The last chance I had to spend with my mother I sat in her hospital room and graded papers. I could have been asking her all the things I didn’t know about. How she met my father, or what she felt like when her mother died, or even what we would do when we got released from the hospital. But I spent my time silently in the corner like I had many times before getting a start on my grading so I wouldn’t have to spend our holiday time doing it.
I did pull my chair up to her bed when I saw that she was having a hard time with her oxygen mask. I knew she felt claustrophobic. Then she was confused and kept trying to get ready for bed, a bed she was already in and dressed for. I got the chance to see her come back from that confusion and we had a last talk although I didn’t know it about whether she wanted a DNR. Whether she wanted to be intubated.
The last words I spoke to her were Are you OK? as she waited to be moved from the nurses station into her private room. The last words I said as she was fading as her heart was dropping to 0 were I love you, you are the love of my life, imagine Avila and the spot you liked to sit in, imagine your paintings in your beautifully bright condo, I love you, I love you, I love you.
The last thing I saw that I can’t get out of my mind is the med techs preparing her body. They washed it and I keep seeing them manhandle her jaw trying to shut it. She was so light that they used to much force when they turned her and they tipped her over so into a somersault. I try to replace that image with other ones. A Thanksgiving dinner at the Eldorado Hotel in Santa Fe, sitting in beach chairs during the summer months watching that absorbed and perfectly content look of hers as she watched mothers chasing their children into the waves or teenagers oiling their bodies and turning with the sun in search of that elusive tan.
The last thing I did before they put her in a white body bag was kiss her forehead. I walked her out in her shroud to the bay where they would take her. I touched her and said I’ll see you old girl. Sleep well.
I carried her cremains, ashes really, into the house yesterday in a box in a purple bag and placed her in the corner by the bookcase. I went to get her and the funeral director turned the box over to show me the tag and on it was the name Sally Sullivan. My mother was Patricia. He quickly took it back and put the right name on it assuring me that this was in fact my mother. But I will never know. So I’m glad I had all those last moments with her. When I cast the ashes I have in the waves and on the shore and along the stretch of beach that she so loved…I won’t really know who will be enjoying the smell of seaweed and the sound of waves for eternity.