The Mending Word

The Mending Word: Part 6

Writings shared from the sixth session. Prompt: Writing as Exorcism – Puloma Ghosh – The Isolation Journals.

They never tell you how haunting it will be.

My trauma was amplified by the surprise of it all. If I had always known from the start that cancer is really truly always a death sentence. If I had always known that cancer steals your person from you well before you die. If I had known my mother would be something/someone of another world or a horror movie…

Then maybe this all wouldn’t be so goddamned haunting. 

When I went to see her every day, the lapse in her health was not as noticeable, she got quieter. Her eyes a bit more sunken. Her collar bones more profound and her body more frail. 

But when I took days off for my mental health. When I didn’t see her for 4 days. That’s when the changes were so apparent. The shock I felt - it’s engrained in me. I don’t think I can be this shocked again. Now I am always expecting the worst.

The line in the sand is a clear division between me and the girl I used to be before these images plagued me.

I see her. Barely able to lift her hand to brush her teeth. The whispered, hoarse words - until she could no longer speak anymore.

I hold her. Helping her stay standing while she showers. I wash her hair for her because it’s too painful to watch her attempt it on her own. 

I ask her questions. She answers weakly - all the answers still part of her fantasy that this disease is temporary and she won’t be buried in two weeks.

I go home that night and I can barely shower. Every lather of my hair, brushing of teeth, lotion - the details. They remind me of death. 

A week and some days later I go to take her home from the hospital. There is no hope left. She is still fighting but almost lifeless. Eyes rolling back - legs swollen and weeping. Yes they weeped and made a mess everywhere. it’s almost like her body knew what was coming. Crying for the loss of their once vibrant abilities to walk, to run, to dance. 

The twinkle in her eye. Her crooked tooth and her soft smile. Her voice “chanale”. 
But that’s the same chair she’s sitting in now but her eyes are rolling back. She’s in a nightgown and she can’t talk anymore. 

She’s in pain but she can’t tell me what to do to help her. How unfair. She can’t swallow so I can’t give her morphine. She keeps trying to get up. To walk. To run. To dance. But we put her back in the bed - she doesn’t fight it. 

She touches her lips. Again and again. She wants to drink, to eat, to Speak. But nothing happens. And she lays there. And I cry over her. Making promises. And crying more. And hugging her and missing her. 

And then there's everything else. When life should stop - it doesn’t. 

I am installing an air conditioner. I am checking her email phone -  texting her friends to come over and say goodbye.

I shock myself with my ability not to crumble. Not to cave into myself and curl up and cry. 

The shock of the last months jolting through me. Keeping me moving and going and going. 

And then it’s Shabbat. We sing hymns around her bed. We hold her hands and kiss her cheeks. We whisper loving words and tell her she will be ok. 

And then everything is quiet. I stay up late and try not to let sleep take me. I hold my siblings and we cry and sing and even get angry at our fate - but I remind them: not in front of mommy.

And then it’s 6am. And it’s even quieter. Something changes and I’m jolted awake from my light sleep. 

She’s gone.

In the brief moment that we all fell asleep, she took her final breath. 

In the moments after things blur. I close her blue eyes - now glazed over in death and lost forever. No more sparkle. Her face in that moment etched into every crevice of my brain.

And then nothing happens. It’s Shabbat. We cover her and leave her there until Shabbat ends. We cry all day. We sit in shock. We lay around the house comforting each other.

Then night falls and they come to take her. The loud sobs as we are sent outside to watch them take her. The entire world must have heard us. 

I can no longer hear cancer and see the smiles of the hospital cancer program posters. It’s no longer sunken eyes and less hair. It’s death. 

The other day the lady next to me on the flight told me she’s in cancer treatment. And I could only see death. 

The face of death haunts me and consumes me. The grip of death holds me. The fear of death overcomes me.

And now I put it on paper for you. I give you my ghosts and my demons so you can exorcise them for me. So you can liberate me.
Summer 2021
A memory
My father - infected
Refusing to go to the 
Doctor’s orders - he will die if he doesn’t 
I tell him, on the phone,
At a forest in Pennsylvania,
That I’m on my way. 
I’ll meet him at the hospital.
Friday night. 11 pm.
I say I’m on my way
I yell at him. Im coming.
ta. Im coming.
I will take care of you.
I will be with you.
Im coming for you.
He listens.
He lives another day.

Summer - no, September
A memory 
Rosh hosanna night
The holiday is over
My phone rings
He is infected again
The infection will kill him
It will seep into his blood
If he doesn’t leave
They call me
My sister cries to him
Please, go to the hospital
He says to
Get out
The fever takes away all sense 
I tell them I’m on my way
I put on my leggings 
I pack my hospital gear
Book, charger, AirPods, glasses, water
If I’m lucky
Ill be with him
At the hospital soon.
We run over
He won’t listen
Panic, in the air. 
Begging. Anger.
The paramedics tell us 
To admit defeat
He doesn’t want to live
No, I know my father.
He is stubborn.
Scared of hospitals. Ventilators. 
Rightfully so.
But I
I will not give up
I tell everyone to
Leave the room
I tell my father
Everything I could
He tells me
To leave
But I know the drill
Ive been here before
I yell in exasperation
He yells back
He kicks me out
I stay
And then. I lie.
I tell him what he needs to hear
I tell him
The pain will go away
They will drain his stomach
Right now
They are waiting for him
They have a room
No waiting, I promise
He asks me, really?
The fever rages
But his eyes
His eyes are clear
Full of mercy
Begging me
He looks me in the eyes
His face
Asks earnestly
“They’ll take care of me? Tonight?”
yes. Yes father. I promise. Trust me. Trust me. Come with me now. now. We're leaving. I tell him. Get your shoes.
He listens.
I lie. He trusts.
We wait 14 hours in the emergency room. There is no room ready.
They do not drain him.
They cannot find the source of infection. again. 
He cannot drink. He cannot eat.
He shivers. He is cold.
He cries to me. stop the cold. Stop the cold.
He yells.
He cries. He screams at me.
He begs. 
please. Please. help. Why the suffering. Why. 
I’ll die here. I will die here I know it.
The nurse asks me
If I'm okay.
yes. Yes I'm fine.
My father lives
Another day. 

Two weeks later
Maybe less
He lives
We prepare for upcoming holidays
Family are flying in
New grandchildren
Sons in law
No more hospitals.
We go for one more appointment
Erev Yom Kippur
Day of judgement
Our last hope.
I drive.
I drive.
I am lost.
I have the wrong address.
I can’t find the building. 
No one told me the right building.
I park.
Just around the corner. 
The guard tells me.
Just two blocks.
okay. I don’t think.
I don’t think.
We walk.
I am holding him up.
She is holding the other side.
He has no balance.
He is dead weight.
He cannot walk alone.
I don’t use
We walk
Two blocks
We are
Right outside
We are right outside
I don’t look down
I look for the entrance
Do I 
Look at my phone
For the address?
Do I 
Turn, looking for the door?
I am looking around,
I am trying to locate,
The entrance
I am
For just one moment.
There is a broken pothole
My fathers foot
Gets stuck
His body
I try
To hold him up, I try 
I try
I try
I fall
I am falling 
With him
I cannot
Catch him
In one moment.
His hip is broken.
He looks at me
With disgust.
You did this.
This is your fault.
You were
Not looking.
Did not catch me.
I could
Never forgive
I know, I know. 
I know father.
He enters the hospital
In a wheelchair
He does not leave
His body is wheeled out
A few weeks later
With a white sheet
Was not with him
As he took his
Last breaths.

A memory
The surgeon 
Yells at him
To get up
My father
please. I just fell. please. 
Do not give up on me.
I beg the surgeon. Please
I try to explain
Its my fault
Do not
Do this to him.
Do not.
The monster,
I do not care.
Get up. Or
Get out.
I wish,
Every bad thing 
Upon him.
I wish him
All the cancers
All the failed livers
I wish him
A dead wife
I wish him
Endless nights 
In emergency rooms
I wish him
Every single bad thing
And more.
My father,
Looks at me.
I will die here.
I know.
I know. 
I know,
Im sorry. Please.
Please. Forgive me.
Will you forgive me?
Will you ever forgive me?
He looks at me.
This fall. Killed me.
I trusted you. You did not catch me.
I trusted you
You failed me.

I break. 

its the white sheet for me
it's spread over her entire body. 
even her head.
even her head?!
why do you need to cover her head?
won't she suffocate?
thats my mother under there.
you need to lift that 
maybe tuck it under her chin neatly.
so she could just breathe.
no one enjoys a sheet completely covering their face
I know I don't.
only when the air is so cold in the room do I cover my face with the blanket or top sheet.
but only for a few moments.
perhaps the world is so cold for her right now?
is that why she needs the sheet covering her face?
is it so cold out here that she needs her extremities covered so she doesn't frost over?
but then they put her entire body in the refrigerator!
can you imagine? 
I went home that night after sitting with her lifeless body, 
her soul was removed 
they say
her soul returned.
against your will you are born
against your will you live
and against your will you die,
she said these words to me only the day before
along with "I'm in so much pain"
and "I don't know how much longer I could take this.
in 10 years I never heard her speak of the next world. of death on this planet. but there she said it
the strong woman that fought for 10 years.
held on to every remedy.
tried every road of healing.
endured pain that I hope to never behold.
she prayed for miracles. 
she dreamed she left her hospice bed
she tried on my long black luscious wig one of those very very last days, and said I'd like to get one of these.
take it mom, it's yours I had said.
just leave this bed.
come on home. 
walk like you have never walked before.
just come out from under that ridiculous white sheet.
%d bloggers like this: