This morning, I woke up in tears because of a disturbing dream I had. As with all dreams, it’s fading quickly, but what I do remember of it is that we had organised my mother’s birthday party. She looked like she did before she got ill, radiant and beautiful, but we did know that this was going to be her last year, so we had made it a grand affair. Everyone came, from near and far, and I was mostly dealing with all the drama that would occur if ever such an event were to happen. Especially my mother’s side of the family have a tendency to be volatile and explosive and any party that doesn’t end in police because someone drove a car through the front of a building, well, that’s a really tame party to begin with. At one point, near dawn, when a lot of people had already left for home, we noticed that my mother wasn’t there anymore. I went looking but couldn’t find her anywhere. She was simply gone. I suspected that she may have skipped out early because she thought the agony would be less. Kind of like when a doctor wants to set a bone and asks you to count to three, then sets the bone at the count of one. I don’t know, but I know that I felt very sad when I woke up.
I wonder how long this will last. It’s been years since she died and while things are getting easier, these strange dreams keep coming occasionally. I will likely never let go of the sadness, carrying it with me as proof of my love for her, but the burden of sadness has become easier to bear over time. Maybe this is a permanent addition to my life. Pleasant dreams with a sour ending to fill the void that her pleasant life (with a sour ending) left behind.
When my mother passed away in Italy on July 29th, 2008, she left behind a pretty comprehensive list of demands regarding her cremation. We had talked about it quite a bit throughout her illness and when she finally succumbed at 15:00 exactly, the only thing that was difficult was arranging for the repatriation of her body to the Netherlands.
One of the things she had been rather adamant about was the choice in music she wanted to have played to the attendants of her cremation. Each song was beautiful in itself and I thought they were good picks she had made, but only with time do I start to understand the message that she’s leaving me. It rings so clear in each of those songs, what she was trying to leave us with and for who she meant each of them.
One song, she left to her children. It rings out so clear it’s making the Machiavellian thought behind it almost overwhelming. Win by David Bowie is a song about perseverance, hard work and success. She wants us to succeed in whatever we choose to apply ourselves. She never had any real outspoken demands of us. She supported her children the best way she knew how. Slow down, let someone love you. She had so much love and she wanted us to experience that for ourselves. Wear your wound with honour, make someone proud. It’s okay to make mistakes, it’s life, you learn your lessons and you become a better person. Somebody lied, but I say it’s hip to be alive. Live! Live your life with all the ups and downs and keep on living it.
One song, she left to her lover. She had been separated for a long while, but she still had a tremendous amount of love for the man who had been like a father to my sister and I and was the father of my brother. It had been a deep and tempestuous relationship that ultimately wouldn’t last but I don’t think either of them would’ve had it any other way. They cared so deeply for one another. Wild is the Wind by David Bowie describes the passion and deep connection that they shared.
Three years ago this was the song that I clung to when I was struggling with the loss of my mother. If my father hadn’t died a year before, I probably would’ve clung to him, but instead, I seemed drawn to this song. Only really for one reason, one line; With your kiss my life begins, you’re spring to me, all things to me. To me it became to mean how she had given birth to me, how her love nourished me to life and how it all started with her and that she was responsible for everything. Now, with time, I know that this song wasn’t meant for me and that considering it as such is a little strange, but I can’t help but be deeply moved still by this song and by that line, particularly.
Then there was the song that was for herself. Or rather, for everyone. No More Drama by Mary J. Blige is a song about being free of pain, problems and the weight of life. The weight of the disease that in 18 months had turned her from a vibrant and beautiful woman into an old woman. No more pain. God knows, she was so strong as she struggled with an unbearable amount of pain for well over a year. Surprisingly, the medication that allowed her to endure the pain (and the medication that allowed her to endure the medication) didn’t diminish her somehow. But I know that when the time came, she was so tired. She had been strong in life and she was going to be strong in death. She was ready.
In de maneschijn, in de maneschijn,
klom ik op een trapje door het raamkozijn.
Maar je waagt het niet, maar je waagt het niet.
Zo doet de vogel en zo doet de vis,
zo doet een duizendpoot, die schoenenpoetser is.
en dat is één en dat is twee
en dat is dikke, dikke, dikke tante Gree.
En dat is recht en dat is krom,
en zo draaien wij het wieletje nog eens om.
…to the worse day of my fucking life. No joke, no exaggerations, this far outweighs the day I sat next to my father’s bed and watch him die. This time, however, my mother seemed to get really close to it. It all started a few days ago, when she became less and less energetic and started losing her breath and as a result hyperventilating. On top of that, she seemed to be getting sleepier and sleepier, to the point, this morning, where I was not able to fully wake her up any longer. She also started talking nonsense, as if she was confused or delirious, except she didn’t have the costumary fever to go along with the fever. She also became clumsy, disoriented and a little feeble in her manner. I became concerned a few days ago, but now it was time to get her to a hospital. (To be honest, I would’ve rather headed to the airport, but it was too late for that. The deterioration went so fucking quick.)
So I got the spend all day at the emergency room in the hospital of Imperia, which meant I was surrounded by doctors and nurses who hardly spoke English and it was very confusing to figure out what they had done in terms of research and what the conclusions were. Luckily, the family we’re staying with both work at the hospital, one as an orderly and one as a nurse, and they helped termendously to make sense of the chaos. As is customary in Italian hospitals (apparently) is that nobody can be present during any procedures, so I got kicked out of the room a lot. I thought my mother would freak at that, but I guess the positive side of being so lethargic and sleeping because of it is that a lot of stuff just passes you by. So no freak-outs. Good. So I was there for six hours before she was admitted to a proper room on the Medicina Donna ward (female medicine), which meant another bunch of being kicked out. Our two family members weren’t able to join us for much of it, so I could hardly protest them kicking me out of the room the whole time. Finally I was admitted, and I took up my place next to my unconscious mother.
During all of this, my mind was moving a thousand miles a minute trying to figure out what to do. One of the overwhelming feelings I had was that I wanted to get her to the Netherlands, and so, through Frank, I was able to get in contact with SOS International, an organisation that specialises in repatriation of the ill and the dead. Sadly, they can only do something once they have an accurate assesment of what the problem is with the patient. That was taking some time, and so I waited. Meanwhile, the news was spreading among my friends as I was frantically trying to figure out the logistics of getting my mother back to .nl until Jan joined me and said that there wasn’t a doctor in the world that would dismiss my mother in her current state. He had a point, but I didn’t want to admit it. Admitting it would mean I had to stay in Italy with my mother until a) her situation improved to the point where she could travel or b) her situation deteriorated to the point where she would die. Neither seemed very appealing. Waiting isn’t appealing.
When the doctor finally came to see her, armed with the blood tests and x-rays they took. He didn’t speak any English, but Jan was there to translate. He asked a bunch of questions, especially about the medication she was taking. She has brain, lung, liver, bone and stomach cancer, so naturally she is taking some pills. After some back and forth he concluded that the first order of business was to get her off the medication. Amongst the medication are two substances – Lyrica and Methadon – that have an affect on the respitory system, and Methadon especially, when taking high doses, cause the patient to become drowsy. He thought that she was simply taking too much medication, which resulted in the symptoms she was afflicted by. He was going to stop the medication (or at least some of it) only administering it when she was in pain. Hopefully she will show signs of improvement in the morning. She has until thursday to be well enough to travel because that’s when our return flight departs. That would be sweet, but I’m being cautiously optimistic now, which is a shite side better than I was during most of the day.
The idea of her being over-medicated was corroborated by my sister, who said that her personal physician, who is of the opinion that in the state she’s in right now she should never feel a bit of pain, said that once she got lethargic they could no longer up the dossage of pain medication and the next step would be euthenasia, according to her wishes. Sadly, that’s not an option in Italy. Italy will probably be the last country on the planet that will legalise euthenasia, which is another reason I want to get her back .nl side.
I’m keeping all my fingers and toes crossed, and hope she won’t feel lonely or scared in the hospital until tomorrow. Luckily, Tina has a night-shift that starts at 22:00 and ends at 8:00, and will be able to go and check up on her regularly. Jan is working from 6:00 til 14:00, and will be able to do the same. I want to go tomorrow, too. Hopefully better rested, better dressed (I just threw something on), showered and fed, because this day killed me. I had half a sandwich and a bit of coke all day. Luckily, I smell Jan’s wonderful cooking and my stomach is growling.