I couldn't stand it any longer. It had been three days since I took the tiny dropper, dipped it into the little brown glass bottle, and slipped the liquid morphine in between my mother's upper and lower lips. She awoke some hours later, screaming and writhing in terrible pain, so I did what the hospice nurse had told me to do- give another dose until she sleeps.
I had been warned that the body is sometimes so exhausted from fighting that when true rest comes for the dying, they never wake up again. And we'd been through it all in our 25 years together- me loving her, me hating her, her sacrifices, the hugs, the fights, the happy times, the betrayals- this is the life of an alcoholic family.
But it had been three days, and so I took her beautiful black lab out to the car- my mom's Mustang- and we drove out to Lake Lanier to toss the ball and get some fresh air.
I felt guilty taking that time. I had painted her nails, read her a magazine article, watched reruns of The Daily Show while she slept, unaware of the hilarity. I had called my grandparents in Richmond, putting the phone to her ear so they could say a few words to her.
But I needed this break, some time to look out over the gigantic lake where the 1996 Olympic rowing events had taken place, just a few years back- and to remember that the world was not all cirrhosis, decay, death, and sorrow.
On the way back I stopped to get gas. I looked down at my watch as the meter clicked- a weird feeling had come over me- and I noticed it was 1:45 pm.
About 30 minutes later after taking the scenic road back, I returned to find out my mother had died.
When did it happen? I asked my step father. He had taken the week off of work because we knew it was the end.
Oh, about a half hour ago, he said- about a quarter to two.
I went in to say goodbye to my mother one last time, but she was not there. Her hot pink painted toes stuck out from the fleece blanket and the oxygen tank had been turned off. The house was as quiet as I'd ever heard it- and in the minutes that passed while I knelt there by the bed, I came to understand that it was not I who had been waiting for her to leave. It was she who had been waiting for me.
Dana is a teacher, writer, and non-profiteer in Richmond, Virginia. She occasionally blogs at danawaltersyoga.com.