I imagine it’s like sitting on a plane.
That’s what I imagine for my mom’s final hours. The seat’s not very comfortable, the constant drone of the oxygen machine like an engine in the background, you’re tired and drifting in and out of sleep, you want to get to your destination but it’s still hours and hours away, but still you wish you could just be there already.
I wonder what she thought of all the people that came by. The RN who also happened to be a nun who knew exactly how much morphine to give her. “God loves you,” the nurse tells her. “Jesus is waiting for you,” she says, though she’s Korean so her f’s are p’s and her v’s are b’s. The friends and relatives who come by with flowers and stuff. My sister, who wanted to be there for everything. Me, who didn’t but went anyway out of obligation. “Thank you,” she tells me, “for taking care of all the financials.” “Don’t be silly, it’s all stuff that you taught me,” I tell her.
I wonder what it was like in the months leading up to the end. Did she realize after her 42-day juice fast that it had failed to cure her cancer? Was her 25+ year faith in “alternative” and “naturopathic” medicine shaken at all? Did she even have time to think about it before the cancer fogged her brain? How much of her pain was she hiding so we wouldn’t “worry” about her? When did the pain become so unbearable that she finally agreed to take morphine? When she complained about the pain after I had just given her painkillers, did it help at all when I held her hand?
I think of when Him Mark was dying and I went to visit. “I believe that when you die, you’re just gone,” he says, with a wave of his hand. I think that’s when I started believing that too. I don’t tell this to the Korean nurse/nun who speaks approvingly of my family’s Catholicism.
But the end, I think, must have been like sitting on a plane. I think of her settling down in her uncomfortable seat for a very long plane ride to her final destination. She’s tired and sleepy and oblivious to most things around her. It takes hours and hours and hours, as all long-distance plane rides do. The plane travels fast through the vast sky. And finally, the long journey is over.