I can’t quite wrap my mind around the fact that earlier this week I posted about the death of an old friend and how we never know how much time we have with people — and then on Saturday night, entirely unexpectedly, my mom died.
When I say “entirely unexpected”: she was 78. She had some underlying chronic conditions: diabetes, high blood pressure, a long history of heart disease and generally poor health. She had had two small strokes a couple of years ago and while she recovered well, we were concerned that something might happen again. So on the one hand I guess you could say, not that shocking.
On the other hand: that Sabbath morning she was in church, sitting in the pew with us, talking to everyone after the service as she always did, laughing and joking with friends. That afternoon she and my dad spent an hour and a half at the nursing home visiting Aunt Gertie, something my mom did every second day. That evening, she and my dad decided on the spur of the moment to join me at a concert — I had extra tickets and no-one else was free to go with me, and my dad liked the band. As she and my dad walked into the church where the concert was being held, she stumbled and fell. The back of her head was bleeding but she was sitting up, talking to me and Dad. She walked with us to the ambulance so she could get a couple of stitches, we thought.
Two hours later, she was dead. She lost consciousness just as she got into the emergency room. A massive brain bleed, the doctor said. I got out of the ambulance, registered her at the desk, talked to my dad for five minutes before he went into check on her. Then, when the nurse told me I could come in a couple of minutes later, I walked into her cubicle in the emergency room expecting to see her chatting with a nurse as her cut was examined. I thought she’d probably be figuring out who the nurse’s mother was and where they’d met before, which was what usually happened anytime you put my mom in a room with other humans. Instead I walked in to find her unconscious, with a doctor asking my dad whether they’d made any end-of-life plans and whether she wanted to be kept on life support (she didn’t).
I could, and will, blog more about my mom, who was an amazing woman in so many ways. I could, and won’t, say more trite things about the uncertainty of life. Needless to say I’m still in shock. It’s almost impossible to grasp how someone can be here one moment and gone the next. As we plan her funeral, apart from the surreality of the whole thing — How can we be planning her funeral? She was just here!! — I’m overwhelmed by the sense that she, the person in the family who always knew how all the priorities and rituals should be properly observed, ought to be here to tell me how to do this. How can we figure out what clothes she wants to be wearing in the coffin, or how to word her obituary? Those were the things she would have known and taken care of for us. How can she not be here to do them?