Saturday, March 01, 2008

Hospital visits

Beth wrote a post about her father's death. A funeral on a leap year.

And looking over her posts, I'd love to comment there, to say, "I know," and "That shock is so unique that no one else will ever know," and to somehow say, "I'm sorry." But all that would seem trite, a me-too comment, and Beth, ever-wise, has turned off her comments.

When Joyce was getting chemo, she asked me not to visit her in the hospital. She only wanted to see me at the farm, because everything she experienced in the hospital was too disgusting and painful to bring home. So I didn't.

At the end there, when she went into ICU for broken ribs, I stayed away. The cancer had sucked the calcium right out of her bones and they shattered while she was vomiting one night into her toilet. Her husband waited four days before taking her in. Her lungs were filling up with fluid and then there was morphine, and soon we knew she was going.

I remember walking into her room to find her all pale on the bed, the IV's and monitor leads snaking around her chest. Her head had been shaved, and it was too big for her shoulders. My extended family was sitting around the bed looking into their laps. I started sniffling, but came to hug her anyway. She said, "Oh no. Not you too."

I have that image in my head, and I knew at that moment that it would be the last time I saw her alive. I knew that she would die within a day. I remember thinking, "Now I know what an almost dead person looks like."

The next day I traveled on the T from Huntington Street to Charles Street through the Park Street station to visit her. That morning my mother had called to say she was still alive, but I started crying on that trip because I knew she would be dead when I got to Mass General. That poor man sitting next to me on the Red Line. I tried to keep my face to the window so he wouldn't have to be embarrassed by my tears and puffy face. But really, that poor guy. I was already crying on the platform at Park Street. Idiotic, really.

For all that I knew she was going, it was somehow still a surprise that she actually died. She wasn't supposed to do that.

I had a full year to prepare for her death. It was not like Beth's dad, who left them in a sudden shock. Mine was different. But somehow, I still don't know why, I was absolutely shocked that she died. Gut-kicking doesn't begin to describe it. But I had preparation, so it's not the same as Beth, so it's not fair to leave a me-too comment there.

Beth is ever wise. Don't mean to trivialize. But I know what she knows.

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