This is the fourth post of my “Real and Raw” guest post series. Bridget McCafferty was part of my friend group during college from almost 20 years ago! I hadn’t seen Bridget for so long, until several years ago, we were at a baby shower for another friend in the group. It was so lovely to catch up, and we’ve been social media buddies ever since. However, I don’t really know much about Bridget’s life, and never really did. So, I was profoundly honored and excited when she responded to my real and raw guest post inquiry.
The way Bridget write’s here about her mother’s death moves me greatly. She shares in a matter-of-fact tone, and I don’t believe that’s an accident. Because I feel the same way when I think of my mother’s death in 2017. The things you notice, and the things you remember are often mundane. Perhaps we latch onto those real life details because the Grand Canyon of emotions and grief are just too much to wrap ourselves around in those moments. Ultimately, I think we spend the rest of our lives working our way through grief, and trying to find ways not to become engulfed by the pain. And the precious details of a person, and those moments just before death, become such sacred gifts to recall.
I’m so pleased to share with you Bridget’s story. It touches me deeply, and I hope it reaches you as well.
I think of my mother’s death. Not the time leading up to it, but that actual morning. Skipping a shower and just driving. Honestly, I don’t remember driving there at all. Valet parking. Getting the visitor’s pass and telling the girl at the desk that they called. They said she was going to die.
Would she die today, tomorrow?
It was only about 47 minutes. Me and Jen on either side of the bed. The nurse named Timothy bearing a physical resemblance to my first love, David. The quiet of the room. Timothy writes on the dry erase board.
The date: November 22nd.
The patients name: Linda.
Goals for the day: keep her comfortable.
IT’S SUNNY AND SILENT IN THE ROOM.
Not overly sunny and not overly silent. But the air hangs heavy. She isn’t awake, but she’s also not asleep. An anomaly that I grew familiar with over her 2-week hospitalization.
Jen is on her left and I’m on her right. Holding hands that can’t really grip back. The red puffiness of Jen’s eyes are the closest thing to life in the room. Everything else feels submerged in water and/or wrapped in cotton.
But the red of her eyes are afire. I want to comfort her, my baby sister, but the cotton is too thick. The air holding dust particles in unbelievable suspension in the morning sun.
She coughs up blood and Timothy sucks it out of her throat with a tube. It’s a fair amount of blood, and Timothy lets us know that she had a sizable nosebleed that morning. Andrew would later comment that of course she died just as she lived, with a constant nosebleed.
A few moments after watching her blood run through a tube that wrapped around my chair and drained into a bathroom sink, I noticed she just stopped breathing.
It wasn’t dramatic, it was slow and gentle. Jen and I actually had to ask Timothy if she had died. He held a stethoscope to her heart and said “ I think so.”
You think so?
I often wondered if plants had a moment of death or if it was like different levels of almost being dead before they actually died.
My mother, the houseplant who did not survive her transfer into new potting soil. A new home in a beach town in Jersey. She only lived there for about 8 months.
WAS SHE DYING SLOWLY AS SOON AS HER ENVIRONMENT CHANGED?
Then, the next 45 minutes of sitting in the room with mom, now dead, possibly. But still warm.
Me and Jen and Timothy, the only ones knowing she passed. Turn your phone on silent, we can not tell dad this over the phone.
She’s still warm, but slumped over. Timothy removes the oxygen mask and it’s the first time in two weeks I see her face without it.
He closes her gaping mouth.
No one’s lips should ever have to chap like that in this modern world of chap stick.
She’s still warm. She’s still warm for a long time, so we talk to her. I hope to be in the presence of my children when I die. I can’t image I will be graced with such a death. She suffered terribly at the hospital. But the morning of November 22nd, Jen and I cut our hearts open in a silent vow to her, and helped her pass from this life.
I hope she felt it. I think she did.
I hope you enjoyed this personal story, and I would love to hear any related experiences that you would like to share. I know some people can feel really uncomfortable talking and sharing about death. But, as with everything else, I find that talking and sharing about it makes me so much more comfortable with it. Because death is honestly as natural as peeing (sorry). And yet, at the same time, it’s one of the most profound and inexplicable occurrences in existence. This dichotomy continues to blow my mind, and I would love to hear your ponderings about this as well! xo
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Featured photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash