From January 2019.
My mother has the most beautiful handwriting. A beautiful signature. All my life it has been one of her hallmarks. It is not lost on me that the last thing she will ever sign — a Do Not Resuscitate order — hangs on their fridge now. Just in case.
Three days ago marked the last time she will ever stand up. She did it with help. I hugged her tight, my arms under shoulders, holding up her dead weight. I made a little joke and we had a little laugh. When you’re nearly crazy with grief, you laugh at what you can. The absolute best part was that she hugged me back right then. For the last time.
It’s hard not to think about the “lasts”. But all the moments now are gathering towards the last one.
My mother has waged a private war with terminal cancer for 11+ years. By all accounts, she has been a miracle patient. And, she has also seen more than her fair share of suffering — that harsh lesson on the other side of the sublime.
“I’m not afraid to die. I know that it’s coming. Everyone has to die sometime. I don’t want to give up, but at the same time, I can’t go on,” she said last Saturday. “I can accept what’s happening. I think it’s just time that I let go.”
So, if it’s okay with you, when the time comes, we’re not ever going to say that cancer beat her. That cancer won. We’re going to say that she went out on her own terms.
Because cancer is not a war. And people who die from it don’t lose the fight.
Cancer is just a classroom. It’s the universe’s way of teaching us about love and loss. Of gifting us with the time to say what we needed to say. Of presenting us with the honour and privilege of taking care of someone who always took care of us. And, of teaching us a little something about preparing for the end of our own life’s journey.
Sometime in the coming days, safe and warm in her own bed, my mother will die after a long dance with life.