As I thought about what to write this week I found myself feeling that, even though I just wrote about Melissa, I needed to write about her again. Contemplating what to share, here’s what came:
Write about the last night of her life.
If any of you have ever been with a person in the last days of life, you know it’s largely unpredictable. At the time even though I knew Mel was going to leave her body soon, I certainly didn’t think it was my last night with her. I knew she could go any time but anytime felt like the future not right now.
Actually, the truth is, once I took Melissa to the Hospice House, it was almost like time stopped.
Mel had been adamant about staying home and we’d honored her wishes until her symptoms became too much for us to manage. The morning we (her hospice nurse, social worker and I) made the decision to move her, she’d been so weak that she’d collapsed on the bathroom floor and by some miracle I’d gotten her up. Escorting her gingerly back to bed I knew that my mom (in her 70s) and my 5 foot- tall step sister were not going to be able to physically support her.
She’d gotten back in bed and started hallucinating. All night Melissa had been anxious and nothing seemed to help. So we wrapped her up, swaddled in sheets like a big baby, and took her to the Hospice House in Maryland.
There the nurses and doctor took over. I hadn’t realized how stressed I’d been as the primary care provider. At the House I could actually relax knowing that I had professional help.
I moved in with Mel and the nurses kindly set up a cot in her room for me.
Once they got her situated, she wandered in and out of consciousness and in and out of our reality.
Night soon arrived. I was ever vigilant, a bit like I’d been with my girls as newborns. The way a mother sleeps but only lightly, knowing she can be needed at any moment. Mel moaned and then would startle awake and sit up abruptly. I’d leap up to soothe her while simultaneously pressing the call button. In seconds the nurses would arrive ministering to her and she’d collapse back onto the bed, into fitful sleep.
I’d return to my cot, my adrenaline pumping, unable to sleep. I lay there listening to Mel’s noises and the clock ticking loudly over my head. As I lay there I suddenly realized that all the complicated emotions we have with our siblings- or that I had for Mel- had dissolved. I’d spent years being mad at her, frustrated or annoyed, irritated and perplexed. Mel had always been able to totally aggravate me like no one else. I presume most sibling’s have that ability.
Lying under that loudly ticking clock I suddenly realized that all those trivial annoyances and grievances were gone. All that was left was love.
It’s a little bit like the ocean I thought. The wind kicks up the spray creating turbulence, enhancing waves, fomenting chaos on the surface but underneath, the water is noticeably calmer, consistent, silent.
All of those emotions of frustration and irritation I’d had were just superficial. But they’re noisy, distracting and attention grabbing taking my focus away from the truth that’s always there, the constancy of love underneath.
Lying on that cot, I suddenly realized that all of those petty emotions were gone.
They’d dissolved. I was no longer angry, frustrated, mystified. All that I felt was love pure and simple and so deep. Tears fell down my face as I immersed myself in this well of love. Thankful to feel it, to know the strong bond we had underneath the surface.
The next day Mel left her physical body. I won’t tell you that I didn’t cry or wasn’t sad but it was her time.
And the love that we have transcends bodies. It’s still here with me every day.
She lives in my heart and in the heart’s of all of those who loved her as I did. All of you who have reached out to me. She continues to inspire us, make us laugh and whisper encouragements in our ears. She’s the one who told me to write our story and I am- with tears in my eyes and love in my heart.
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