Nearing Death Awareness is the technical term for what is now happening to my mom. While it is true that there are times she is experiencing hallucinations caused by the medications, these are generally characterized by alterations of things that are real, and seem to be accompanied by a glassy-ness, or an opaque quality to her eyes and words that are slurred. Med related distortions involve; talking about contests rather than concerts, confusion about what is or isn’t happening during the day, or word mishaps – looking for pills rather than the remote, or asking me if I see the bunny rabbits or birds nests. They are generally related to something real.
Then there are the in between experiences like the night before last, when she woke up telling me she was hearing rain and asked if I could hear it. I didn’t hear anything, but realizing she was not unhappy or anxious I offered to take her to the open window so we could look. It was not raining. My mother is quite deaf without her hearing aids, so I chocked it up to one of the above and went back to my room. At five in the morning when I took the dogs out, it had clearly rained during the night.
The nearing death awareness that I speak of, are clearly moments when something far more mysterious and exciting is occurring. The air becomes electrically charged, and in response to the clearer resonance of her voice, my own pupils dilate. This is accompanied by a sensation I can only describe as my skin becoming alert.
These experiences seem to come in small waves. A smile will come over her face, and she will open far away darkly emerald eyes asking me things like, did I see the girls pass through or my father, she asks for maps and talks of schedules. Often it seems she is trying to tell me something important like; “people struggle for the almighty dollar, and things that are wrong – they can’t see the bright lights”. While petting and talking to Molly – “You are going to be all pretty again, when you go home be sure to tell your mother”. When I was sad she told me “sometimes you just have to cry it out, and then when you are all cried out, you think – what a dope I was to think that was such a big deal” and my absolute favorite so far - “you’re going to be famous someday, I just know it. I feel it in my bones – I’m just sorry I won’t get to see it. You gotta feel something about knowing the truth about yourself – how loved you are. I think you are getting smarter. I think someday the people that didn’t understand you will. They were never smart enough to know what a good friend you are – they just take with two hands. I heard all the people in the world saying they loved you.”
There are other sadder times when she is far away with her mouth open, and thin purple eyelids veil her eyes. When this happens, now for longer and longer periods of time, I want so badly to wake her up. To bring her back from wherever she is drifting. I want to have more conversations about love, life, us, anything.
Instead I concentrate on creating a sense of order and normalcy through tasks like ironing, or cleaning. At these times I sense a presence as the house is humming with everyday life even as the spirits gather. The dogs take turns sleeping by her side.
On Sunday in an effort to provide some comfort for us both, I baked her favorite cookie from childhood so the house would smell like it did every Friday afternoon of her growing up. My mother who had not eaten for two days, ate two of the cookies and a small dish of her favorite mocha almond ice cream. She ate one more yesterday, but today only two bites.
It is important to let her be as long as she is safe, and trust the process. I open wider to the mystery unfolding before me and ride the waves of the tide, with my breath fully engaged.