One Post Will Not Do

How can you sum up someone's life in a post, an obituary, or even a biography of epic proportions? You cannot. There are too many moments, uncountable elements, layers shifting constantly and many varied roles and characters. So much so that one's life is never, ever completely captured in any form.

To try seems almost offensive. Tasteless even. As if you are somehow detracting from all that a person was by attempting to convey only the significant details, meanwhile all the perfect little moments slip by unnoticed and forgotten. The Reader's Digest abridged version of a life, if you will.

Which details do you decide are significant? Which part of the whole defines one's essence? Where do you begin, follow and end? What do you leave out? What do you leave with?

I guess for some this task might be an easy one. Not me. I've struggled with the words, the title, the manner in which I attempt tell you about the woman who was/is my mother since her passing.

There is no way I could impart to you the strength with which she faced each day and the tenacious grip she held on life. You would perhaps miss the fact that she lived life with a quiet dignity and tremendous courage. You might not see the depth of her beauty and possibly never grasp the dynamics of her wisdom and humor.

In my grief I am not forgetting her less than shiny qualities. Her razor sharp tongue that could put you in your place and let you know how she felt in no uncertain terms. Then there's her more than quick temper (that some might say I inherited) her love for an off-colored joke and so on. No, those things are part of the whole as well. They must remain in tact with the rest of the memories otherwise it is a dishonor to her. And I cherish the rough facets of her life as much as I do the polished ones.

I especially cherish the last two weeks I had with her. I sat by her bed from early morning to late night as she lay dying. I keep a notebook in my purse and would take it out to journal the last days with her, lest I forget. Lest anyone forget.

Some of my notes are far too personal, some too sad or cruel to share because death is not a Hollywood moment. As I look them over now, I hesitate to put them here, to hand them over to anyone. For up until now they have been my memories alone.

My purpose it not to make you cry, my mother would not have that, merely to give you a glimpse. An unedited glimpse, I do not apologize for the grammar/spelling or language.

She wants to go in to hospice. Basta is basta she says. Huh, didn't know she knew those words in Spanish. Oh God help me, this is for real. I am torn, selfishly torn.

Can I remember everything I need to remember about my mom? Where was she born? Who were her parents? Do those things matter? (here I try to jot down details, dates, names...)

She removes the oxygen mask from her face, I stand and start to tell her she has to leave it on. She tells me, I heart you. I laugh and cry at the same time. I heart you too mom.

She lays there staring at the ceiling. I ask what she's thinking. (I'm expecting some end of journey deep thought) She informs me she is playing mental games and counting the ceiling tiles. I ask how many are there? She replies, there is 1/2 an inning left and the batter strikes out. That's some mental game mom.

Next door the family has just learned their husband/father/brother has suffered a debilitating stroke. My heart is filled with sadness for the journey they have ahead. The nurses are yelling his name "Mr Rosie-lest?" He isn't answering. I want to tell them "You idiots! Of course he won't respond, it's ROSALES! (rose-ah-less)." But I stay quiet.

Each day there's a song stuck in my head. A playlist if you will. Today's song is Lifehouse's song You And Me And All of the People...nothing to do, nothing to lose...I think what is her absolute favorite song? I know she likes Sinatra, Helen Reddy...I want to sing to her and cannot remember the stinking words to any songs she likes. I keep singing Lifehouse. The next day it was "American Pie" by Don McLean. Then "Leaving on a Jet Plane" by Peter, Paul & Mary. Then "Up, Up & Away" by Fifth Dimension. Strange what songs the mind dregs up.We liked those songs when I was little. I remembered there was one song she sang to me over and over. She said it was our song. I cannot remember this song either. This makes me cry.

CC has come again today. She comes everyday and stays for hours. I so enjoy her company. What person can do this without it being their relative or friend? With the power of God's love and mercy. Perhaps mom has brought me a friend. Sometimes visitors come and I almost feel resentful of their intrusion. I don't resent her. I am grateful for her presence, it is comforting.

The nursing home called. They want to box up her stuff and release her bed. I am confused. I know she is dying but am hesitant to make that step. I resent their implications. The rudeness, the callousness and the reality of what their call means. Is this the denial phase of grief? Isn't that supposed to happen after death?

Her first nurse's name was Blessing. Then there was Nazarene. This nurse's name is Tommy. So young, just a baby really. How does he deal with this every day? I think I like him best. He is the kindest to her.

Man I've had way too much coffee. Hospital coffee sucks. All they have are these little packets of powder creamer and I add way too many in hopes it will taste a bit better. I hope someone will bring me a gallon of Starbuck's...I'd settle for a Venti.

She asks me to lower the head of her bed. She sighs "heaven, here I come." I burst into tears. She doesn't notice, she is back asleep.

Her breathing see-saws between labored and shallow with long silences between each. I find myself watching closely and holding my breath with her.

She has been unresponsive now for days. I miss her already. I tell her this. I talk to her while I watch "Cash Cab". I ask her the questions from the show and then remark on the answers. I cry and I laugh. She lays there, not knowing. Damnit, is this even still her? I wonder. This seems to be an empty shell, the body functioning, the spirit gone.

I went home last night to find 3 boxes of her things in my living room from the nursing home. How sad. 76 years of a life dumped into 3 boxes. Those sons of bitches could have waited. There is someone already in her bed, Jesse tells me.

I've told her I love her a thousand times today alone. Does she hear me? Does she remember that? I wash her, brush her teeth, change her. Tell her I love her again.

Each night I leave there is a sense of this is it finality. Panic sets in the moment I step foot outside her room. What if she leaves now and I'm not there to say goodbye? People encourage me to go eat, go something normal. It feels good to get out of there, but not for long. fear sets in quickly and I fear I must get back to her.

She passed away on Mother's Day. What a gift to her to be released from that body of death. That broken shell is no longer her home.This is the same day I remember the song she called ours. You and Me Against the World by Helen Reddy. I sing it over and over and cry myself to sleep.

Cory Ann Snowdon 1932-2009