Dying and being born

My mother is dying.

We’re all dying,

But she is actively dying

Lying completely still in the

Hospital bed in my parents’ room

At home.

We stopped transferring her to the

Wheelchair the day after


Perhaps her last act of sitting up

Was dozing through the Thanksgiving meal,

The waist strap on her wheelchair keeping her from

Keeling sideways onto the floor.

In bed now,

She lies with her face turned slightly toward the window,

For the light?

Or because she had a mild stroke on the right side,

And she now lists that way?

We don’t know.

Anyway, her face tilts toward the gray winter light.


The hospice workers and nurses–

Don’t give a prognosis,

But days or weeks

Are more likely than months now.

They will say that.

Be ready,

Is the implication.

And I think I am.

It’s been nearly seven years

Since the first symptoms.

But no matter how prepared you think you are,

It’s still a shock,

The hospice chaplain says.

And I believe her.

I’ve never done this before.

What do I know?

It’s not like in the movies

Where you sit gazing into the

Dying person’s face.

You can’t do that for hours on end.

I sit in the recliner next to her bed and

Read my book,

Or work on the laptop,

And look up between chapters or emails

To see if her eyes are open.

If they are,

I might lean across the bed to get my face into her line of vision.

I might smile, and say,

“Hi Mom. Are you awake? Hi.”

It’s rare now for her eyes to focus on mine,

Or for a smile to flicker.

That’s another thing that’s not like the movies:

The dying person staring off into the distance,

Past your shoulder,

At the sky,

Or God.

She’s just not looking at anything.

There’s no focus point that

I can gather.

They say at the end,

The dying person withdraws,

That their focus is inward.

Maybe that’s it.

It’s impossible to speculate,

Or even accurately describe.

I guess I’ll know myself someday.

And by then, I won’t be able to tell you about it.

It’s peaceful, her room.

Their bedroom for 25 years.

Nurses and home health aides pass in and out.

They speak quietly and gently.

Some are more efficient than others;

Some work hard;

Some sit on the couch and text.

But they are all gentle, quiet women.

The room has the same beige carpet and

Floral-striped wallpaper it’s always had.

It’s warm and quiet,

And I rockĀ in the recliner.

I’m 18 weeks pregnant,

And rocking quietly,

I can feel the first flutters and pops of the baby’s movement.

It’s all very circle-of-life.

And yes,

It’s a comfort to everyone

That I’m actively pregnant

As my mother is actively dying.

My two pregnancies will likely have

Book-ended mom’s


It was when I was pregnant with my son,

Six years ago,

And living overseas,

That my parents came for a visit,

And I first noticed it:

She kept leaving books behind at restaurants,

And once she nearly stepped into traffic,

Not noticing the light.

“Does Mom seem more forgetful to you?”

I asked my dad,

And he said,


They were starting to notice things.

Now, more than six years later,

That grandbaby watches cartoons in the next room

While I sit in the dying room.

She is unlikely to see this baby,

Due in May.

Dad told her I’m pregnant

A few weeks ago,

And he thinks she understood.

She grew animated,

And smiled, he said.

That seems so impossible now,

Just weeks later.

She is calm.

She doesn’t seem afraid.

Maybe that’s a final blessing of a disease that

Destroys the brain–

Maybe she’s not conscious anymore of

What’s happening.

I imagine that,

Like her new grandchild,

She feels tactile sensations

Like warmth,

And hears muffled sounds;

She grows closer everyday to the

Next stage,

And has no awareness of

What’s coming

Or what’s gone before.