Sitting beside the hospital bed, mouth dry, forcing each breath past my lips, her pale hand limp and cold in mine as I try to summon up the words, try to find the right way to tell her what she needs to hear. The signs above the head of the bed a constant reminder, as if one were needed of the inevitability of the outcome. White cardboard signs hand lettered in a black marker pen, “Nil by mouth” to the left of the bed “DNR” to the right. Those three letters a damning indictment of my inability to do anything, to help, to save her as she slips from my grasp, unable to cling to my hand any more. I remember it so clearly, the conversation with her doctor, being taken from her bedside, out of the private room where she lay sleeping, the harsh strip lights of the corridor, the sounds and smells of a busy hospital around me, the look in the Doctors eyes….
“There is nothing more we can do, the cancer is too far advanced. It’s just a matter of time now, and we need you to make a decision as to whether you want us to bring her back when she goes….. or not….”
I could see the distress clearly on the Doctors face. I don’t think he was comfortable putting a 14 year old child in the position of having to decide whether his mother would be resuscitated or not, essentially deciding whether his mother lived or died. I made it as easy as I could for him, answering clearly and quickly and turning away, saving him from further empty words of condolence. I didn’t need that, I didn’t need anything, I did what had to be done. I went back to her side, brushed a stray strand of her thin hair from her forehead, and leaned down to kiss her gently, before taking her hand and sitting at her side once more.
The words came, a simple phrase remembered from childhood, her words to me each night as she tucked me in, her eyelids fluttered as I spoke them, then she was gone…..
“Goodnight and God bless…..”