The Night My Mother Didn't Die
By ice rivers
I hoped tonight would be the night. I was there in the chair next to her bed. I was listening to her breathe her morphine breaths, praying that I would catch the last one.
She had been bedside for many deaths and often she was the only one in attendance. She had that kind of patience. She was the last person who should die alone.
Her father died when she was in high school She raised her two sisters and her brother. She managed to be with them when they passed. She was present for the death of her mother. She had two stillborn deliveries. She knew about death.
Every so often she would murmur "I can't breathe" or "I can't help you.". Helping was as normal to her as breathing and now she was having mortal difficulty with both.
She was still working at 90 when my father died. She stayed with him for his entire passage, including that great, agonizing night of fear the first time that he knocked on heaven's door when he was afraid he would never go home again.
She got him home and he died in her arms.
I could never imagine her dead and yet there I was, hoping I would be the one to send her off.
It was a long night.
I was pretty sure that we had spoken our last words and I was satisfied with what they were. Those words had come a couple days earlier when she was surrounded by her children and her children's children.
All that was in the past now and I was the only person in the room.
I hoped to catch and dry her dying tear.
Somehow, she hung on.
She lived a couple of more days, again in the company of her loved ones but this night, the night my mother didn't die would be my last night by her bedside.
Sure enough, when she died...she died alone.