I thought I was ready for my mother's death. At times I even wished for it. Over the past five years, the ugly issues of aging went from simmer to full boil. My siblings and I forced Mom from her beloved home into independent living after several falls. Despite a blind eye and mollusk-like reflexes, Mom insisted on driving. I yanked the car keys from her hands to screams of "I hate you! I hate you I hate you!" The scene felt like a reverse replay of my adolescence, a strange form of karmic payback. We all took turns as Mom's human punching bags after the forced move. Being her favorite, I was her favorite bag to punch.
Over Christmas this past year, my mom and I made peace. She admitted she liked the retirement center and counted most of her friends there. We laughed. She showed spunk I hadn't seen in years. She hiked down a slanted beach with her cane unassisted. She demanded a spot in the hot tub. She played poker. She was kind. Then, as happens so much at the end of life, she fell. Her fractured arm set off a rapid deterioration. At the moment she embraced Independent Living, a move to Assisted Living was imminent.
About six weeks later, on a Sunday afternoon, I got a phone call from the emergency room. "Your mother's had a massive stroke. You need to make the decision right now as to whether we send her to Charlottesville for brain surgery." Brain surgery? I asked the doctor the best prognosis if Mom lived. Complete paralysis on the right side, maybe a chance of speech with massive rehabilitation. Mom was 85 years old, with a DNR. She told me numerous times over the past 10 years that she was ready to die. I told the doctor "No." After the doctor made sure I knew I was killing my mother with my decision, he agreed to make her "comfortable."