Several weeks ago, I was told my mum is terminal with cancer in her liver, bones and brain.
I scrambled to get organized to be fully prepared to leave upon notice.
While my brothers and cousins all made sure to arrange a comfortable hospice care at her home. She started to regain some strength after spending two weeks in the hospital, at the same time as the worst heat wave has been hitting Paris in years. As you probably know it, the old City of Lights might be beautiful, it is not built with A/C in buildings. Houses are made of stone, so they can keep some freshness inside better than wood for sure, but still, it is hot in the city, plus polluted and noisy, with windows open and trying to get some air circulating is a pain.
My mum, although born and raised in a hot Mediterranean shore (Algiers in North Africa) hates it when it is hot. She has never been sick in her entire life and until the last minute when she actually collapsed, she has been trotting and doing long walks and taking care of herself like the lady she is. After my father’s death, she had indeed started to slow down and experience the blues, but you cannot say that this is her ways, and even when she was first diagnosed at age 87 with cancer, she took it with utmost philosophy.
After my father’s death, she and I had taken upon the very sweet habit of talking daily on the phone. This was not happening before, because my father and I were both ardent users of the Internet, and we would email back and forth as needed, sometimes several times a day, commenting on everything, from the most mundane stuff to heated political debates, as we were not always of the same persuasion, if not completely opposed on religious ideas for instance. But my mum has never shown interest to the screen, and never wanted to understand the Internet at all. It felt probably a bit surreal that sometimes her husband would call her to participate to a chat on Skype.
She enjoys it for sure, but is still not very sure where to position herself to be seen on camera, and becomes much more interested in exploring what she can see of the background than listening and talking in a conversation! She would exclaim that she does not recognize what kind of throw is on my bed, or wonder who gave me that t-shirt I am wearing, or what are the piles of books she sees on the side table, or the mess that I would have forgotten to hide from the view! Typically mom.
Because my father was not here anymore to facilitate those connexions, we turned to chatting on the phone, and because she did not have to cater to his needs we took our time. She was also slowing down because age taking its toll on her, memory being affected, and some blurriness apparently in the thinking. But we have enjoyed fabulous conversations, especially going to talk about all the “unfinished business”, recalling people or stories and getting deep into them with no complacency.
But this is all over now. She has lost independence and is resting for all these years of having been so busy, but she still enjoys getting my daily phone call, except that the time we spend together has gradually reduced to a couple of minutes.
So it is time for me to book my plane tickets and go be by her side, as she is ending her life. She deserves to have all her children around her. I will be leaving now and am planning to help her stay as positive and peaceful as she has always been. It is a very strange and difficult time, when one day at a time is becoming one minute at a time and when I feel I sometimes am overwhelmed by sadness and panic that I have not been a good enough daughter to her, and sister to my brothers, and to my family, because I left and stayed to live in a foreign country, to raise boys who have become strangers because they were never raised in France.
I am wondering how this journey is going to unfold, I am learning to go with getting prepared to anything when there is nothing I can control anymore as to the life of who gave me life. It is a very unsettling feeling.