Death does not come easy


Her bones have no padding. The tendons and muscles have lost their foothold. Every move is excruciating. The back is sore and her knees do not hold her.

She asked for the commode but was unable to stand. Hauling her her hundred pound dead weight to get her there was excruciatingly painful for her. And then, she could not keep her head up. I held it against my torso and stroked it. Who would suspect that a head was so heavy?

Try, Mom,” I said.

I can’t.” she answered. “Let me lie down.”

But you just asked for the commode.
“But you came to late” she answered, and slumped down even further.

All that movement for nothing. All that pain of transferring her and I had to do it again.

Back in bed, she struggled with her fever. Her limbs jerked on their own, spasmodically. She called for water. The effort to bring forth that one word for that primordial need was Herculean.

We tried a power drink, much like a milk shake but enriched with vitamins that comes in flavours of chocolate, strawberry or vanilla. We tried clear soup, whole milk. Anything with a bit more calories than water. But it was water she wanted, that she sipped in tiny sips through a straw.

That was the last time she moved from her bed.

I think that was when I knew. I called my sisters in their homes far away, and asked them to come into the city as soon as they could. Heather and her husband were expected for Tuesday. Heather had a luncheon with a friend planned while Jason had a doctor’s appointment for his hearing. They simply left early and arrived by late afternoon.

Lizbet said she could not come. She had missed too much school. She had had the flu and Monday was her first day back after three weeks.

Lizbet,” I argued, “ You must have something in your contract that lets you go and see your parent when your parent is dying. Phone your union in the morning. Ask. You don’t get anything if you don’t ask.

Even if that were so,” she continued, “I couldn’t get there until the afternoon. I’ll have to put the dog in a kennel. I’ll have to take the plane. I can’t drive. I’m still not well enough.” It was a ten hour drive at the best of times. In winter it was treacherous. And it costs ” she added after a pause.

It was true. Domestic flights to small town airports were enormously expensive. The airport was reputed the foggiest in the continent. Sometimes it took two or three days of returning to the airport at flight time to get a “window” in the clouds before a flight could leave.

Lizbet has never been well. She has Chronic Fatigue and I wonder sometimes how she holds down her job at all; she’s away so much. Because of her illness, she is working only half time. But she has no resistance to bugs and she works in a school where children seem to cultivate bacteria for revenge on their teachers.  Add to that a dose of parents who are working and don’t want to or can’t get a babysitter to look after their sick darlings. They send them to school even if they are hacking and snuffling. She gets over one flu and goes back to pick up another. It’s never ending and it seems as if she is never at school.

Lizbet, there is a sizable inheritance coming your way. Don’t worry about money.  We will find it. This experience will never come your way again. You must come. You will not forgive yourself if you do not.”

She boarded the dog and she came.

By Monday evening, there were five adults in the house again. I was back to being major domo and the night watch.

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