May 29, 2021

A Love Letter to my Mom on her Deathbed.

Dear Mom, 

Sunday nights were quiet at the hospital.

Dinner trays collected and emptied of uneaten remains, and most visitors already whispered good night. There was less hustle and bustle in the corridors too as the staff moved softly from room to room.  

Your room was dimly lit by a lamp on the bedside table, as the sun has already set hours before on that late November night.

I held your hand as you laid sleeping, wondering, and hoping that you were dreaming of happy times, Mom. Your hand was so warm, soft, and small compared to mine. My own life rested in those hands as you slept.

As the stillness crept over your room, I tried to imagine the sensation of my little hand in yours at four, five, or six years old. But I could only imagine the strength and love communicated in your grasp that had held on and picked me up throughout my life.

Despite how we had come to be here and all the suffering born before, it was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. 

While you were sleeping, I waited for an update from the medical staff. It was past nine when I let go of your hand and chased down the doctor on his rounds. The resident on duty, whom I had never met before, quickly scanned your chart. Under the cool, fluorescent hallway lights, he told me that all your major organs were shutting down and I should prepare myself.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I knew the time when I would have to let go of your hand for the very last time was approaching, but not on that peaceful night. Not yet. 

I should prepare myself. Prepare myself how?

Stunned, I checked on you and left to find a phone to begin the horrid task of calling family. Conversations went something like, “How long does she have?” “I have no idea. Soon.” 

The phone tree was set in motion, and I returned to your room, taking your hand once again. But the earlier tranquility was gone. I was overwhelmed with grief and the most aloneness I have ever felt. 

I don’t know how long I sat there like that, but sometime later, my youngest brother appeared. His appearance was both miraculous and heroic. We sat up overnight in the family room down the hall, periodically checking on you and quietly talking.

I was so comforted by his presence.  

As the sun came up, my brother left for work and I returned to your room to await the arrival of your oncologist on his early rounds. His six-foot, six-inch frame swept into your room like a freight train. He seemed all optimistic and cheerful after scanning your chart, which made me feel angry and confused. He seemed honestly surprised by my response. 

I followed him out to the hallway and shared what had been communicated overnight. After reviewing your chart again, he said he would investigate further and return. Shortly after, they transferred you back to the oncology floor to the largest, swankiest corner suite.

It was time to prepare myself. 

Your eldest daughter who was never prepared for anything, whose hands must have slipped away so often while always reaching for the bright, shiny next thing, was, once again, not prepared to let go for the last time.  

I hope that over the years, I held on as much as or more than I let go, Mom. And if I could, I never would have let go at last. 

Much love,

Your eldest daughter


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