Saturday, April 16, 2005

The Hell in Helplessness

My mum is dying…I suppose…little-by-little. No-one in the home is prepared to tell me what they really think. But she isn’t eating, she isn’t drinking, she’s not getting out of bed any more, she has lost lots of weight, has a terrible Woodbine cough, looks frail and is drifting away into sleep all the time.
Her long twilight, which started three years ago after her stroke, is drawing to a close, the sun has dropped beneath the horizon and the night is approaching.

And I CAN’T do anything, I can’t DO anything, I can’t do ANYTHING.

I just sit next to her bed uselessly; holding her hand, watching her come and go…sometimes she looks vacantly round the room, sometimes she fixes me with a terrifying penetrating stare, sometimes she squeezes or pats my hand, sometimes she fiddles absent-mindedly with the sheets; different moods reflected in different facial expressions…resignation, sadness, fear, bewilderment and the occasional smile.

In the five or ten minute periods when her eyes droop and close I have a tumble drier of thoughts, emotions and memories whirring around my head; the one getting caught up with the next and sparking off new associations – backwards and forwards in time. It’s like a random mental slideshow of old images and scenes...things we did together, laughed at together…the first time I was mature enough to comfort her…the songs she used to sing, the things she used to say.
By definition I have known her all my life…but now we can’t communicate and never will again. You can see, my brain has already switched over to thinking “…used to..”.
If I am not careful here I will flood the room with tears. I have to close off these thought pathways, like the M6, before I follow them too far.

Just now she is in this bed, in this phase and I am only a visitor, still able to flit in and out as I wish…but one day it will be me who stares out from this bed, one day my kids will gaze in at me in my private demise…one day it will also be their turns…no, STOP…turn off here…dangerous road ahead…please follow diversion…

On the one hand I want her to go peacefully and painlessly, gently releasing her grip on life, on the other hand I don’t want her to die.

But I can't actively do anything...only experience passively the hell in helplessness.


shannon said...

You have expressed your loss artfully. My mother committed suicide when I was 26, and while I don't believe either she or I knew she was going to do it, I do remember seeing that "drifting away" look in her eyes the last time I saw her, and feeling that I was looking at her from a far distance.

I'm so sorry for you. You sound like a very loving son.

Neutron said...

Hi shannon thanks a lot! I think it helps to talk about this subject. I grew up in an environment where death was taboo and as a result I was totally unprepared when my father died...and now it is the same with my mother.

You must have suffered terribly. It's the memory of those looks that stay with you and haunt you, isn't it?

shannon said...

Yes, those looks do haunt you. My mother had manic depression, but we just didn't know much about that in 1987. If we'd known, we may have been able to find the help she needed.

The difficulty now is that as I'm approaching the age she was when she ended her life, I find I know her better than I did when she was alive. We were close--as close as she'd allow--but I think we'd be great friends now. Parenthood helps you understand your own parents like nothing else can.

I'm glad for you that you had more time with your mother--that she's been there to watch you mature into your adult self. That's a blessing.