Thursday, November 23, 2006

It's been 18 years today.

18 years since my mom died due to complications of emphysema. Complications. Well, basically, she was tethered to an oxygen tube for the last few years of her life. That in itself was a complication. The "complication" that finally ended her life -- a blood clot in her lung.

I was talking to friends of mine today who mentioned something that brought to mind my mom's demise. 18 years ago today. It struck me pretty hard. I don't really know why other than I didn't realize that today was the anniversary. I gave up directly tracking the anniversary long ago -- rather my tracking was simply year specific, not to the day. I mean her death was a significant "life changing" experience. A life's milestone. So, yeah, 18 years. Judging from the memories of that night and the following days, you might think it happened last year. The vividity of the memories are as intense today as they were 18 years ago.

I was her primary caregiver for the last few years, so I was well tuned to the tone of her voice when there was a kink in her oxygen tubes --a certain shrillness to her voice when she called my name in the dark of night or in the day. When her tubes where compromised, she didn't have the faculties to get to the kink. Her lungs were at 12% of normal capacity, so when she wasn't getting a high liter of oxygen supplement, her brain and body suffered from oxygen deprivation. So, yeah, that night, there wasn't the kink in the oxygen, but she was suffering from a lack of oxygen. Simple movements became difficult. We tried calling the doctor whom we had visited the previous day for advice. No luck there. I called an ambulance. Within the short period of time from the call to the time they made it to our place, she was nearly gone. I held her while she tried to breathe. The muscles in her chest and around her back were so very tight. Desperate for breath, her last words to me were, "I'm so scared." So was I. So was I.

There are tons of small details of that time burned in my brain, I really didn't drop many here. I was so young and really wasn't ready for her to go. Aren't parents supposed to die when you're 50? The lucky ones, I suppose. Anyway, it was a tragic end to a remarkable woman's foreshortened life. Yeah, yeah, everyone thinks their mom is remarkable. But, really, she was! She overcame a lot of obstacles in her life and still provided quite the idyllic childhood for me and my sibs. Eh, she wasn't perfect by any means, but you know, her imperfections were perfection in itself. ;-) It was an end that came too quickly due to addiction to cigarettes. She'd probably still be here today if it weren't for the sticks o' death. I do make a point of telling smoking friends or even friends of friends about her early demise. I tell them once and only once about the gory details of her last few years in some small hope of planting a seed that will get them to stop smoking. I know that my seeds fall on the ears of addiction, so there isn't much hope to be had. But you know, a girl's gotta try!


Anonymous said...

Hi Cat - my Mom died 25 years ago from cancer and I can relate to most of your story. I miss her so much even all these years later. I was only 25 when she died. My dad had already died when I was 13. My mother tried to make the best life for us too and did a great job. Here's to our mothers!