Today is the two week anniversary of my mother’s last breath. A point in time when everything shifts past a point of no return. The nest is gone and you sail through the darkness on insubstantial wings. The lore of your family is now sloshing through the sieve of your brain. Little anecdotal details that you erroneously boasted command of in terms certain knowledge recede into the fog of mental suppression, The routinely expected dialogue has concluded and you are left with silence in a land of emotionally scarring thorns. Everything in the hoe is a source of mental anguish. A potent reminder that your loved one is not returning now, or any time soon, or ever. The furniture, the knickknacks, the pictures on the wall along with a mounting layer of dust bespeak a sense of spiritual vacuum as if a fissure has developed somewhere within and all the oxygen is being evacuated from the vicinity. You go around choking at every instance of recollection as you attempt to disturb the previous order of things. Cleaning things that in the past you would have never thought to touch if only to take them from the spiral of a past tense then and recover them cleanly washed into a safer more bearable now. All the while, you try not to think of her end and how painfully terribly hopeless it was. How you sat beside her unable to stop the heartless gears of the system try to interlope with the relentlessly strong current of the universe causing a lasting turbulence that in all likelihood will never diminish within you. You wish you could rekindle those feelings of love and happiness that you didn’t realize were so extraordinary but now are tainted with the sewage of regret and remorse. That moment approaches in the midst of night when the most incredible of all transformations occurs with a final breath/ Your mother is gone from you. What is left in her place is a foreign object that slowly cools down to inert useless flesh. A solemn effigy that if you dare recall it, comes home with you to cork your experience of all that has come before.
No matter what the television says, the most precious items in your inventory are your family. And there is nothing of more value than your mother and father. They are the anchor points of your existence from which you continue to derive your sanity. When by fact of age or sickness or unexpected accident they are gone and you find yourself left to your own devices, the mirror suddenly reflects all the wrinkles. All possibility of customary forthcoming affirmation, once a matter of course, is no longer at hand. Tiny triffles that were routinely shared with them are now painfully absented. Then the inclination then arrives that even items of a trivial inconsequential nature have assumed monumental significance that now demands preservation like a rare museum artifact.
When your mother dies you search for clues within the many treasures at the back of closets and the bottom of drawers trying in some small way to revive her. Sometimes finding old previously unseen photos and letters of the girl and young women that she was before producing you. And you fall in love with her in a way that you never expected as if you are seeing her for the first time and wonder where that person had been. Until it dawns on you that she was always there under the same skin and that now you are her repository vouchsafing her continued existence int he waking world of humanity. Everything that she was is now transferred to you in both genes and spirit. And like all things valuable that we take for granted until they are lost, you have her ever constantly within your head by your side.
All along when both of them were alive you had someone to talk to that truly knew you and understood you. And now, with their final loss you must finally realize that you have only yourself to evidence these same words. The world grows quiet and cold as you finally grow terribly wise. There is an end and beginning to everything. You can only ask the question at this point which of the two you are?
The tubes that ramble out of it are composed of shiny blue and clear plastic. The snakes wind in an erratic curve towards the patient supported by an articulated arm that might have equally graced a drafting table of yesteryear. The Mechanism giving purchase into the mouth of the patient being composed of a substantially more complex network of egress through a conditional valve that allows for a much tinier tube within to seek entry into the recess of the lung to clear them at their branching of the build up of mucous and any other supposedly irritating secretions. The larger tube strapped to the patient’s mouth leveraging it perpetually open the greater of offenders that we are told, as sympathetic advocates of the victim of same, turns from a blessing to a curse within the period of ten or so days. The machine induces breathing though the patient’s default equipment might be hesitant. A combination of factors including the level of unassisted blood pressure, the presence of subsidiary non-related infections and the general condition of this therapies’ benefit heavily influencing the possibility of its removal before the patient expires. Consider the popular movie fiction of an alien species hugging ones’ face, its lethal tentacles endangering the life of its victim if there is any attempt to remove it.
The reality of it comes to hold in the balance not only the life of it’s direct victim but those who remain by that person’s side as champions of their further existence. Much like some great institutional inquisition, the barest of ‘facts’ are put forth before that person holding the ‘proper’ legal authority to decide by writ of power of attorney. The pressure is brought to bear to ultimately displace the goal of the patient’s ultimate survival with the business of the patient’s ‘comfort’ based upon the high level of suffering that is invoked by this device and the other peripheral tasks of the constant draw of blood samples generally times three from an energy starved body. The constant nudging and shifting of a deflated musculature, and the re-insertion of foreign body instruments such as rectal and renal catheters adding the certitude of infection and other ultimately fatal complications over time.
These procedures then inferred by the doctors and staff of having a unusably limited shelf-life never abated once they are initiated until the final ‘coup de grâce’ of a pen stroke by someone responsible leads to the ultimate drama of drug induced comatose comfortable death. The halls of the medicine effectively operating on an equal footing in both the ICU and the death chamber of a penitentiary. And so dies the dignity and possibility of any real resolution of life’s final surrender by way of the distance created between the patient and their closest loved ones. Only sorrowful looks of pain and suffering rising and falling out of alacrity greet one from the steady state of cloudy consciousness. Imagine someone slowly drowning in their own sputum and unable to extend even the slightest finger towards alleviating their distress beyond a troubled final breath. What greater terror could there be than to find and expression of panic and mortal fear summoned before the instant of the final breath int he eyes of your mother as you realize that you have been convinced to murder her for the sake of the general comfort and efficiency of the overall system such as it is?
OK, it’s here, finally! “September Son“, “Falling Leaves“, “Mozart’s Requiem“, in a word, C-A-N-C-E-R. My mother has cancer, my mother is going to die from cancer. What, might I ask, does that fucking mean? Well, ships have dry rot, Iron has rust, we as a species have cancer. The result is the same. After a visibly pain ridden final existence of slow incremental sliding into decrepitude, you fall apart and then disappear from everything beyond those who were always in close contact. My mother, so says the lung doctor, has cancer. Better a witch doctor, sez I. But what can I really say? Nothing.
It’s a show stopper, a heart renderer, a strong breeze that overcomes every conversation. The doctor dropped her with one shot. A simple utterance. And, of course, I’m mad! Just like every other family member of every other patient affected by this malady. Just mad as Hell. Looking in the back of my mind to find someone culpable of mistreatment, malpractice or just plain neglect. Someone, I can admonish and demand some miracle cure to put things back the way they were just a few short weeks previous. But, it doesn’t work that way. Not when your loved one starts getting hooked up to different kinds of tubes into the buzzing clicking beeping array of medical devices consuming her. No, you just have to sit there and take it, slap after slap, hope eternal battered into a beat up banged up figment of what was once in mind as a probable outcome.
The problem with the past is that it is just like a very long dinosaur’s tail that once cut off, doesn’t leave you with much to go on with. So when you go back home to freshen up, there in every corner at every angle of the eye, a memory. A memory of how things once were and ought to be. But the problem is that everything in the universe comes with a shelf life subject to another roll of ceaselessly tossed dice. Winners and losers and very few break-even’s. So now the living are condemned to go on living. And those who have been diagnosed as little or no hope of beating their malady rendered into the unconscious past. A flood of oblivion that disintegrates hundreds and thousands of minutes and hours of mutual boredom and familiarity with your closest companion to muddy amorphous mass of yesteryear. Like the LaBrea tar pits in Los Angeles, hopefully only the good times come bubbling up throughout the detritus of shoulda’s, coulda’s and can’t do’s anymore.
And the survivor much in the same way the soul scarred Ishmael, floats about in the open water looking for a fellow traveler to throw them a line. But, no, in then just solitary empty horizons arching into infinity over an enquiet ocean of perpetual sorrow.
Simple words don’t mix well with reality in this age. It is our illusions that we cling to. Holding on with clawing grip peeled finger by finger by the situation that one wishes to avoid. Till finality in free fall it hits you. What you think is the present is but a wistful memory of your less than hopeful past. And there you sit in tatters amidst the ashes still not functionally ready to fully comprehend that everything you thought you knew about the world adds up to sum equal zero. Take your expectation of any more happy memories out to the trash. The last person who knows you, who really gives a shit one way or another, fully erased from your grasp. You’re alone now and nothing will every change that. No need to explain it for everyone will tell you their own sad story and you’ll marvel at your own complacence and indifference even up to minutes before the fatal fall. Every thought brings on the recent past like a burden that must be thrown down. And you must shun your own mind lest it capsize in an ocean of despair fro all the simple things that you have lost. Looks become both furtive and incisive. Look away quickly lest you fall. But, there is nothing left but eternal sleep ahead. The release of this waking torture of mental cruelty egged on by fate. We roll our own winding sheet about us with stupidity cloaked in unending folly by immersing the majority of our years in trivial pastimes and petty obsessions. How much sadder is a final passing for it? The remainder? A silent lifeless cinder, just this once moderately happy domicile defaulted to a haunted house. An unbearable place of remember when’s and just last week’s. Those times seeming to have drawn their last in but a breath since.
Existence can so easily end in a death wish when one feels that their core survival is threatened by the present tense of the modern world. When sleep is preferable to feeling vulnerable in a time that is far beyond your own. Maybe it is inevitable that one wishes to die? To cross that threshold of the pain encountered in life into the oblivion of no more. Nothing. Everything long past. From the outside of this experience, it always seems that there is more for that person to say, to do, to remain for. But life is an umbilical cord always cut short. As life springs forth, it dwells on the remnants of what has come before. The cinders that it leaves behind seem so insubstantial when compared to but a single troubled breath from that corpse before the person left it. Death leaves behind everything and gives one nothing. Only the understanding that the candle must one day burn out and nothing remain save a few ashes that in turn are borne up by the eternal wind. so the closest among you must one day unexpectedly part. And farewells, seem trite when weighed against the absence of so many petty trifles and former irritations now permanently removed. A causeway for the release of so many memories no longer to be shared. An empty sepulcher of stone that congeals around one’s heart.
When your parents, your child, your best friends, your wife or those equally close to you degenerate or die off your world as you know it disappears. Keep all the photos and videos and keepsakes you wish, there will be a big hole in your existence because that trivial sense of verbal commerce and visual reassurance of their presence disappears with a poof. The absence of same, if you are unlucky to reside in spaces where your lost loved ones were wont to tread will grow in an immensity of stillness threatening to tear your abdomen in half. That silent space then becomes unbearable and like a bear prematurely smoked out of your hole by an unanticipated forest fire, you will wander both confused and very angry. Perhaps thinking in the the deep less traveled corners of your consciousness that by repeating significant experiences shared in the past that you can resurrect them or if nothing else sip the nectar of the impression that is summoned up by the memory. But alas. the heart pounds but no fit phantom will arrive on schedule to alleviated the ache. You will remain a hollow vessel.