On December 5, 2010, my mother passed away at 58 years old. I was 29 years old at the time.
It’s been well over 7 years, yet I can still remember everything that happened. I was in denial for about a year, always looking at my phone to see if it was a joke and that my mom would call me to tell me she was ok. But she never did.
The day I received that phone call, no one wants to ever receive, was when I went to visit a friend in Los Angeles. I was living a pretty good life in San Diego during that time. For most of that day, I was excited because I enjoy taking mini trips and visiting friends. I was catching up with my friend and we were planning to go watch a movie that night at a theater but something told me that I needed to just chill at my friend’s house instead, and so we did. I realized later that if I had gone to the movie theater, I would have never received that phone call. I always turn my phone off when I’m at the movie theater, and my voicemail was always full because I was terrible at listening to any of it and, therefore, never deleted anything.
The Messenger, as I like to call him, is an old high school friend. The last time he contacted me was to tell me that the first boyfriend I had, which was also his best friend, passed away. So yes, the thought of ever receiving another phone call from him is rather uncomfortable but these things happen, it’s a part of life.
When I received his call about my mom, I was confused. He could not give me details on the phone and just told me I needed to come to the ICU at the hospital located in Joshua Tree, which was about 200 miles away from where I was.
As I was getting ready to leave, it started raining. As I’m sitting in my car getting ready to drive the 200 miles, I had to contact both of my sisters because I was the first and only to be notified of my mother’s condition. I had no idea what was going on, I was just hoping that when I arrived, my mom could tell us. All I knew was that she was in the ICU, that’s it. As I’m driving, trying to not speed and get myself into an accident, the traffic became heavy and the rain became heavier. But I finally made it.
It took me about 4 hours to get to the hospital. Once I got there, I see my brother in law greet me at the entrance with tears in his eyes. As he escorted me to where my mom was located, he briefly explained to me what happened. When I saw my mom, I was in shock. All I saw was my mom lying in a bed hooked up to so many different machines. She was not conscious at all and the worst part of it all was seeing that she was hooked up to a ventilator. At that moment, I knew my mom was gone, even though the electrocardiograph said otherwise.
I find out from the nurses that my mom was diagnosed with acute onset type 2 diabetes mellitus. She did not know she had diabetes. In fact, no one did until she arrived at the hospital. She became very ill from it and because her immune system had become weak from it, she caught pneumonia. It was a double whammy. Once she caught pneumonia, her survival was at the point of no return. The nurses told me that as she walked into the hospital to check herself in, she collapsed immediately and had been unconscious ever since.
I had just seen my mom the week before to celebrate Thanksgiving and I remember several of us told her that she looked sick and should go to the hospital to get an exam but she said she felt “great” and for us to not worry, but we still did, of course. My mom was stubborn and didn’t like hospitals. No matter what I did, I couldn’t convince her to go. In fact, no one could. And I do believe that it is wrong to impose on anyone’s free will, regardless of the situation, so I did not force her to go. I only voiced my concern and made suggestions.
So because of the debilitating extent of my mom’s condition, and the fact that she had failed her neurological assessment, I was given the choice to either keep her on the ventilator and all the other shit that was hooked up to her, or the obvious, to let her go.
Of course, it wasn’t an easy choice considering the fact that I received all of this shitty information within hours but I was the only one to delegate the final decision. Do I allow my mom to live or do I allow her to rest for good? My final decision was based not on what my extended family wanted but what was logical.
How could I be so heartless and make a decision based on logic and not take into consideration of the emotions of the extended family on my mother’s side, who wanted to keep her alive?
Well, first of all, I was never heartless, I intuitively and logically knew my mom was not coming back, so I suppose my decision was a rational one, not exactly logical – there is a difference. The nurses all explained to me that they have never seen anyone come back from the moribund state that my mom was in. Second, my sister, who was at the hospital with me, agreed with my decision. So I made the decision to let my mom go.
The decision was not easy because yes, I’m human with emotions, and this was my mother, the person who gave me life and could never be replaced. The thought of how I should’ve forced her to go to the hospital but didn’t started to surface along with the other thoughts of “I should’ve done this and that”. But I blew all that shit to the side because like I said, I believe in respecting free will. It took me 2 hours to finalize the decision but I needed to make it. It hurt very much at first, but I don’t regret the decision I made.
Once I signed the papers, they allowed all the machines to run until the required fluids and all that other shit she needed to keep her heart beating was “empty”. My sister and I decided we would stay until we received that one final confirmation from the electrocardiograph. As we waited, my other sister, who was attending college in NY and 18 years old at the time, was on the phone with me. My sister wanted to say goodbye to my mom, so we put the phone up to my mom’s ear. Just a few minutes after my sister said goodbye on the phone, the electrocardiograph delivered that one final confirmation – my mother had flatlined.
After all the paperwork I had to sign, gathering all of my mom’s belongings, and touching her cold hands one last time, my sister, brother in law and I headed to their house. Still in a state of shock, grief and denial at some early hour in the morning, we knew it was the beginning of the long process of no sleep, grieving, making phone calls, funeral arrangements and scraping up the funds wherever we could in order to give her a nice ceremony. We had no idea where to begin or what we were supposed to do but these kinds of things just have to be done whether we know what the fuck we are doing or not. And so we did it.
To this day, I am constantly reminded, in a very subtle way, of this experience as my mom’s urn relaxes in the corner of my living room behind a picture of her and my grandpa, who passed away January 2016. I still think about how my life changed in the blink of an eye. I went from having an awesome time with a friend to finding out the fate of my mother. This was definitely not something I ever expected to be faced with, but these things happen.
As humans with emotions, life is never easy, but we have to do our best to make it that way and welcome whatever blows our way. Sometimes we really have to try and put our emotions to the side and think rationally. We are given multiple decisions every day. Some are easier than others, but it’s life and in order to enjoy it, we just have to roll with whatever decisions we are faced with.
Photo: A picture of my mom and my grandpa sitting in front of my mom’s urn.