Our phone conversations don’t occur as early in the day as they used to, because the dawns bring racking waves of nausea and heaving. The lumps in her neck and throat are making it more difficult for her to swallow (dysphagia) and talk. Sustenance comes in liquid form, or the rare, occasional bite of something, neither of which is likely to stay down where it belongs.
Our calls are shorter in duration than they’ve ever been. Not because we don’t have much to say to each other, but simply because she’s finding it more difficult to draw the energy up to vocalize the words. It’s been an increasing struggle to enunciate clearly enough to be understood since having part of her tongue removed. She’s worked exceedlingly hard at it though, just as she has always done, in all aspects of her life.
The words she does utter these days are expressions of love and concern for others. What did our sweet Emma do today? How are Talmage and Mindy? Caitlyn and Justin? Where are those two traveling this week? Tell Michael I love him too. Without fail, she always ends with “I love you baby”. And my heart aches each time she says it, because I know it may be the last time I hear her speak to me.
She has all the legitimate reasons in the world to complain. She was never a smoker but is racked with Stage 4 cancer in her mouth, throat, esophagus, and lungs. Her condition is further complicated by a rare and preexisting inflammatory muscular deterioration disease, Inclusion Body Polymyositis. That incurable parasitic debility, took up residence in her body about 15 years ago and has been causing progressive and severe muscle weakness and the wasting away of her arm and leg muscles ever since. Imprisoned in her hospital bed, dependent on others for almost every need and function, her “life is good” moments are scarce.
Still, and in spite of the tumors, her decrepit muscles, and the dysphagia related to the polymyositis and the carcinoma, she’s ever insistent that she “will be alright”. Even yesterday, as she told me for the very first time that she felt “her time” was close, she followed up with those 3 words- “I’ll be alright”.
You kids gave me the best years of my life. Those were the words my dear, sweet, and loving mother spoke. And although I know I had my “good years”, I also admit to being a tremendously troublesome teenager for more than a few. Believe me, the special emphasis on tremendously troublesome could never be over estimated. But because I have children now myself, and with tears percolating up from deep in my gut as I type these words, I understand that even those trying times are not anything that I or any loving mother would ever trade, even for all of the miracle-youth-preserving skin creams or opulence in the world.
I’m 700 miles away from her at this moment. I wish that I could stay by her side and squeeze her hand, and tell her I love her over and over again until whenever the end may come, but the circumstances of life prevent that. Today I pray that she won’t continue to suffer endlessly. Today I pray that I’ll have one last chance to hear her say “i love you baby” and “I’ll be alright”.
Peace and Love, Love, Love