When the calls and messages came through that night I went to a movie premiere I could never have predicted she wouldn’t go home again. I didn’t pack enough when I left for back home in the north. When I casually suggested to my husband to fly his mom in to help with the kids I didn’t know she’d be staying for a month.
We watched my mother go for weeks. We just sat there helpless while she hung on, fighting, trying to stay just a little longer.
Somewhere between day 1 and 7 she stopped sitting upright. She stopped talking. She stopped smiling. She just stopped being her.
Then between days 8 and 20 she got better and then worse, picked up more infections, got more transfusions and got smaller. Her face, my face looked different, pained, strained… not like our face.
We were in and out daily. All of us made turns to sit, hold her hand, tell stories of the kids/dinner last night/something funny we read/who phoned to enquire about her… day in and day out.
My life became watching Netflix in bed by 8 in a room half used as a storage place/entertainment room for my sister’s kids; walking through Mall of the North’s 2 levels for an hour or 2; sitting next to my mom’s bed; barely having an appetite and suppressing the tears that wanted to escape my eyes; my mind hovering between how I wish she’d wake up and tell me to stop planning her funeral and replaying every single moment I have had with her.
I chose her final vessel a week before she left and made all the plans so I could just press go when the time came. I chose the type of service, songs, who to thank, wrote the letters and existed in that moment of waiting to lose my mother. I had to be strong so my sister and dad had someone that could make this painful loss a little easier.
I came back to Jozi for the weekend – for 2.5 days. I was emotionally drained and just needed to see my kids and husband. That weekend I kept phoning to find out how she was. That Monday I woke up with a heavy chest. I struggled to breathe it was so heavy. I phoned again to find out if anything has changed and my dad said that I shouldn’t drive through, she was still the same. By 2.15 I phoned my husband while packing my car. I left home at 2.30 and got to the hospital at 5.30.
That night we sat there listening to the machines, her light breathing and we knew… this is the night we would say goodbye. We played musical chairs around her bed. The tears streamed down our faces. We didn’t care. We were there for the woman that was our rock our whole lives.
Her hands were so cold. Her blood pressure stayed low. Her breathing slowed until she took her last breath.
We waited while they came to take her away. We phoned the first people closest to her and us and the rest we messaged. Just after 11 we parked at my sister’s home knowing that tomorrow we have to start a whole new chapter without my mom.