The end was not as I'd evisioned to be.
Is it ever, for anyone?
In a room in Kohler Pavilion, at OHSU, here in Portland, my Mother, who'd lived on this planet four months beyond her 83rd birthday, left us. I won't say what it was at this time, or maybe ever, here, but it wasn't Covid.
OHSU, for those of you who don't know, it ironically located on a somewhat inaccessable hill. Marquam Hill, they call it. Pill Hill, most of us call it. And it's this organic complex of buildings that have been growing there since the first quarter of the 20th Century. And, as you can see above, it has commanding, stunning views.
It was at the end of one of the corridors my Mother was in. They took very good care of her, and no matter what one thinks of where health care is in this country has gone, compassion, grace, and patience run deep in the staff at OHSU.
My sister was there. God bless her, honor her, and keep her but she's carried most of this load, emotionally and physically. My sister has become the most adult person I know. Her and Mother, well, I suppose as far as I'm concerned, the only people more tightly bonded than those two were probably born conjoined.
Mom's lungs were filled with fluid, and her last days, her last hours, she couldn't speak us. That was the toughest part.
On the last day, in the last hours, my aunt (there were five of us family in the room besides Mother: my Aunt, the second oldest woman child in that cohort of the family, her daughter (my cousin), my younger brother, my sister, and myself), saw that Mom was trying to say something, and she figured out Mom wanted to say what she was looking at. She managed to write it out on a piece of paper (it was a scrawl, which was a bit heartbreaking in and of itself, because Mom's handwriting was always exemplary schoolbook cursive) and what it said was, what it said she was looking at was, a bunch of beautiful children.
I've never been a particularly attentive son, nor the closest sibling. I orbit out there in the dark somwhere and my family has always been accepting of me the way I am, which I am grateful for. But you can't feel as though your life has been mis-spent if, at the end of your mother's life, she still has that to say about you. It's a tight club and a good membership to have.
She wrote it on a piece of paper. I'm honored to have that piece of paper, and what a thing: it's not often you have someone's last words written out for you, by them. This piece of paper is, and always will be, a treasure.
At about 4:30 PM that day, the ventilator was removed. Breathing became labored, sounded like the sounds of a rock tumbler. By 5:10 PM, she had gone. It was a curiously placid thing, almost an anti-climax. We all wept. She stayed there as if merely asleep. It's a peculiar thing, how mundane death looks in its first few minutes. I continued to hold her hand as I really wasn't ready for it to be over yet (who ever is?). Me, my brother, my sister, my aunt, and my cousin talked with each other and laughed and cried as we all got accustomed to the idea that this is our world now, one without this woman in it.
I left the room and went to my wife, quiet, strong support. She had been taking pictures of the view with my camera (how could you not?) and then I took several. The view from Kohler Pavilion is unparalled save for flight.
My sister, my self, and my brother, all went the next place we had to go; it's what you do when this happens in your life. You do the next thing that makes any sense at all.
I took pictures because this is how I deal. This is my world and my sight of it is how I connect, and this is what the world looked like, on the meeting of three far-flung siblings, on the occiasion of the death of our Mother.