in her transitional stage to reach the light. And so it started. Karen, being a professional medium, helped mom from the UK. And I tried to help mom being beside her in Israel. My mother in law, Amalia, who is a medium too, tried to help as well. Every day and night-time I would visualise my mother in that transitional corridor and we would walk together to the light, to the threshold and back. It was difficult as she was not ready at all. She believed herself to be as she was in her body.
At first, I had to visualise the wheelchair and even my daughter, to bring mom a positive memory as we used to go out in August when we came to visit and she was still able to move. My daughter would sit on mom’s good legs and both of them in the wheelchair and I would wheel them to and from the playground.
And so we went for the first time together to the light. The next time, she could hobble a bit, in my imagination, still not steady on her stiff dead feet. She did not understand yet that where she was there is only consciousness. So you can visualise and be whoever you want to be there. Gradually we managed to move on with the visualisation, and one day I met mom and she was busy up and running dressed in her white hospital uniform ready for work and do her bit. Gil, back in The UK, was helping as much as he could too and I am sure that my daughter Yael-Louise, who stayed with Gil, was as aware of this process as all of us. Ever so slowly the progress was made.
Mom has met her father there first, in the transition process that occurred in our minds and in her Spirit. Then at another time we met her sisters (one of which is dead and one is alive). But it was the idea that she can start moving about between physical and spiritual realms, and be in control of her life again and more than before. Slowly she was getting closer and closer to the threshold of moving on. Yet she was hesitating. How on earth one leaves everything he knows and experienced and holds dear to his heart, and moves on to the void of the unknown and difference?
And so we moved on, between caring after mom’s body and helping her soul’s transition. I was unaware of time. I only looked at my watch to calculate when the next medication needed or when to change the body position. When Michael told me that two weeks have passed and he wanted me to get out of the room to go out to a restaurant, I could not believe him. Friday already, Two weeks! How can that be, as I felt as if I have just arrived. I could not and did not want to leave mom, not even for a moment. I was terrified that she will go without me being there with her, and this was very important to me, to be there with her to the end.
And yet, I thought to myself, perhaps she cannot leave while I am there, perhaps she wants peace and quiet, no concerns and worries floating about her with all of us around. And so I hardened my heart and decided against my inclination to get out of the hospital. Michael was walking fast and driving even faster and all that time my heart was torn between the hospital and mom and me, my position in the car getting further away from her. The restaurant was lovely and expensive and yet I could not eat even one bite. Michael asked his wife to bring me a change of clothes as I was still in the clothes I was working-in the day I arrived, but I did not care. All my thoughts were with mom. Finally we went back. The car was racing, the mountains flying and I was still. But nothing happened. She was still there, still hesitating, being with the body but not in it.
During the first week and half dad was coming in the evenings after work. But as mom deteriorated, so he did. He no longer could work and started crying non-stop. Even his boss suggested him to take a break and go and sit with mom and me at the hospital. He was more a nuisance in a way than a help at first. He worried, cried, run about and panicked. Then one day he went back home after being all day with us, and his car got broken just as he was driving through the mountains. Something was not right and the lights were flashing on his dashboard. He was afraid to drive on the serpentine roads at night with no help close by, and so he turned back and drove to the hospital. It was pure providence as that night was the most difficult night so far.
Mom was deteriorating every day. Her kidneys fell apart ages ago and still she battled on, making her body alive and survive. But as the liquids that accumulated in her tummy had no exit, that night they have exploded inside, looking for a way out. I was used by now to the routine – by midnight there would be more deterioration, by 2-4am it was stabilised and by six in the morning there will be an ease, an improvement. But this night was different. The pain was so inhuman, so total, that no amount of morphium could help. Mother was sweating so much it was like water pouring out of her. Her body convulsed so much and she cried out in pain non stop, almost as if battling with the angels on one side and urging her soul to leave the body on the other. The only consolation for me was, as I looked into her empty eyes that were still open wide with the pupils almost covering the irises from pain, was that she is not there, she cannot feel it, only her body can. Her body was crying, screaming from pain. I was terrified. It did not help that her stoma bags almost finished and I was washing them every few hours, drying, changing them. All with special gloves as something black like a raw oil was coming out from every hole. Even her vomit took same colour as this oil. It was the same thing that was coming out everywhere, trying to find a way out.
It took both me and dad to keep her lying down and not ripping off the morphium drip. The doctor that was on the shift that night did not know what else we could do. He suggested to increase morphium dose even more and add a mixture of various other drugs to help. And so this was done, but meanwhile something must have exploded inside as after one more petrifying scream and a struggle, mom has collapsed and kind of drifted off to a morphium sleep. Dad left just before 4am thinking it was that night that she would go. He could not bear it, he said to call him when it happens. I never did.
I was wiping her face, wetting her lips and tongue and washing her body, hoping the horrendous pain and suffering will not return. That this was it.
People came to visit, mom’s friends and her sister. I sensed that mother has just few days left. Mother was still but still there. She got a bluish tint round her mouth and looked practically dead but her wide open expressively blue eyes. This was the colour of the sky in the hot Mediterranean summer, the colour of the desire to live. I could see her innermost dialogue reflected in her eyes and jerking of her head and shoulders. She was talking to someone who showed her the light, discussing, learning and even arguing. This is mother, even in the Spirit World.
And so we continued working with mom on the transitional stage, step by step further into the light. I could see the family waiting on the other side now, but they said it is up to her when she will make the final move. It was her free will when to go there. How bizarre. How can one suffer so much and still want to be here. But then I was thinking of stopping the pain and she was thinking of being with us while the body allowed it, touching us, love us even when she was already half-gone. I can understand it now, forty days later as I write this, when feeling her in the Spirit World – even touching her semi-alive body (though I would never wish her such or any suffering again).
A couple of times, there were ‘mistakes’. The nurses would accidentally put 150 drops of morphium per hour instead of 40. I was sitting there watching the drops work and facing a dilemma. Knowing that perhaps, definitely, mother would want this, but not being able to do it. I could not let her die by my own hands. I could not. So I ran after the nurse and asked her to change. If she was caught it would cost her her job and profession. And it would cost mom’s life. And I was still hanging on to it. Me and dad looking at each other knowing what we should do but doing what we must.
10 November 2009, morning
I am talking to mom, telling her that if she will not go soon I will have to postpone the flight back to The UK, and I know there is no way back for her but there is a way back to The UK for me, to my family, to Gil and my little angel whom I missed so much it hurt. Yael-Louise knew where I was and what I am doing and still she phoned me up and she said – ‘mummy, I need you! Come home!’, and I was saying ‘but granny Luda needs me here more and it is once in a lifetime chance to be here with her.’ I did not know when I would go back. In fact I phoned El-AL flights that morning and asked them about postponing my flight. Then I emailed to work and asked for some more time off. When I heard that I will not need to pay for a new ticket and that it was all sorted I felt immense relief. Probably mom felt it too. She might have felt my worry all the time and anxiety and as a mother she could not leave me like this. She probably felt I needed her. And so that day I felt a relief.
For the past three days mother had seizures that looked like epileptic. At first it was once in a few hours and as time passed they increased to the point that it was every hour. Each time, I tried to prize the jaws open to help her breath, her whole body in pain squeezing tight as if she is trying to squeeze herself out of it.
In the last few days she was talking without making a sound. Talking to her angels or whoever was with her there. Her lips moving, she was talking, and they would show her the light or something, and she would physically try to back off (as if stunned and scared) and away but with wonder all over her face. Then again talking, acting and retreating. It was fascinating to watch. Only my mom, not even Jacob from the bible who fought an angel, could go on and fight all the angels of the Universe in order to stay ALIVE.
All day I felt weird, I felt the need to get out of the room for some small reason or another. And when the lady next door was being discharged that day, she invited me to come over to her house (she lived in Zefat). She wanted to give me a whole bag of clothes for me to wear while I am in a hospital. And so knowing it would not take long I left with her but I felt weird, on the edge between lightness and darkness. Something was happening. It felt as if I was saying good bye.
I rushed back to the hospital, it took me about half an hour to be in and out. When I came back all was still. I even checked mom’s breathing. She was breathing but very lightly. She had some difficulties with breathing for the last two days but I could hear it before. Now I had to put my ear to her chest to feel the breathing. Dad was out since the morning to sort his car out and phoned to tell me he is on his way to the hospital. Michael was out working and on his way to us from work.
The sun was setting down in the mountains and pink glow filled the sky. I felt too still, too silent. Not a bird, no people chatting, no normal rush in the hospital. I looked again at mom. She had now seizures non-stop and the power that shut her body in that seizure was causing her to bite her tongue so much that her teeth practically grounded it into a pulp. She was bleeding. I tried to help but did not know how to stop the bleeding so I called the doctor. Perhaps he will increase the morphium again. Dr Vaksman came and had a look. He looked at me with sadness, knowing there is not much we can now do. Then he went out to ask for increased dosage. The stillness increased too.
I felt strange.
I sat across from mom on the edge of the bed I spent almost three weeks on. I felt bile and then a strong sickness was rising in me like a tide, hitting me like a punch in my stomach/solar plexus area. I did not eat well for the last few days and did not sleep much so I thought perhaps that was it. I looked at mom again and something was different. She looked young and peaceful and she smiled… Her eyes shut for the first time. Properly shut as if in sleep. There was something strange around her. I looked closer, touching her face, tracing memory with my finger. The blue spots that appeared on her neck continued to grow and spread. I KNEW.
I was not sure whether I should wait a little more or run for help. If help would arrive they might keep her alive on what is now an empty engine. I hesitated, then run to the nurse station, tears spilling over, asking a nurse to come and have a look. She did not ask, SHE KNEW TOO.
She looked, standing still at the entrance to the room. A couple more nurses rushed after us. We all looked in – at the peacefulness, at mom, at the sunset. Mom lay with her head turned at me, peaceful and smiling as if now she knew the mysteries of the universe.
‘Thank You, Forever’, dedicated to Luda:
I sat there, next to mom, on the edge of the bed. Touching her cheek to cheek, trying to feel her to the end, trying to hold on to the trickle of life slipping through my fingers in front of my eyes. She was warm and quiet and still and peaceful. Everything she was not in the last week and half. I was relieved and sad at the same time. I did not understand the implications yet. I only felt the gladness of her not being in pain which I kept saying to her and to me (mostly) as tears run down my cheeks. I now felt her as I would always feel her when she was alive – a bit remote, untouchable, beautiful and so alive that I could not believe that it is over.
Then the phone rang, it was her ex boss who has retired, wanting to speak to her, saying she has not seen her for a while on the promenade where mom used to walk daily in the mornings/evenings, even when in wheelchair. I said ‘I think mom is dead, I am not sure. Sorry can’t speak. Goodbye.’ It all felt so surreal, saying these awful final words of nonsense.
I kept holding her hand and hugging her. I could not move away. The nurses called the doctor, and he set up the ECG test. I peeped over his shoulder to see, perhaps it is not over yet (I hoped, hoped not). No – the line is as straight as a ruler, as straight as mom’s body now. They left.
I sat there, the sun was going down, the sky looked red as if it could not bear to end the day. The mountains seemed smaller and the sky bigger and colder. I phoned Michael first, did not want dad to have an accident while driving. I asked him Michael where he is, he said ‘I am on my way’, I said ‘do not rush; she is no longer in pain.’ He was quiet. Put the phone down.
I sat and sat next to mom, touching her face and hand. Still can’t move. Not even an inch. Dad phoned to say he is parking the car. I told him ‘good, hurry up.’ Put the phone down. He came minutes later. Looked once. Stepped back. I said ‘you better kiss her while she is warm.’ He did. Then he went out to do some paperwork, to do something, to maintain the air of being busy, pretending the awful change has not occurred. He shed his tears all these last months, now he was active again, helping himself and us to move on, trying to deflect the room’s emptiness of not having mom here with us. I sat still. Tears running. Dad came in and told me to pack up, but I could not move still. I could not go yet.
After what felt like ages I looked up to see that three hours have passed. Reluctantly I stood up to collect our stuff in the bags, sorting things now, tidying all into piles and bags. The room looked now clean as if no one is there. I came and sat next to mom again once more, but it felt different now, cold and remote and not mom anymore.
The door opened; a lady looked in, seeing me with mom and prattling on about terminal patients and if they need to be looked after she represents a company who provides that help, if we need it. she was prattling on while I sat there, tears running down my cheeks. I waited till she finished. I had no power to stop her. Then I said, ‘it is too late, she is dead now.’ The lady just then realised what she sees, jumped and gave a little scream, clutching her chest she went quickly out of the room as if the hell was on her heels. The door slammed. There was no one left in or out of this room. Just me.
Dad came in, sat next to me, looking at mom. Breathing in her essence. Pain on his face. He stood up, could not sit, could not acknowledge it all yet. Then Michael rushed in. He stood, silent, not looking at us. Mom is his whole world. Shock on his face, he was looking but not seeing. He stood there like a statue for what seemed like ages. Dad tried to talk to him. Dad was somewhat prepared as he had time to absorb it all, while Michael just saw it now, unprepared. All words said looked useless in the face of the event that changed his life. He was roaring, pacing like a caged tiger around mom, wanting us all out, wanting to be on his own with his mother, his grief.
Dad’s way of coping was to move, to walk, never stopping, talking, so not to allow a single moment where understanding and bereavement might fall upon him. Michael was the opposite. He froze, silent and quiet, withdrawing into his deeper corner away from himself and others, enveloping himself in a shield, a barrier to protect himself from his own pain. And I was just there, still with mom, still thinking I am being useful, observing it all with empty eyes. Michael told me a dream he had the night before where mom came to him as vivid as life, talking to him about what she is going to do, what she wants him to do.
They now sat, each on my other side on the same bed, facing mom. Their grief coming out in rasping sound of bickering over insignificant details of how and what. Father was trying to take control over his life by trying to look after us and telling us what and how and where. But we were not his little children then, we were equal in grief. Dad went out to sort some paperwork. Michael and I were ushered from the room by two nurses who came to remove all the tubes from mom’s body and wrap her up in a hospital sheet, getting her ready for the next stage.
I could not be there any longer. Dad came in, we took the bags, asked Michael if he is coming with us. Not yet, he shook his head, tears streaming down his face. I never saw him cry before. I felt closer to him then than I was in years. Just before we left, I piped in to see Michael with mom, he was totally immersed in his grief, could not move away from the body whose face was now covered in a hospital sheet. It was not mom any more.
We were driving, dad and me, both in shock. I was worried for Michael and how he copes and how he would get home after all this. Talking to dad about the details of the paperwork (that is what was important to him, which is eventually what we must do).
Just before we made it to the city’s entrance, dad turned left and told me that he feels mom would like to buy a present to Yael-Louise from her, to let her know that she will always be with her and thinking of her. We were exhausted but we went in to the nearby Arabic village and I was drawn to a small doll and so it was decided. We were heading to the house again.
Empty house. Cold marbles. Memories everywhere. Too much.
Dad settled on the sofa in the living room, as if he is just waiting for mom to call him from her late night shift at work, to pick her up. I used the opportunity and went to the storage room. I found all the clothes mom wanted me to take and those that still have her unique smell that I wanted to take with me, and so I put them in a bag near my bed. I did not want dad to know about these clothes, I felt he would want to keep all as it is as if by keeping things as they are he still awaits mom to come back. I could not decide where to sleep, did not feel like I could do it, but then I did not sleep for many nights and so I finally slept in mom’s bed.
‘The Colours of Heaven’:
11 November 2009, 5:00am
The morning came faster than I imagined it to be. We were up and ready by 6am. Racing the car on the silent sleepy streets towards the mountains, to sort out some paperwork and arrange the ambulance to take mom down to the cemetery near the sea. The journey felt surreal. It was too fast, too raw, too close to life to feel death around and settling in. It felt as if we just been over for a change and we will go back and see mom again. Which we did in a way.
We arrived at the registry office and sorted the paperwork ending up with a death certificate in our hands. Then went to sort out mom’s transport. As we were waiting there in the corridor, Vaksman, the doctor who was mom’s best friend and colleague, raced towards us, speaking as he runs on his mobile, sorting the ambulance out for us. Once he arrived, life swirled in a whirlpool. He helped to sort out the ambulance, the removal, the paperwork, phoned all the hospital staff who wanted to attend the funeral and even put up notices in both hospitals. We went out in a daze.
The blinding sunshine in our face somehow set accord with the blindness we felt inside. I phoned Michael, he sounded as if he cried all night. I have arranged to meet him in the council offices sorting out the funeral and burial. Then we went to the fridges to identify the body. The ambulance driver and the paramedics were apparently mom’s friends and colleagues too, as they silently followed us to those fridges. It looked a small room, which might have been at the back of some factory or a restaurant. But as the guy who worked there checked our papers and pulled out a fridge door – a trolley came out, on which was a body.
Slender after all she lost, covered in a cloth, it was as if it is not mother at all but someone else. The guy removed the cloth off her face, I run forward and kissed her cheek hoping against hope that there would be warmth there, some sort of recognition of the ‘old’ mom. But no, the body was cold and sleek like a wet marble. It felt as if my lips slipped over a sleek stone statue. My eyes saw mom, but the heart felt hollow and empty and coldness still clinging to my fingertips and lips. She has been bleeding from the nose, as if to say, nothing could save me, I have to be gone.
They took her to the ambulance and gave us a lift to our car. I sat next to mom’s body. Afraid to get close but afraid to move aside. Strange and suspended, like a show, where I am but an observer. We left the ambulance and started following them in our car down the serpentine roads to the seaside city of Nahariya where mom and dad live.
We arrived at Nahariya’s Old cemetery. The sun shone brightly in the blue sky and not a cloud in sight. I could see the sea but as opposed to the normal feelings of beauty and calmness – only desolation filled me, and emptiness in my cold stomach. We stopped and they brought mom in, leaving her on a cold long metal table. There would be people there soon doing the ritualistic washing and preparing of the dead. It was not mom anymore. I swallowed tears (again). I am not going to cry. I have to be strong.
We left this place and went straight to the council to sort out some paperwork, and arrange the payments. Michael and his wife were already there. Michael with red puffy eyes was quiet and efficient. He sorted everything out. We have left and went to our separate cars. Michael and his wife went to buy drinks for the people who would come over to dad’s, after the funeral and flowers for mom. We went home.
We had 3 hours before the funeral in which time the house had to be cleaned and prepared for the visitors. We also had to notify people who would like to attend the funeral. While I was cleaning, dad sat with the phone, trying to remember whom to call.
The bus has arrived from the council to pick up people who wanted to attend the funeral. Dad and I were driving in a car after the bus. It was strange and empty feeling of a finale. The sun was shining but it was not a hot sun, just illuminating everything in extra light to see all faults and events and creases in circumstances without hiding a thing. Just like mother.
We arrived at the cemetery. There were many people from the hospital in Nahariya where mother worked (most of them managed to come and I wondered who stayed in the hospital to take care of the patients there). And the people from Zefat hospital where she died came too; doctors, nurses and even the head of the department. And friends and some family.
The rabbi in charge made a symbolic rip in our clothes (just the immediate family), and read a sermon. Mother was brought in and it looked so closing and suffocating. The Head of the Emergency room department, at the hospital where mom worked, stood up on a little platform and gave a speech about mom and how she inspired people. And people cried and sniffed.
Then dad asked me to give a small talk of thanks to all. I was not sure I could go up and open my mouth without bursting to tears. Everyone cried. I went, and suddenly words started coming out of my mouth about living the moment and enjoying life just as mother did. And it was so positive and beautiful that it uplifted me too. I also wore mom’s bright blue-turquoise top. I am sure that this came straight from her. I am sure.
The procession went with mother being brought at the head, then us as a family and everyone else. Then they put her down in the rough concrete hole in the ground and covered it with lid. I felt as if part of me was entombed there forever with her. I looked up at the sky (mainly to avoid the tears), and suddenly the clouds parted and the sun came through with strong rays and it was as if mom was there with us supporting us and comforting us. I saw all the beautiful memories of mother being happy when Yael-Louise was born. Joy illuminating her face. I kept thinking just of this so not to see her as what she has become. The rest passed in a whirl and barely a moment later (it felt), we had to leave.
We went home and immediately people started to come and visit us. They were streaming in one after the other, until late at night and the following day. I left back to The UK the next day at night time. I could not stay, as I was suffocating, I had to leave. It was just as well my tickets were booked for the 13th, 6:00 am.
I left the place of pain, with my heart full of memories.
12 Feb 2010. (Photos/videos last updated 27 Jan 2011).