One of the most vivid memories I have of the time surrounding my mom’s death is from the night before she passed. We (dad, brother & SIL, Ryan and I) were all gathered around her bed in the ICU with the doctor. He was explaining to her that she was very sick and realistically, wouldn’t have much time left. She couldn’t talk because of the CPAP machine covering her face, so she was using a notebook and pen to communicate with us and the doctor. She wasn’t afraid of where she was going, she wrote. Only afraid of getting there.
I remember staring at those words on the yellow notepad, in her beautiful handwriting that I had always envied. “This can’t be real,” I thought to myself. How could this be happening? My strong, beautiful, confident mother lay there, helpless and so very sick. If there ever was a moment in my life that epitomized the term “surreal,” that was it.
What stands out most in my memory is the sound of the clock. Its infuriating tick tock filled the silent room, a cruel reminder that time marches on. Time waits for no one. Here I was, with my very world crashing down around me. And somehow that clock continued on. How could people carry on with their lives when mine felt as though it was ending? When my mom’s was ending?
I was angry with the doctors who couldn’t save her, angry with God for allowing her to die, angry with her for leaving me. But most of all, I was angry with all the other people who carried on as if nothing had happened, as if nothing had changed. Because everything had changed. Even in that moment, I knew nothing would ever be the same.
I wish I had some positive, upbeat way to conclude this story. But the truth is that I don’t. The truth is that there’s always someone whose world is crashing down around them today, right this very moment. There will always be people whose hearts are breaking. People who will look back on today as the day when everything changed.
So choose kindness. Choose compassion. Choose empathy. Choose love.