My Mother is Dead but My Guilt is Alive and Well
I have never been through anything worse than the night my mother died. I have never felt the gnawing guilt I feel right now thinking that some decision I made took her from everyone that loved her.
She entrusted herself into my care and now she is dead.
The night she died, Sarah and I walked into her room at the care center about 6 p.m. and she was laying in her bed, one arm behind her head, one leg raised up bent at the knee, sticking out of her gown. I laughed to myself. It looked like she was posing but it was totally accidental. I said “Hey sexy.” and she chuckled a little. Six hours later she would be dead, but I didn’t know it at the time. She was gurgling in her throat some when she breathed and it concerned me because the last time she sounded like that she ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. In a crazy bit of irony, we were supposed to get her port installed the next day so that she could get her treatments without an IV. Just exactly like the first time we were supposed to have it installed. That set us back a whole month on her treatment. In my mind, I was terrified that if she did end up with pneumonia again that the oncologist would call it quits so I wanted the facility to do what they could to prevent that without sending us to the hospital.
And that is Guilt Point One for me.
Should I have just said let’s go now so that she could get the top notch care. I know the facility people do what they can and I blame none of them, but they weren’t totally prepared for this I don’t think. But, fearing that a hospital stay would either throw us out of treatment altogether or set us back another month while her cancer continued to eat away at her, I opted to go with them trying what they could and then if it got worse to go to the hospital. There were X-rays and blood samples taken. The on-call doctor was consulted and she kept talking about palliative care. I grew more terrified inside. No. No. NO. Stop talking like that dammit. We just got started! The X-rays showed her lungs were clear, so there was no pneumonia. Good news. I eased up a little in my worry. The nurse came in and gave her Albuterol to help her breathe.
Enter Guilt Point Two.
Was the Albuterol treatment they gave her there what set the blood clot that ultimately took her life free? If I had just left her alone and let her take on her cold or whatever it was naturally, without panicking inside, would she still be here? Yes, she was gurgling then, but it didn’t seem too serious. Yet, after a treatment or two of Albuterol (at least I think that is what they gave her) she was really panting hard and losing consciousness. That was when we called the emergency services. They came and the first thing they did was give her another Albuterol treatment even though the nurse and I both told them clearly that she had just had two. Again, no blame but this ticked me off. But this is the source of my guilt. Should I have been more forceful than I was? I felt intimidated by a roomful of EMS and fire department people and just stopped talking and let them work. I wonder if I should have been more brave and insistent? I feel like I should have now, after the fact, of course. She wasn’t responsive to questions at this point. I think the blood clot had already started to do its nefarious deed.
So, enter Guilt Point Three
That goddamn blood clot. I think it eats at me the most. When she was in the hospital with pneumonia I recall them giving her something to prevent blood clots while she was laying immobile….but I didn’t recall it until after the ER doctor told me that was probably what got her and my brothers asked me if she hadn’t been on blood clot medicine at the facility. I fucking felt like punching myself in the face right then. Why….why…WHY did I not mention that to the PT facility????? She was immobile the whole time there. People tell me I couldn’t have known, that they should have, but those people are overworked and overwhelmed in those kind of places. I feel like it was totally my responsibility to be the advocate my mom need to ensure she received everything she needed and to stay on top of all of that. And I dropped the fucking ball.
And she died. My mother died.
I had to watch her struggle to breathe. I had to watch her eyes roll up into her head and her hands claw up and turn purple. And ultimately I had to leave her body there on that bed, surrounded by the sterile equipment of an ER room. As many of us were there that could be and that could handle it. My daughter was in there through the whole ordeal, sometimes alone as even I had to step out from time to time because it was so goddamn hard to watch.But I knew I would feel even more guilt later if I wasn’t. I told her everything my heart and head could think of while I brushed her hair with my hands, but it doesn’t feel like enough now. I keep thinking of all the time we spent together in her PT room and how most of it was just quiet because neither of us were big talkers. I let her watch her soaps and her shows. I wish that I had read to her out of her favorite books, but again it was just something I thought of too late.
Everyone says I am a good son. I did everything I could. My head says yes along with my mouth but my heart and my spirit are saying that is all bullshit. I should have done more. She needed me to do more. And I failed.
And she died.
Maybe one day my head and my heart will come to terms but right now they are barely speaking. I don’t know how I can face my family this next week. They also trusted me to take care of her. And I let them down too.
I make it through the day most of the time until that picture of my mom laying in that ER room pops up. As it will forever. That is why I usually avoid those scenes. I just couldn’t allow myself to do that this time. And so when I see that in my mind’s eye all I can do is tell my mom that I am so, so sorry I let her down and let my tears flow and hope they can wash some of this guilt off of me.
I’m sharing this. Not to get a lot of sympathy I don’t really want or think I deserve, but in the hopes that maybe if someone else goes through something like this they can know they aren’t alone. I know I am not alone.
Actually, that could be Guilt Point Four. I personally know so many people who have lost their mothers before me, including my girlfriend (I also worry that this is stirring up memories for her and that this is making her hurt all over again.) Some in way worst circumstances way too early. And so I feel guilty for even being sad. Like my situation is unique or something. I feel their pain. They all probably went through similar emotions. And they are dealing with it. Right now, they are my heroes as they trek on and live their life.
I am going to try and accomplish things in honor of my mom. I am sorry I didn’t get them done while she was still here.
I am also going to tie up this rambling mess and torture the two or three people that will read it now. 🙂 Lucky for the world I am not that popular of a blogger.
Peace. The shitscribbler is out.