Death is a Noun, Dying is a Verb

“Death is a Noun” was the name of an english class I took in high school.

Mom is dying. Dying? A verb. The signs are there, the first stages of dying. Rapid heart rate. Rapid/uneven respiration. Less responsive. Difficulty swallowing.

We’ve signed her up for hospice. She could live for a few days, or a week. But she’s in the process of shutting down. Some people shut down fast… an organ quits, and the rest follows. My mom clings to life. Last week, she became agitated a couple of days, crying “Take me away! Take me away! God, Take me away!” This week, the CNA was thrilled because mom didn’t fight her bath, or try to bite, or tell her that she hoped she was killed or “I’m going to kill you”. The CNA said, excitedly, “I think we’ve turned a corner!” and my thought was that yes, I think we have, but not the corner you are thinking of. I knew mom had given up. Two days later, mom stopped eating. She chokes on water, that is, when she tries to drink, which is not very often.

Mom’s body is like a skeleton with skin draped over it. Every bone is visible, even under sheets. Her eyelids have a red cast and her feet are cold. When her eyes open… I want to reach in and search for the mom I feel is surely in there, somewhere… but that’s just a fantasy. I want one more moment with the real person I knew. I want one more I love you but there are no more left for her to give. My quota is up, I can only give them to her over and over again never to hear her speak them to me.

I’m told by the hospice workers that they consider death to be just as “holy” as birth. I think I prefer the word “sacred”. Her death will be a relief for her. It will be a relief for us, and a chance to grieve and say good-bye finally and completely.

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