A Spider Named Cole

For most of my life, I was arachnophobic. I can trace it back to being five or six years old. I had always been fascinated by bugs and would let Daddy Long Legs crawl on me, but one day, my grandmother – in what I assume was an attempt to engage me about nature and the world – had me look at a spider in the bathtub through a magnifying glass. What I saw was a monster, and I became terrified of them from that point on. No matter the size, no matter the type, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with them.

Flash forward 25 years: I have two young children of my own, and the one thing I do not want to do is pass on my fear of spiders. So, I started small. I would see a spider across the room and say to the boys, “Oh look! There’s a spider. You should go look at it!” They grew curious and had no fear while I (wisely) kept my distance. Win-win.

However, over the last 11 years, this practice has led me to push my fear out of the way to make room for my own curiosity. I actually like spiders now. I will always save them and watch them as often as I can. I find their webs intricate and beautiful, and I can even say the same about them. Especially the fuzzy little jumping spiders. They are like little pets to me now.

Which leads me to yesterday. I was leaving work and noticed on the very edge of the window, a small bluish-black jumping spider. Not wanting it to get smashed when I rolled up the window nor have it blown away to wherever, I extended my finger and it jumped right on. However, I dropped it somewhere in the car, and as my interior is dark, I couldn’t find it and hoped for the best.

This morning, while driving to work, I wondered about my new little spider friend. I wondered if I might see it again. I wondered what I should name it. I wondered how it would get food. I wondered on this last bit for most of my drive. Do they eat anything other than insects? What would its food source be since it lived in the car? Had I done it a disservice by “saving” it?

As I walked back to my car to leave for the day, I mindlessly threw my bags in, organized my water, and connected the Bluetooth while the windows were down letting the steady breeze and sunshine in. Unexpectedly, a large swarm of thousands of gnats blew into my car, and I panicked and clamped my mouth closed as I rolled up the windows as fast as I could. Disgusted, I realized there were at least 30 gnats in my car, and hundreds on the exterior window.

As I drove towards the edge of the property, one of the gnats landed on a tiny stretch of web from the top of my windshield to the bottom. And from the dark edge where the dash meets the windshield, out popped my little spider friend. The gnat made its way to the glass, and that fuzzy little jumper kept an eye on it the whole time. Slowly, slowly moving until POUNCE.

And I realized: I had left 18 minutes later than I planned, but I was in exactly the right place at exactly the right time for my car to get caught in a gnat storm with the windows open so a food source could be provided to my little hunter.

I excitedly called my husband to relay this amazing story and asked him to help me name it. He texted while I drove home (which I received later when I was no longer driving).

“Its name is Cole”

“As in Gnat King”

And that is how I ended up with a spider named Cole that unknowingly proved to me – once again – the universe always provides.

Cheers.

Hard Lessons

I trust too easily. I know this about myself. I trust wholly, without question, and when one does that, it tends to open you to getting hurt. It’s why people withhold love and trust, and I can see why. It sucks to be let down.

My trusting heart gets me into trouble. When someone tells me something, I invest fully in it. They always receive the benefit of the doubt. When I’m told I will be invited and included in something, and then I find out I am not, without explanation, it hurts. Badly. Particularly knowing how I am as a person – how understanding and accommodating, how loyal and trustworthy I have worked to become, how I will bend over backwards to help when asked (or not) – my expectations are to be treated the same.

Many years ago, a sibling of a friend, someone I had watched grow from a toddler into an adult, had loved and cared for as my own flesh and blood, didn’t invite me to their wedding. And it wasn’t just that they didn’t invite me; it was that they didn’t tell me I wasn’t invited. I only discovered it because at a mutual friend’s wedding, I found out their wedding was just a month away. And I’d been in enough weddings by that point (including my own) to know it wasn’t that I hadn’t yet received my invitation. It was that I wasn’t getting one.

I was devastated when I found out. I took it personally and felt I had done something wrong. It took my long-held fear of being excluded and solidified it. I, perhaps brashly, made the assumption I would be be included because of our long history, and I was wrong. My feelings were hurt.

Seven years down the road, I look back on this experience, and where I am now in my life and journey, I can let it go. They told me later it was due to headcount and apologized, and I forgave them. But I do still wish they had had the courage ahead of time to write me a note or give me a call and say, “I’m so sorry – we wanted to invite you, but we found out this family was coming and we had to make some cuts.” It still would have hurt. I still would have been disappointed. But I would have understood and appreciated the honesty.

Recently, I was confronted with another wedding I was told for over a year I would not only be witness to, but also was to assist in preparations and decor, only to see it is far too late for me to be involved let alone for an invite to make its way to me. And I would be lying if I said it didn’t break my heart.

However, it has revealed something to me which I have long tried to ignore: I cannot force anyone to include me just because I include them.

This has been revealed to me over and over again, and yet somehow, I continue to refuse to acknowledge it. If I go to a city where someone I know lives, I will do everything I can to make time for that person. Then they will come to my neck of the woods and won’t tell me they’re coming here. I see on social media they’re in town, and it hurts every time. “I always try to make time for you, and you don’t for me.” There is a pattern here, folks, and I’m finally willing to see it.

I had a milestone birthday and received incredible news regarding my career this week, but this wedding thing kept tapping me on the back of the head, wondering why they didn’t tell me. Why did they not send a quick text saying, “Hey, we had to make some hard decisions and unfortunately, we can’t include you.”? Again, it still would have hurt. I still would have felt disappointed. But I understand, and it’s better than being blindsided.

Am I as much of a coward for not saying anything directly? Perhaps. But what good does it do for me to call them out and force a wedge in between? Now I know, without anger or malice, how I viewed and approached this friendship may not be reciprocated. I write that with all the understanding and compassion. Clarity is kindness. And I can adjust my expectations and actions accordingly.

Over the last few years, I have worked to do more in the way of reciprocity. Am I the only one reaching out to make plans? Am I the only one making effort and time? I need to step back and see why that is. Give the other person an opportunity to seek me out – if I am as important to them as they say, they will make the effort. And I will meet them in the middle with reciprocity of that effort.

Here’s an example: I send a text to a friend I haven’t seen in awhile. They reply saying they’d love to get together, what’s my schedule. I reply with several dates and times I am available.

Crickets.

I follow up a week or so later, completely understanding of how busy our lives all are and things getting missed.

Crickets.

In another time, I would have stewed about that. Wondered what I had done or said to upset them. Made up stories about what they thought of me. Stayed awake at night thinking of ways to make it better, fix it. Always needing to fix it so they like me. Please, just like me.

Not anymore. I shrug to myself and accept the relationship has shifted, and if they want to spend time with me, they will let me know. No hard feelings, no righteous proclamations of severed ties. Just a shrug and we move on.

Or maybe the opposite is happening. Maybe someone is taking time, effort, and energy to connect with me, and I am not reciprocating. I need to examine this and ask myself why. Have I outgrown this relationship? Are we different people? Instead of being clear with them and setting boundaries, am I just ignoring them and allowing them to draw their own conclusions about me? I am not OK with that. I need to respect them and tell the truth about what is going on.

Having the capacity, patience, and skill to do that has taken me years of practice, and clearly, I have not perfected it. This particular situation brought up such strong feelings of rejection. It kept me up at night and forced me to the keyboard these early hours, which is my body’s signal to me that I need to get it out of my heart and head. So I can release it and move on.

But the truth is, I will keep showing up for them if they need me. I will. Because that is who I am. And that is who I want to be.

My Sober Life, Chapter 28

May 7, 2015 – It’s three days before Mother’s Day, and my mother is dead. I had a tendency for a lot of years prior to treat Mother’s Day as kind of a throwaway, Hallmark holiday. Even after I became a mother myself, no one ever made a big deal about it. But when you don’t have a mother anymore? It’s a million knives stabbing you relentlessly.

After she passed, but before the mortuary came, we took turns sitting with her body. It sounds much more morbid and gross when I write it out, but it wasn’t like that at all. It felt like we were standing guard, assuring safe passage. As she lay lifeless against the bed, she looked so small and frail, the diseases ravaged her until she was not much more than skin and bones. I lightly caressed her cheek, already cold to the touch. Life leaves the body so swiftly. It’s a shame we regularly get so caught up in the minutiae that we forget we’re all just a breath away from not being present here.

After the mortuary attendants had come and gone, my sisters and I went about her little half-room packing up her personal belongings. I couldn’t help wondering at her roommate. Did she know death had taken my mom not 10 feet away from her? Did she feel the wave as my mom’s final breath left her?

As we were going through her closet, I came upon a red cardigan sweater of hers. She’d had it for at least a decade. It was well-worn and faded, with large faux-wood buttons and two deep, front pockets. It always made me think of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. I held it in my hands, staring at the label the facility had placed over the washing instructions: Carole Vega. They’d spelled her name wrong. The sweater became heavy in my hands, as though rocks were in those deep pockets. But I could not set it down. I could not place it in the bag with the rest of the clothes. I laid it over my forearm and continued working.

That sweater would not leave my hands for 48 hours. I carried it with me everywhere: to the funeral home, to the meetings, to the Corner Bakery, to the bathroom. I didn’t want to wear it – I never put it on – but I could not and would not put it down. For the next nine months, I would sleep with it every night.

The next seven days are a blur. I was able to take the week off from work and assist with the arrangements. As my mom was a practicing Roman Catholic, we were to have a rosary and wake the evening before the funeral. My brother, one of my brothers-in-law, and I worked on a song to perform at the wake. I chose a song by Indigo Girls, two of my favorite singer-songwriters, that describes death in such a way that it feels like you are releasing a bird from its cage.

I hadn’t sung in front of a lot of crowds, not since my choir days of youth. I knew the song forwards and backwards, having listened to it at least once a month since the cassette (ahem, age check) landed in my 10-year-old hands 25 years prior. So I thought it would be fine. There were already several people milling about when I arrived at the mortuary and it was easy to get caught up in the greetings and well-wishes. I needed to set down my things, though, so I went into the room which had been set aside for us. And there she lay.

We’d picked out a lovely outfit for her, accented with purple, and many flowers. The funeral director had done her makeup and painted her nails. She looked like a powdered version of herself, one hand laid over the top of the other at the waist, a rosary intertwined in them, glasses on, just as you would have remembered her. She didn’t look sickly or thin.

I needed some liquid courage, just a little something to take the edge off, so I brought a flask with me. One engraved with my initials and birthdate, a gift for my 21st, filled with freshly-made margarita with an extra shot of tequila. I stood by myself in the bathroom of the funeral home looking at my reflection. My well-fitted dress, perfectly straightened hair, precisely applied makeup, sparking jewelry, four-inch heels all mirrored back at me through the looking glass. I stared into my own eyes as I unscrewed the top and swallowed the entire contents. The tequila burned as it flowed down, warming my belly, and I thought of how I’d been dreading this for months, and now it was here. No more dress rehearsing this tragedy. I was living it. I was living in an existence without my mother.

After the rosary was completed, my dad spoke to the crowd. More than 100 people crammed into this small chapel-like room, the open casket at the fore. He spoke of my mom and her strengths as a mother and friend. He told some stories and made us all laugh and cry. Then they played a video compilation one of my sisters had made, and it’s one of those pieces of my life that is frozen in time in my memory. My mom had lived almost 77 years (she died just a month and a week shy of her birthday). She’d brought five humans into the world; she’d danced; she’d traveled all around the globe; she’d been a book and puzzle aficionado; she’d been a wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt, niece, friend. She’d dedicated her life to serving others. She took care of her children, she took care of her mother and sister, she took care, she took care, she took care…and here were the photos illustrating that care. That consideration. In many instances, the sacrifice of self for the well-being of others.

The final shot of the slideshow is a clip from a 70’s home video of my mom on a small speedboat near a dock. As the boat propels away from the shore, my mom – my youthful, beautiful, vibrant mom – sits up tall and reaches her long, lithe arm in the air, waving goodbye enthusiastically, as Lenny Kravitz’ Thinking of You fades out (lyrics below). It is an image that if I conjure it in my mind’s eye, I will instantly well with tears. (Much as I am right now as I type this on an airplane full of strangers.)

As my brothers began the rehearsed intro on their guitars, my stomach clenched. It was my cue, but I couldn’t do it. I whispered under my breath, I’m not ready.

My brother has been a musician for as long as I can remember. When he was in his early 20s, I recall a significantly loud fight between him and my dad In which my brother stormed out, jumped in his little Toyota pick-up, and drove to California to start a band. I think I was about five years old. His band’s name was No Exit, and if any of their music existed on the internet, I would share it here. I LOVED his music. When they produced an album, I wore the cassette (yep, child of the 80s) out. I still pull out the CD from time to time, because I still love the music that much. We’d go out to San Diego to see him play and once, I got to go to a rehearsal. It was in someone’s garage or back lot, and it was like an 80s movie or TV show. Girls on the couches, beers abounding, blacklights and fluorescent paint. I immediately became the little mascot. All the guys were the coolest ever.

I remember him up there on this massive stage at the Del Mar Fair in San Diego, and I was enamored. Here is a picture of me on that stage afterward (I am still looking for this picture…). Talk about a shit-eating grin. I thought I was so cool for not only knowing the band, but also getting to go on the stage.

So you’d think, musician brother, singer sister, it must be like The Partridge Family at your house. But other than some camp-side acoustic sing-alongs, my brother and I had never sung together. Not until my mom’s wake.

They began the intro again, and I placed my hand on my stomach, and breathed deep in through my nose, shakily exhaling slowly out my mouth. My cue comes again.

And I sing.

Secure yourself to heaven
Hold on tight, the night has come
Fasten up your earthly burdens
You have just begun

In the ink of an eye, I saw you bleed
Through the thunder, I could hear you scream
Solid to the air I breathe
Open-eyed and fast asleep
Falling softly as the rain
No footsteps ringing in your ears
Ragged down worn to the skin
Warrior raging, have no fear

Secure yourself to heaven
Hold on tight, the night has come
Fasten up your earthly burdens
You have just begun

I'm kneeling down with broken prayers
Hearts and bones from days of youth
Restless with an angel's wing
I dig a grave to bury you
No feet to fall, you need no ground
Allowed to glide right through the sun
Released from circles guarded tight
Now we all are chosen ones

Secure yourself to heaven
Hold on tight, the night has come
Fasten up your earthly burdens
You have just begun

Secure yourself to heaven
Hold on tight, the night has come
Fasten up your earthly burdens
You have just begun


In the ink of an eye, I saw you bleed
Through the thunder, I could hear you scream
Solid to the air I breathe
Open-eyed and fast asleep
Falling softly as the rain

(Falling)
No footsteps ringing in your ears

(No footsteps)
Ragged down worn to the skin
Warrior raging, have no fear


Secure yourself to heaven
Hold on tight, the night has come
Fasten up your earthly burdens
You have just begun

In the ink of an eye, I saw you bleed

(Secure yourself to heaven)
Through the thunder, I could hear you scream

(Hold on tight, the night has come)
Solid to the air I breathe

(Fasten up your earthly burdens)
Open-eyed and fast asleep

(You have just begun)
No feet to fall, you need no ground

(Secure yourself to heaven)
Allowed to glide right through the sun

(Hold on tight, the night has come)
Released from circles guarded tight

(Fasten up your earthly burdens)
Now we all are chosen ones

(You have just begun)

Secure yourself to heaven
(And now we all are chosen ones)
Hold on tight, the night has come

(Allowed to glide right through the sun)
Fasten up your earthly burdens

(Released from circles guarded tight)

Now we all are chosen ones

Thinking of You – Lenny Kravitz

Tell me mama is your life a better change ? 
And tell me mama 
Would you live your life the same 
Or come back and rearrange ?

Tell me mama how is freedom ? 
Oh I’m thinking of you 
And all the things that you wanted me to be 
And I’m trying now

Oh I’m thinking of you 
And all the things that you wanted me to be 
Tell me mama 
Are the colors deeper shades ?

And tell me mama 
Are there great big brass parades ? 
Does the sun shine night and day ? 
Tell me mama no more sleeping

Tell me mama no more weeping 
I’m thinking of you 
And all the things that you wanted me to be 
And I’m trying now

Oh I’m thinking of you 
And all the things that you wanted me to be 
And I’m trying now 
Oh I’m thinking of you

And all the things that you wanted me to be 
And I’m trying now 
Oh I’m thinking of you 
And all the things that you wanted me to be yeah

Hey mama, hey mamama, mama 
No, no, no, no, no 
Oh no, no, no, no, no …. 
Hey

Tell me mama is it just the way they say ? 
Tell me mama 
And tell me mama are you missing me the way 
That I’m missing you today ?

Tell me mama can you hear me ? 
Oh I’m thinking of you 
And all the things that you wanted me to be 
And I’m trying now [Repeat: x 5]

Oh I’m thinking of you

Thinking of you…

My Sober Life, Chapter 27

She awakes in a panic, and the tears come swiftly. Was she dreaming? The TV is still on, and her husband is watching next to her. But she’s sobbing uncontrollably. The voice is still in her head. “Hey, Bec! It’s Mom…” Over and over on a loop. What is happening? She can’t breathe she’s crying so hard. Her husband holds her while she cries until she wears herself out and falls asleep.

The alarm goes off at 7:30 a.m. She rolls out of the bed, the hotel room pitch black. We need blackout curtains like these, she thinks. Her mind still heavy with sleepy fog, she grabs her phone and heads into the bathroom. The light flickers to life and, as per the morning routine, she checks her phone. One missed call. One new voicemail.

“Hi, Rebecca, this is Dad. Listen, I just got a call from the nurse and your mom is unresponsive…(long pause)…(deep breath)…if you can get a flight home, I think you should. And if you can get someone to come pick up the boys so I can focus on your mom…(another long pause)…ok, hon, well, just get home if you can….god bless…bye.”

She lifts her head and takes a long look at herself in the mirror. She sets the phone down and leans against the door, sliding down to the cold floor. No, there’s no time. She grabs her phone and leaves the bathroom.

As gently as she can, she wakes her husband. “My dad called. My mom is unresponsive. I need to go home.” He’s barely conscious enough to fully understand what she’s saying. She walks over to her computer and turns it on. As soon as it connects to the internet, she pulls up her itinerary and the number to call the airline. 

He finally rousts enough to ask her, “Do you really have to leave?”

She says, “Yes, I am leaving. But we have the hotel through Sunday. You have your reservations. If you want to stay, you can stay. I am leaving, but you don’t have to come.”

She gets through to an agent and explains the situation, barely keeping her voice even as the sobs threaten to burst out of her. 

He agrees to leave with her, and she relays the information to the agent. There is a 10:30 a.m. flight back to Denver, and they are both booked on it.

They pack in relative silence. She calls a friend to pick up her children from her dad; she cancels tickets to the show for that evening; she cancels the transportation back to the airport for Sunday. Winning this trip to Las Vegas turned out to be not that lucky after all.

They check out of the hotel, tears are streaming down her face, and the desk attendant is visibly uncomfortable as she tries to maintain composure. The taxi line is short, and they get to the airport with time to spare. 

The airport is a blur, security a breeze, everything that needs to happen to ensure they make this flight, happens. They get to their seats on the plane and she texts her dad.

We’re on the plane, about to take off. Tell her I’m coming. Tell her I am on my way.

She passes the time on the flight playing Plants vs. Zombies on her phone. Every so often, a shudder overtakes her and she has to catch her breath. They travel in virtual silence throughout the plane ride, then on the shuttle, then the car ride. Her husband drops her off at the hospice facility, and she walks briskly toward the door.

Is she walking briskly? Everything slows down as she makes her way to the outer door. As she inputs the code to enter. As she walks down the hall, hit with a mixture of smells: antiseptic, urine, cafeteria food, camphor rub. She can’t help herself as she thinks, This place smells like old people and death.

She strides across the hall and upon entering the shared room, she sees her family. Her father, her three sisters, her brother…her nieces and nephew…her brother-in-law. All crammed into a space not much larger than an office, surrounding the bed where her mother lies.

Her mother. She is so small, so frail and thin, on the bed. Being unresponsive that morning, the nurses put her on morphine to keep her resting in case she regains consciousness. Her breathing is heavily labored now, oxygen unable to make its way into her airways. Fifty-seven years of smoking cigarettes leading up to this moment. Oxygen tubes in her nose, as they have been for the last seven months. Her head is unnaturally turned to one side, her eyes not-quite-closed. She doesn’t really resemble her mother any more. It’s hard to look at.

Hugs are exchanged and updates given as she enters the room. The pungent scent of urine mixed with cleaning products hangs all around.

After an hour or so, her mother begins to stir. The morphine is wearing off, not enough for her to speak or move, but her eyes are open and aware. She makes eye contact with her mother and sees confusion and fear. She stands above her, holding her hand, trying to smile through her tears. She says, “It’s OK, Mom. I’m here. We’re all here. You’re safe. We’ll be OK.” She recalls her mom’s words months prior, I’m worried about that one. She’s my baby. “I’ll be OK, Mom. I love you.”

She gets her dad so he can look into the eyes of his partner of 51 years. Her mother becomes agitated, tries to talk, but the morphine has made that impossible. A nurse called, more morphine administered. And with it, her mother disappears for the last time.

Another hour goes by. Food arrives, and the family takes a break to eat in a little kitchen area down the hall, stretching their legs and enjoying some sustenance as they have no idea how long the night ahead may be.

A niece comes running in, urgency in her eyes. “You better come back in. It’s happening.”

Of course she waited until we were all out of the room. Her mother never was one to be the center of attention.

They gather around the bed, and she lays herself across her mother’s legs, tucking herself into the crook of her knees. She wraps her arms around those legs that once danced the most gorgeous ballets, feeling their warmth melt into her. Searing that warmth into her memory, feeling every time her mother had wrapped her in joy, sadness, understanding, and strength.

Her mother’s breath is choked. The air has nowhere left to go. She gulps and gasps, drowning on dry land, like a fish out of water. Mouth gaping, opening and closing, throat pulsing, chest convulsing.

Her brother cries out, “Goodbye, Mommy!” and then it’s over. They lay on her, holding her and each other as they cry, feeling her stillness below them.

She lays there for some time, until the shared warmth becomes one-sided. She slowly rises and hugs her father so fiercely, it feels as though a lifetime of sadness and pain courses through their embrace. It’s over, but it’s also just beginning.

She texts two words to her husband.

She’s gone

My Sober Life, Chapter 26

In which we are given bonus time

On December 20, 2014, my family and I were in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. We had come up the day before and planned on staying through the morning of Christmas Eve. After the very long nights of the previous two weeks, the break was necessary and desired. My mom’s condition had improved as had her mood. Friends of mine had visited a couple of days earlier, and she not only recognized them, she brightened at their appearance. Although I’d been questioning whether we should go to the mountains, the shift in her helped convince me we could still go.

So go we did. We were enjoying a lazy morning, the kids watching Saturday morning cartoons as my husband sipped his coffee while reading an article. I poured a fresh puzzle from its cardboard confines onto the long, wooden table, ready to lose myself in its 1,000 oddly-shaped pieces.

My phone jingled. A text message from my oldest sister. “No need to panic, but mom was just taken to the hospital in an ambulance. She’s OK, but they’re going to keep her at least overnight until her O2 levels stabilize.”

I didn’t wait to text back. I called immediately. “What happened.”

The long and the short of it was my mom couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t breathe, the nurse couldn’t help, 9-1-1 was called, and the EMTs used a C-PAP to force air into my mom’s lungs. And it worked. O2 charged through her bronchioles and popped open her shrinking alveoli, and her respiratory system began to work again.

For three hours, I hemmed and hawed about whether or not we should drive back down to the city. My sister said everything was under control, and I should stay and enjoy myself. But how could I enjoy myself? What if something happened overnight? I was an hour and a half away. Could I live with that decision? I could not. We drove home that night, and I went to the hospital first thing in the morning.

As I walked down the hospital corridor of the intensive care unit, I spotted my dad speaking with a doctor. As I came to his side, he held back tears as he said, “We almost lost her.” It was then I realized how close we really came as he recounted the story of calling 9-1-1, and the EMTs, and the seemingly interminable ambulance ride to the hospital, and the waiting. So much waiting.

She’d had a pretty good night and that morning, my mom was the most popular person in the ICU. An unending stream of family, friends, and neighbors joined us. The nurses continuously commented on how fun it was in her room. It was the place to be. She seemed to be her old self again, as though the last few weeks of sleepless, fitful nights had never happened. She crafted sarcastic comebacks and laughed raucously at a misheard comment from my dad about the “Flahertys praying in the bushes”. My mom was back.

Later that night, after she was settled into a regular room, one of my sisters and I were sitting and talking with her. She had finished eating and became restless. Then, out of nowhere, she began having deep coughing fits, so hard she would spit up phlegm and saliva. She couldn’t stop. The only thought that kept running through my head was, “She’s going to die. I’m watching her die. She’s going to die. I’m watching her die. She’s going to die. I’m watching her die.” on an endless loop. And I felt so fucking helpless.

So I did the only thing I could think of. I pulled out my phone and earbuds. I popped one in my ear and pulled up Spotify. I searched for Simon & Garfunkel, scrolled until I found the song I was looking for, and hit play. And I sang.

I sang one of my mom’s favorites songs. I sang while she heaved and hacked. I sang while she trembled, hunched over. I sang as she tried to hold my hand, but had to pull it back in an attempt to cover the body-rocking barks expelling from her frail frame. I sang about weariness, and tearful eyes, and being on your side, and bridges, and water, and being down and out, and comfort, and taking your part, and darkness, and sailing on, sliver girl, and shining, and dreams, and more water and more bridges. I was going to sing her across this bridge and ease her mind. I sang and I sang, and I squeezed my eyes shut as I did. I tried to block out the coughing because it was so loud. Her dying was so loud in my ears…why can’t this troubled water block it out? Block it out. BLOCK IT OUT.

And yet.

She didn’t die then. She probably should have died that weekend. She probably should have died on December 20, 2014, when her lungs closed. But she didn’t. The first responders forced air into her lungs. And with it, bonus time into our lives.

I often think back to that day, and I wonder. I wonder, did she know? Did she know she was dying? Was she scared as she gasped for air? Was she panicking when they held her down? Did she feel terror as they forced the mask over her nose and mouth? Did she feel pain as the oxygen sped down her throat, expanding her lungs? Did she feel helpless as she flailed? Did she understand they were medical professionals helping her? As they carried her down the stairs, did she gaze at the pictures of her five children on the wall? Did she try to stroke the banister? As they hastily, yet carefully, pushed through the front door, did she notice the rocking bench on the porch? Did she see the empty flowerbeds she meticulously curated for almost 40 years, imagining the hibernating bulbs in the earth she’d tilled with her bare hands? Did she think of her tulips and bleeding hearts blooming come Spring? As they loaded her into the ambulance, did she get a last look at the house she’d made a home?

Did she know she would never return?

Cheers.