I got to the hospital as fast as I could, there was my mom, connected to heart monitors, oxygen and an abundance of other tubes all over her petite body.
“Mm.. Mm—Mom?” I forced the words out, she feebly opened one eye, she looked so deflated.
My stepdad burst in tears at the foot of the door. My heart froze. “You’ll be out of here soon,” I remember telling her. “I’m going to die,” she murmured. “If you lose hope, you lose everything,” I said looking at the one eye she had open.
Grief overpowered my body, she was going to die and I was lying to her, giving her false hope. Above all, I was lying to myself.
It’s afflicting to hear just anyone talk about life in such a subjacent matter. Imagine if it was your own mother saying that? My heart was being indulged into a void of sorrow at the sound of her defeat.
I remember her always saying, “If I ever depend on a machine to keep me alive, unplug me.” As if she always knew this was going to happen. “Did she?” I questioned myself. No, no one could have possibly known what she had, no one knew how she went through life without a symptom to be shown. I never understood why she would want to give up so easily, at such young age and with three daughters depending on her.
“You are the only person I trust with my little ones, do you understand Yasmin? Not your Grandma, nor aunts, not even their father—you need to take care of your sisters.” I recall her telling me over the phone as I stepped out of class while she told me there was no hope for her.
I didn’t cry.
I never showed any wretchedness around her, contrary to every single person that would go visit her at the hospital, every single visitor would cry when they’d first see her so fragile and pale and when they’d leave, in case she passed away — as we were all expecting her to — soon. I always thought I was the strong one, though I think back and realize I probably never cried in front of her because I didn’t want her to see how torn up I really was, because I was the only person she honored her trust to, I was her rock.
Mommy was going to die, was all I could ever think for about three months, the slow process altered me as much as it did to her; I was losing it — I was losing my grip on reality.
One of the many days, my two sisters and I slept over at Grandma’s. It was late and my sisters were both asleep. The lights were all off and I was lying in bed looking at the abyss of the dark when I started talking to my mom, I started talking to her as if she could hear me while she was in the operation room, or as if she was dead. “Who are you talking to?” my 8-year-old sister asked me. “No one,” I replied.
I also don’t remember much of that episode of my life. My memory plays some images and I start to regain consciousness of some parts through those three months, but I never seem to know much about it. I blocked it out, like when you experience something that truly affects you.
Sometimes I wish my mom would’ve had my view of illness: when you get old, you are going to depend on people, you’re going to feel what it is like being a baby all over again, getting pampered and fed, and all you can do is enjoy it as if you were one. I wish she had that perspective, I wish she would’ve had what she once called “beautiful optimism” of mine.
Why would you give up Mom?
In retrospect, when you see your mother dying and suffering, you see and understand things you never thought you would before. Not wanting someone you adore with every bit of your soul to die is reasonable, that person that raised you and shaped who you are and who you will become with or without is a pain that beats you physically, mentally and emotionally all at once; It makes you feel sick. But it’s their death, not yours and taking it too personally becomes more selfish than compassionate. Let them go.
I saw as my mom slipped from the world, gasped for air and right before her deplore of life I whispered, “I’ll love you,” and with my approval, she let go.
Sweet dreams, mommy.