Updated: Sep 26
For the last 11 days, my family’s life has been wrapped around the last phase of my mother-in-law’s life, first in the hospital, and then, hospital bed in tow, in her home, back on the land where Alice was born over 92 years ago. In complete harmony with our emotions and her physical state, the weather has been unduly wild, even by Kansas standards.
I’ve been in this place before when my father died, but I wasn’t living next door to the center of that universe, and of course, there’s that familiar ache that links me to other losses that happened far too slowly or quickly, stopping my breath and breaking my heart. I also know well how grief is preemptive and mysterious, manifesting in forgetting words like “garage,” not knowing what to order for lunch or waking up at 3 a.m. determined to re-organize the closet.
But having visited this country doesn’t mean I know shit about how to navigate it, where I parked my car, or what to say or do next. My body reflects my psyche: sudden nose bleeds for the first time in my life, a cold to add insult to injury, and all I want to eat is bacon and cookies punctuated by iced coffee. It’s hard to sleep, it’s hard to wake up, and I’m not even doing the heavy lifting of long days and nights caring for Alice that my wonderful sisters-in-law and husband are shouldering.
One of my close friends is also on death watch with her mom, and we text about making bumper stickers that say, “Death Watch: No Rules” or “Death Watch: Take Your Hands Off the Dial.” Such times make me cognizant of the weighty mystery that beats in all our hearts, and pulses through how we see what and who is right there, loving us and letting us love them. The sunsets are glorious, the first moths of spring cling to the lit window, and the chimes on the porch do their thing like all of life, just being what it is and doing what it does.