As I stood at the door, hardly believing it was seven years ago today, as I was holding tight from the door frame, hesitated for a long time, thinking: once I leave this door, when I return, I’ll be motherless!
I still remember the voices screaming in my head, “you won’t have a mother anymore, she will be gone, you’ll lose the only unconditional love that you ever had in your whole life….”
My sweet mother! She’ll be gone forever… …
It was a gloomy night. A cold, snowy, sad February night that seemed like the entire world was frozen. I was laying in bed in the dark, counting the clock’s tictock to block the sad voices in my head.
Tic tock, tic tock, tic tock…..
As the time passed, the tic tocks got louder and louder to the point that I couldn’t take it anymore. I held my ears and screamed “Ugh, stop it, it’s killing me,” and cried, pushing my head down into the pillows to make the tic tocks go away….
I had spent the last two nights with Mom, sitting on the chair next to her bed, my heart pounding every time I checked to see if mom was ‘still there.’
Mom was breathing softly, her lips were apart and her chest was hardly moving. From time to time, I felt her chest with the tip of my fingers, feeling the faint, slow palpations, thanking God, Mom was still with us.
It was the night before that I knew Momma was ready to give up. I knew that right then that Mom was ready to leave us. To this date, her last words to me are echoing through my brain, haunting me down, and cutting my heart in pieces!
It was last night when Mom told me:
“NO, Naaaaaash! Nay!!”
When I tried to feed her a tiny bit of an apple sauce, she turned her face aside, stopped me from feeding her in a way that was so final that it froze me with fear and stopped me from trying ever again!
I held Mom tight in my arms and cried, i’m sorry, Mom, I’m so sorry……….. i knew that there was nothing and nobody who could help my precious mother…. and Mom knew that, too…….
Moments later when Sahar came in to check on Mom, I pretended sleeping and tried hard not to share my fear with her…. it was just too painful!
I had just come home, asking my niece, Mich, to stay next to Mom until I return.
Most of my siblings and their families had gathered, checking on Mom every few seconds, pretending to have a normal talk, trying hard to hide their fears and pain from each other.
Kids were playing around quietly and cautiously, not to disturb Momma. I wasn’t sure if anyone wanted to eat but Sahar and her husband, Dan, were preparing dinner for them. As I was leaving the house, I overheard Sahar saying:
“Everyone, this is Mom’s favorite dish, come and enjoy.”
Nobody said a word as she continued: “it will be the last turnip dish, the last one that you’ll ever have that is made by Mom….” stretching the word ‘ever’ a few syllables, her voice shaking.
The hot spicy aroma of sautéed turnip with ginger and garlic had filled the house. Mom always used garlic and ginger in her dishes. This was the aroma that always gave me the warm feeling of ‘home, sweet home,’ but tonight it was far from a sweet home.
I hadn’t eaten anything all day and felt weak and dizzy, perhaps, sleepless and tired. As I had my head under the pillows, I barely heard my phone ringing. I jumped out with a scream, tried to find the phone.
It was my brother-in-law Dan, sounded disheartened: “we’re taking mom to the hospital.”
My heart sank, God, No, please don’t…
I dragged my numb body out of bed. I had been lying in a state of deep sadness and despair, like in a coma, helpless with the thoughts of losing mom, fighting the voices inside me, screaming “she’s not going to be with us for much longer, she’s not going to make it, this is the end…. this is the end….”
I stood there at the doorframe, thinking the longer I stay here, the longer I’ll hold on to my mother…. and I stayed there for a long time, clinging onto the door knob, thinking of the last time that mom had entered my house through the same door, and it wasn’t too long ago, not more than six months ago…..
The snow was falling steadily, everywhere was quiet. There were almost no other cars on the streets. Just me, driving slowly with frozen, ice-cold fingers.
Dan told me which hospital but I forgot and drove to the wrong clinic where Mom always went for her cancer treatment. It was closed.
I tried the other hospital, five miles away. It was the Alegent Center where Mom received her Chemotherapy there. Every time after each Chemo session, Mom and I went for a long ride. Mom liked to play music and enjoy the ride for hours. The very last time that stays in my memory fresh as yesterday was when we drove to the Two Rivers’ State Park to watch the fishermen. It was raining softly in a nice, Fall afternoon. The trees had turned color, their reflection in the water looked more like a giant Persian rug. As I drove slowly around the park, we found only one fisherman in his boat. I parked there and watched him. I took some pictures and asked mom to smile. She tried to put a smile on her face, just a tiny smile that brightened her face, tainted with a cloud of sadness…
I kept driving south on the same street until I found the emergency room. The neon light was bright red with the arrow flashing, pointing to the emergency entrance.
I sat in the car and tried to breath. The air was heavy and thick. Everything seemed quiet, it seemed like the earth had been covered with a deep, heavy fog, with everything floating in a murky, mysterious atmosphere.
It wasn’t snowing anymore but the reflection of the neon red emergency signs on the snow covered trees, flashed like a pool of bloody arms sticking up, trying to reach the sky.
My heart was pounding. I tried to get out of the car but I couldn’t move. My legs were weak and shaky. I wasn’t ready to face the painful reality; I was afraid of seeing what was waiting for me.
Moments later, I saw someone got out of a car a few rows away from where I was. My brother in law, Moe, looked skinnier than ever, walking slowly towards the emergency room. His bushy, gray mustache looked red under the light.
A little later, another shadow moving in a slow motion on the snow-filled ground. It was Farida, my sister, who was walking by my car. I could hear the snow crunching under her footsteps while she was walking, following the same directions as Moe. Her head down, the red light flashing on her figure, blending her in with the shadows of the parked cars and the trees …
I stayed in the car for a long time until the windows were covered with fog. When a layer of thin ice blocked the outside view from me, I got out of the car. Not sure if I was cold or not, not sure if I had a coat or not but I remember the fresh snow squishing underneath my feet, echoing in the stillness of the night.
The emergency room was the first door to my left as I entered the hallway; it opened directly into a waiting room. The receptionist was sitting right next to the entrance of the waiting room and as soon as she saw me, she stood up. I looked around the room. The room was full with people. Supposedly my siblings and their families… but I only recognized a couple of the faces, the rest were deeply hidden under a strange mist of a yellow-gray fog that had covered all over their heads and shoulders, I could only see their knees and the armrests of the chairs. Strangely, I couldn’t even tell one from the other. As I stood there in the middle of the room, someone held my arm and told me something. I turned around and saw the receptionist and followed her through a long, empty, hallway that was covered with white curtains on both sides. There was a strong, nauseating smell of chemicals and a sickening odor of Iodoform that had filled the air. I heard a muffled sound of beeping something along with someone talking in a distance.
I continued to follow the woman, feeling my heart pounding heavier and faster by each step I take forward. Everything was in a slow motion, an out of body experience. Like a nightmare that you hope it ends up soon and you wake up and laugh at it or you thank God it didn’t happen in real life.
Unfortunately, it was real that night and there was nothing good for me to wake up to.
The hallway ended into a wide room with empty beds and chairs all over. There were nurses and techs in the room. I tried to find mom. In the center of the room, there was Mom, mom was laying there on a bed, looking much smaller than I saw her a few hours ago. I rushed to her and cried, “Mom, mom, momma…”
Mom moved a little bit but could say nothing. I held Mom’s hand, leaned on her shoulder and cried
“say something, mom, say something…”
It reminded me of the day, several weeks ago, when I was with mom in the hospital. For more than 24 hours, Mom hadn’t said a single word. In the morning of the second day, after spending the night with her, I was getting ready to go to work. I stood next to mom’s bed and said: “mom, say something, please, say something,”
Mom opened her eyes wide and said it loudly: “I love you!”
I couldn’t believe it, my heart was melting with joy. I laughed and cheered, Mom said she loves me. Mom talked. Mom is going to be ok. A nurse, who was messing with some charts in the far end of the room, turned to me saying: “there you go, she made your day!”
That day, I was full of joy all day and felt blessed thinking of mom saying that she loved me and more importantly, she talked again. I assumed she’ll be ok. She can talk, so she’ll be ok.
But tonight at the emergency room, unfortunately, I heard nothing. I begged mom, “mom say something, talk to me, Mommy jaan, say something….’ but mom couldn’t say anything. She did hear me and she tried to talk but it sounded more like a very soft moan.
I heard someone saying: “did you hear, mom recognized her.” I looked up and realized two of my sisters were sitting just one step away from Mom’s bed. I hadn’t seen them until then.
It was a room full of nurses, techs, doctors and my sisters and mom who was laying there so weak, so helpless. She looked little. Her eyes closed and her skin seemed brown, dark yellowish brown. My heart was sinking with the burden of grief. Mom was dying. I cried momma is dying…
Someone came to take mom’s bed to another room. She said something but again I didn’t understand so I followed her. As she was rolling the bed down the hall, she turned to me saying:
“You don’t need to come,”
But I followed her. A few others joined her, hurried in and out of the elevator, rushing mom towards a room down the hallway. Once in the room, in matter of seconds, several nurses rushed around mom to do their work, yelling at me: “LEAVE, YOU LEAVE NOW.”
I hid behind the door, hoping they won’t see me. They yelled again:
“Leave you shouldn’t be here,” but I squeezed myself behind the door and stayed there. As they were busy doing their work, they called someone by the name, Kim:
“she‘s not leaving, get her out of here,”
They were rushing to change mom’s shirt to the hospital gown. The shirt I put on mom hours ago that night landed flying over to the brown couch by the window. It was like a horror movie that I was watching. They were sticking needles and tubes all over mom’s arms and neck. The nurse, Kim, came to me and said:
“You need to leave now,” and then looked at me crying begging her let me stay.
“What if mom says something you won’t know if she says in Persian, I need to be here.”
Mom was in no condition to say anything. We both knew that. Kim looked at me with a deep sadness in her eyes, and said: “ok stay right here and don’t move.”
The blue tank top…. it was the tank top I had changed mom into just a few hours ago. Momma’s shirt was wet; the nurse-aid had spilled her juice while trying to help Mom take a sip. It was such a painful experience. When I changed the shirt, I held mom like a baby in my arm, her head going to the right and left as I was changing. I asked Sahar, my youngest sister, to help me with the feeding tubes that seemed to be all over Mom’s upper body.
It took me a long time to get Momma’s shirt changed but it took the nurses only seconds to take it off and send it flying all the way across the room, landing on the couch.
Seconds later, mom was in a washed-out blue hospital gown lying on her back, her eyes closed, her skin shiny brown…..she was barely breathing.
Everything in that room was in a constant move and motion in a strange way, everything seemed to be floating around mom. People were floating coming in and going out, touching her, sticking needles into her neck and arms, pushing the tubes in and out of her nose and her mouth, they were all over Momma, and here I was pinned to the wall, watching everything with a horror, not knowing where and when would it end, crying my beautiful Momma…..
I’m standing afar, watching everything from a distance thinking it’s a very sad movie. Rubbing my eyes to perhaps see better, as I was watching things in a haze of heavy air, like an out of body experience.
Finally, there were lesser people in the room, much lesser activities; everything had slowed down. People disappeared, one by one; I had a chance to go close to Mom but I couldn’t. My legs were heavily glued to the floor, I felt empty, numb, and disoriented. It seemed more like a nightmare than a real thing and I wished to wake up soon and tell Mom of my horrible nightmare and tell her that I’m so lucky to have her healthy and happy with me and to love her forever and…
The doctor came into the room and walked straight towards me. I was halfway behind the door, tried to come out and gather myself. A few nurses stood behind him. He was holding the lab results in his hand and had a gloomy look on his face. They all looked at me quietly and I knew they had a bad news for me. I looked at them and wept in silence. I said no words. I had nothing to say and didn’t want to hear anything either. I squeezed my finger nails deep into my arms and held myself tight, prayed quietly, please God, please God…
The doctor opened his mouth to say something but then stopped. Moments later, he shook his head, made a very sad face and pointed to the papers:
“your mom …” clearing his throat, continued: “she has internal bleeding….she will not recover, she’s too weak,” his voice was cracking as he kept going: “her organs are giving up on her…” He bit his lower lip and kept his eyes on my face and waited.
Every word he said had hit me like a hammer on my head. I felt crushed. My heart was hurting deeply.
The doctor along with the nurses, continued to look at me and waited to see what I would say. I knew what they were telling me. I remember a week ago, during a meeting with all my siblings and relatives when the doctors met with us, they told us mom won’t survive, if we have to take off the life support, would we all agree. I don’t know who said what but I remember saying: “if any of you agrees with this, I’d take you accountable for killing mom, forever.”
The doctors looked at each other saying: “well, there you go… ” and that was the end of the family meeting.
Tonight, when they told me it’s over, as heavy and as bloody as my heart was, I nodded, ok, and walked towards the room where my siblings were waiting. The doctor and the nurses followed me. If I could cry blood, I would, there was no end to my misery.
At the waiting room, there were about twenty some of my family members. My heart was pounding. It’s not going to be good. It’s not going to be peaceful. I know my family.
The doctor walked in, everyone went quiet and they looked at me. I went to the far right corner of the room and kind of hid myself from all of them.
A thick air had filled the room immediately. I looked at some of the faces and thought somehow they were mad at me but I said nothing. It took the doctor a while to say what he was trying to explain but then I heard some opinions and arguments and some voices talking over each other and I wondered if they are mad at me.
I sat in a corner of the room, tried to digest everything that was happening. Tried to make reason out of all this but all I knew was that it was over. Mom was gone!!
I went back to the room where mom was. Others came and left, they walked in the hallways, drank coffee and tea, or just aimlessly wondered around. It was so unusual. Every time when the family was together, mom was in the center of the whole thing; she would sit there without talking much, she’d just smile and would just look around and enjoy the crowd around her. She was proud of the children. She always said: “Babait aaga mayBood, shomaRa deeda, chiqa khush mayShud,” if your dad was here, he’d have been so happy seeing you all.
If we asked Mom: “baray SaalGeraE taan Chee MayKhaeen?” What do you want for your birthday?
She’d always say that she doesn’t want anything, “I have everything,” but she wanted the family to be together:
“kul-le-taan jaamShawain” all of you get together.
She enjoyed having the family together, having food, music, and dance passed midnight. Almost every Saturday we had a party, mostly with music, food, and many family friends in addition to the family members. I always got tired and left around midnight but mom would continue to party, sitting on her special black leather recliner, clapping with the music for hours passed midnight.
It was different tonight. Mom wasn’t sitting among us, she wasn’t watching us, or smiling at us, or feeling proud of her large family. It was hard for us to accept that we were all together but she was the only one missing.