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Hospital July 21, 2010

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.

The chemo claimed her hair months ago, but it was only tonight that I saw clearly how much my mother looks like her father, A.J. as I last remember him, in some nursing or hospital bed before he died, as if somewhere inside I lapsed into past tense, that even as she lay in the hospital bed I placed her among the passed. My aunt and older sisters tell me she looks like Aunt Tee at the end of her life, but I don’t remember Aunt Tee. When she was passing I was too young to be taken to visit the dying. I only remember my grandfather.

In my mother’s sepsis dementia she keeps raising her head from the pillow, looking at me and turning away, putting her head back on the pillow and closing her eyes. I leave my hat on so she might recognize me. The last truly lucid thing she said Saturday, as we stood in the ER hallway waiting for her papers, was: ‘I might need one of your hats to cover up my bald head…” and the rest was lost in the noise of the jostling nurses station and her increasing difficulty speaking. I don’t know if she turns away now because she recognizes me and does not wish to us to be here like this, or if she wakes every half minute and sees the hospital room and lays her head down hoping to see something else, or if she turns away from the ghost of her husband haunting my face, unready to go yet.

She cannot speak, so I cannot know.

She had a brief recovery on Tuesday, greeting her brother-in-law (but not her sister or my middle sister) when they all entered the room. Based on the positive reports of some improvement, I relented to my wife’s desire to let the children come see her. Although she had about worn herself out with visitors and was lapsing back into twilight when they arrived, she managed to tell the nurse, “these are my grandchildren.” I had resisted their visit, wanting them to keep their living memories of their grandmother/ I was glad they were able to see her while she was responsive and recognized them, while she could graciously accept a dutiful kiss on her bald head.

By the time I arrived that night, she was again unresponsive.

My sister thinks she does not recognize us when she opens her eyes but I think she does, or at least manages to recognize a familiar voice. The Dominican nun who lives across the hall in mother’s apartment building came by to visit the other night. My mother is a Dominican girl through and through, educated by Dominican’s her entire life: St. Anthony Grammar School, Dominican High School and College, and she spent her life an officer of her college alumnae association. She and her Dominican friends would visit the remaining sisters from the college in their retirement home across the lake. As Sister Jamie speaks to her, mother stretches herself as if to sit up and opens her eyes wide, but she cannot reply.

In her macular degeneration blindness compounded by dementia she likely cannot see well enough to recognize us except by voice. My eldest sister thinks she lifts her head and turns to look not at us but at the window, in her near blindness to look toward the one thing she can most likely see, the light she can just make out pouring in the window. And perhaps that is what she wants, what she is waiting for: the light.


1. DW - July 21, 2010

I am sorry for the pain you are experiencing at this time. I have been there too with my father-in-law – as I , my husband and children watched him fade. Yes she may be seeing the light or something else or someone else who is waiting. I had an old friend who I visited in the hospital and she told me of the visitors she had in her room that I could not see — yet. They gave her peace. Thank you for sharing this.


2. Charlotte - July 21, 2010

You have my love and my understanding. My husband’s father passed away Sunday morning after 8 months on respirator in a vegetative state, in and out of intensive care untold times. It’s hard on those of us left to watch and wonder just how much they know, can they hear us? We talked to him simply because we wanted him to know we were there in case he could hear but not communicate.
We have peace now because we carried out his wishes to never give up on him. Of course, that is a very personal decision and everyone has their own views. The sad part is, we had to fight the hospital near the end to honor his wishes – something no family should have to do. Death panels? Yes. They exist.
Anyway, my thoughts are with you and your family and, of course, your mother. I wish her peace most of all.


3. maitri - July 22, 2010

Peace and hugs.


4. Marco - July 22, 2010

Tough time, amigo. Peace to her and your family.


5. judyb - July 22, 2010

Praying for your strength and peace for your mother.


6. Kevin - July 23, 2010

What a horrible situation – and a beautiful piece of writing.

I’m so sorry, Mark, and my condolences to your sister as well.


7. Athenae - July 23, 2010

I’m so sorry. Take care of yourselves in this time.



8. Linda - July 23, 2010

Went through a similar experience earlier this year with my dying father. You and your family need to spend quiet time and just focus on yourselves for a while. Bless you.


9. bayoucreole - July 29, 2010

I’m so sorry you and your family have to go through this Mark. I wish you all peace and strength through this ordeal.


10. liprap - August 4, 2010

Big ((((((hugs)))))) to all of y’all. R’fuah shleimah.


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