Written by M.J.C
Wake up! WAKE up! WAKE UP!
Mom was yelling at me to wake up. She laughed now and in her voice I could see her smile that brought so much life and energy to me.
I woke up abruptly, sitting on living room floor with my head leaning against a sofa cushion that I guess I’d placed on the floor the night before. It had been a very long week and I had worked close to seventy hours, not including three hours total commute time.
I was tired. I had been working like this for the better part of a year and mom didn’t like it. She said I needed to rest more, work less, and eat better. She was right, but I ignored her and kept on burning myself out.
All my free time was with mom and I ignored all my friends and family just so I could be with and around her. She’d tell me I needed to get out on weekends and enjoy myself but I told her I only wanted to hang around her. She’d laugh and tell me I was crazy and too big to be a momma’s boy. She’d say that I couldn’t have her as a best friend.
I’d laugh and reply that I’d never change and I’d always be just like I am now, following my mother around. And her being my best friend.
I was extremely tired now though, just like she’d said I would be. As I sat up I saw that I was still wearing the previous day’s work clothes. I looked at the clock and saw that if I didn’t leave home right now I would be late to work and that I also didn’t have time to see her this morning.
I could still hear mom’s voice echoing in my head: WAKE UP!
I was mad at myself for oversleeping. I had never done that before and I was so consistent in how I slept, I didn’t have or need an alarm clock. Until today, I thought.
I quickly changed clothes, brushed my teeth and washed my face and, without showering, I was out the door in a few minutes, rushing and weaving my way through traffic on the Dumbarton bridge on my to work.
I was mad that I didn’t see mom the night before since I got home too late and she was already asleep, or this morning because I was rushing. And while I was beating myself up about that, my desk phone rang and pulled me out of my thoughts. It was the call I knew was coming, but that I also hoped would never have to be answered by me.
I quickly left work and drove back across the bridge and made my way to the hospice where mom was.
She had just passed away moments ago.
Entering the hospice I saw the staff of ladies who’d cared for mom, and me, during my twice daily visits. I visited mom each morning before work, and each evening after work and before she went to sleep.
Mom didn’t want to be in the hospice and I didn’t want her to either and promised her she’d stay home with me. But her home nurse convinced me that a hospice was best, following the fourth emergency ambulance call and trip to the hospital when I thought mom was passing.
I finally convinced her, and at the moment she’d been at the hospice for three weeks.
When I fell asleep at home the night before, I slept past the visiting hours and thus had to wait until the morning to see mom. But of course, I’d missed my morning visit too. In the eighteen months that mom was sick, I was with her every day until these missed visits.
I entered mom’s room and saw her. Her hands were at her side, and her face looked up, relaxed. Her room was dim and the nurses allowed me to be alone with her.
We were at our best when we were alone.
I walked to her bed and stood there. I could still hear her voice telling me to “WAKE UP!” just a couple of hours before this moment.
I touched mom’s foot through the light blue blanket and squeezed her toe. It was soft still.
I lightly traced my hand up her leg, her side, and on to her shoulder. She was so small now, and her shoulder was too boney, and had been for a few months. Mom didn’t flinch in pain as she had done over the past year when I touched her – usually to give her shots of morphine, or to lotion her body.
Her face was still and her eyes closed for good. I touched her hair and it was still soft, as it always was. Her hair was pulled back and lay loose at her shoulders. Earlier in the week a nurse tried to put it in a bun but I wouldn’t let her, telling her mom preferred to let it flow. I leaned down to smell her hair and her neck for the last time. Mom still smelled like mom – like cherry almond – and her hair still provided aromatherapy. I inhaled enough to last a lifetime and then I gently kissed mom on her still warm lips.
She still didn’t flinch and I knew.
I knew that my dream of her telling me to wake up was no dream at all, but mom telling me to come see her.
I stared for another few minutes before the nurses came in and asked who I wanted to notify.
I just softly said that I needed more time.
“You’ve been here for an hour,” one nurse said softly. “It’s time to let her go.”
“I’ll leave, but I’ll never let her go,” I said.
I looked at mom one more time and then left the room.