The days are already beginning to blur. We had recently moved from the hospital to the hospice, so it must have been Thursday or Friday, it was daytime still, but the sun was starting to set. I sat by the patio door texting or compulsively refreshing Facebook to burn nervous energy. I sat my phone on my lap, legs crossed, and I played with my ring while staring at my mom. Her voice was weak and she was so tired. I stared at her, imagining she would wake up with a smile and ask me to watch a movie with her. Her eyes opened.
Ice! Ice! The four or five of us in the room searched for the ice before handing her the cup. Her arm shaking, she scooped up a heaping spoonful and lifted her head. I continued staring at her and admiring her strength, being so weak and yet fighting so hard. My eyes suddenly zeroed in the on the spoon. It was a heaping scoop. A mountain of ice piled high. I was in a panic as the doctor’s words “she might aspirate” echoed in my head. “MAMI, NO!” I somehow levitated myself out of the chair, legs uncrossing, arms flailing, phone flying to the other side of the room as I land on my feet. But in that moment my mom realized I was getting up and quickly poured the ice in her mouth, laid her head down and closed her eyed with the biggest smile on her face. I stood there dumbfounded with what had just happened. I realized I had perhaps overreacted a bit.
The next few days were spent similarly. The room stayed quiet. Those there with her would scramble to find her whatever she was requesting. We watched her, constantly, and she was so aware of it. Once again she asked for something, though I hadn’t been able to make out what she had said.
“Ice? Mami? Do you need ice? A cup? Chapstick? Mami? What do you need?”
She just lay still with her eyes closed as I stared at her. Suddenly, with her eyes still closed, I hear her make a faint but distinct “Ahhhh” sound.
“Mami! What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
“I’m okay. That’s you. DON’T FREAK OUT.” She smiled.
Lesson 4 came during the last couple weeks of her life. During a time when I was supposed to be taking care of her, she was still giving me the best life advice I could possibly receive. Don’t freak out!
I have been sweating the little things. I work full time, I go to school, and I come home to make dinner… and sometimes… I really just don’t feel like I want to. And it’s okay. Don’t freak out. My lazy go to meals: Bean burritos or pizza are actually Chris’ favorites.
We are all a lot more capable than we feel, but most of the time, we are trying to fill our day with not just important things, but not so important things too. The truth is, whatever it is you’re telling yourself you can’t do, or feeling guilty for not wanting to do, don’t freak out about it. If you can’t do everything, do the things that matter.
It hurts me to acknowledge it, but I couldn’t save my mom. I wanted to with all my heart and wished with all my heart, but sometimes things are much bigger than we can understand. So I’m grateful, looking back, that I took more moments to stop freaking out about what I couldn’t do for her, and just held her hand, hugged her, kissed her, and told her that I love her.