My sheets are alive.
The blue Egyptian cotton seems to fight my every move wrapping themselves around my legs like silken cords, stifling me, holding me in my night terrors.
With a quake in my breast and lead in my stomach I come awake quickly and to immediate consciousness. At first, it isn't clear why I should feel this way but what reasons are needed when your psyche, your very soul, is speaking to your sleeping mind.
That is what woke me so abruptly and with such clarity. A dream that came from so deeply inside my mind it was as if the dream was real, or perhaps it was an omen. Do you believe in intuition? I do.
My dream, you see, was quite pleasant but the feelings it evoked were terrible.
At the time, I worked as a nurse manager in an assisted living. While I never spent much time in my office, the dream began with a telephone call in the tiny, oddly shaped room that bore my name.
I sat at my desk, which was really a recycled counter top in ghastly yellow, slogging though a stack of paperwork. Over the sounds coming from my radio I heard the telephone.
I didn't know that my life was about to change and even if I did, surely I wouldn't have been able to predict the news I was about to receive.
It was my mother. When she was tired Mom's voice always became hoarse and I knew lately she had been exhausted so I wasn't surprised by her raspy voice, but she sounded as though she'd swallowed a handful of gravel.
She was calling to tell me the results of her latest appointment. She had been going to doctor after doctor lately trying to determine why she couldn't easily swallow and why she was frequently fatigued.
As a nurse, it didn't make sense to me; her symptoms didn't match each other. Why could she drink her sweetened coffee cold but not hot and what did that have to do with fatigue, swallowing and a gravely voice? My frustration had come to a breaking point as I tried day after day, phone call after phone call, to help her figure this out. It frightened me, this not knowing.
As Mom continued to speak in a rough voice she told me about the tests she had that day. It felt as though my heart stopped when I heard her words. "There was a shadow on my x-ray so the doc ordered a CT Scan."
The most horrific feeling swept over and through me chilling my body and sending a shiver of dread down my spine.
The visage before me changed in the way dreamscapes often do. It isn't like a fade out or even a fade to black, nor is it a wobble effect. It just changes but you seem to still understand what is happening.
With the telephone still to my ear and a look of terror upon my face a I hear a different voice speaking to me, it's my step-father. His voice is trembling and his usually sedate stutter seemed out of control. He was nearly unable to force a single word from his throat.
My mother was dead.
It was during this nightmarish tableau in my subconscious that I fought to awaken; fought against sheets and terror and an invisible enemy that I couldn't defeat.
As I lay in my bed, terrified simply because my intuition told me to be, the telephone beside my bed rang. Normally I am not a skittish person but the shrill sound was ominous. It was my mother. I started shaking inside when I heard her hoarse voice. "It's cancer."
The words didn't make sense, for some reason I couldn't comprehend what she was telling me. Cancer? How could she have cancer? She was only 45 years old. Sure she was a smoker, but her lung x-rays were always clear. Her doctors joked that she had some sort of gene that repelled the damage of the nicotine.
Cancer. For some reason I couldn't seem to breathe. I could feel this tremendous pressure in my breast.
It was a large mass in her chest pressing against her heart, lung, and throat. So that was why she couldn't seem to swallow some days, I realized. I thought of my dream and asked her how they found the mass, thinking it was an x-ray or CT scan of her chest.
It was a scan of her head, of her brain. They found three small spots on the brain tissue. Brain cancer...
When I realized how serious this all was suddenly I found myself compartmentalizing, something at which nurses excel. Part of me was calm, rock steady and rational, while another part was horrified, shaking in terror and ready to cry.
I'd already known, you see. My dream told me. Things would never be the same again, this I knew in my very soul. My mother would soon die; it was only a matter of time.
Time was my enemy and my friend, you see. She had time to fight and buy more time, and I knew I had precious few moments with her, to learn, to laugh, to cry, to forgive.
Time. Every moment of time I was given with my mother was precious. I knew it to be so and was grateful for the warning that had been whispered to my sub-conscious during that night.
I used my time wisely by going to see my mother several times. We lived across the continent from each other and until now visits were few but I made several trips in six months. As many as I could afford and a few I couldn't.
We talked and talked about all manner of things - our growing up years, her marriage to my father and his illness, his passing, her marriage to my godfather. We vented a lot of hurt feelings, as well. She told me how she felt about my leaving home at nineteen, moving across the continent for a job I didn't receive and my subsequent marriage.
Clearing our conscious was the first step.
The weaker her constitution became the more we turned to spiritual conversation. What we thought lay beyond and how it would feel. She confessed how scared she was of dying but how unafraid she was of being dead. She didn't want to feel pain, just the peace that came after. She was sure there would be peace.
I promised her I would do everything I could to ensure her passing was comfortable, even if it included badgering doctors to increase her pain medication. That was the day she reminded me of a promise we made to each other when my father passed away. She didn't wish to be made to live longer, with drugs and treatments, if her remaining life would be painful and agonizing. She made me promise.
Quality over quantity.
The hardest part for me, I think, was helping her write the obituary she wanted. Here she was sitting next to me at the computer, alive, while I composed the final words anyone would ever read about her life. It was gut-wrenching and I could feel the ball of emotions stuck in my throat as I typed.
On my last trip back to visit we went to see her Oncologist; myself, my mother, my step-father, and my mother's sister. We sat in a small office and listened while the very empathetic doctor told us there was no further treatment available to help win this loosing battle. There were only palliative measures to make her life more bearable until the end.
My Aunt started asking questions, naming treatments, trying to grab at wisps of hope when there was none. The only hope left now was to make things easier. Not for me, not for anyone but my mother. Hope used to be putting the cancer in remission but now hope was for a quietly uneventful and pain free passing.
True Story /