My West Seattle Memorial Day tribute

May 29, 2006 2:35 pm
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 |   Holidays

A few years after we moved to West Seattle, my mom decided it sounded like a great place for her to get a midlife re-start. So she moved here too. She found a great apartment near the Morgan Junction, with a peek view of the Sound and the Olympics. Eventually she found a job with a local nonprofit and started to build a life.

Then she started losing weight. We thought she just had an appetite problem. After a few months, we convinced her to see a doctor … who discovered she had one of the nastiest forms of cancer. (Not that any form of cancer is NOT nasty, but some are curable or nearly so — this one wasn’t.) Things fell apart quite rapidly. The nonprofit cut her loose before she even had a chance to start treatment (I won’t name them here but I do hold a bit of a grudge because of the way they treated her). She accepted the incurability faster than we did — and just kind of settled in to die.

This wasn’t really like her. She was always a bon vivant. But she decided she’d lived a good life (even though she was ridiculously young, still). She had an interesting take on it — “Doesn’t make any sense to say ‘why me.’ If you say ‘why me’ in the bad times, why wouldn’t you say ‘why me’ in the good times?”

She didn’t want to move in with us. She wanted to stay in that cozy apartment, with its peek view, and her stack of movie tapes, till the end was truly in sight, and then she’d think about her HMO’s inpatient hospice.

So we visited her every day. A hospice nurse came in a couple times a week. I could see my mom’s apartment from my road to work early each morning, and was haunted by the thought, “Wow, until I call and check in with her later, she could be dead in there, for all I know.” Strange, but maybe if you’ve lived through a loved one’s slow death, you understand.

The cancer that kills most people within six months of diagnosis didn’t get her till she was into month 9. The hospice nurse who admitted her to the inpatient facility when it seemed clear she had “days to go” was shocked that she didn’t move on to the next plane of existence till she’d been there six weeks.

My mom’s death wound up teaching me a lot about life. So I pay tribute to her here on Memorial Day. Especially because she died this time of year — and the bush that yielded the rose I took from her hospice bedside vase, to lay on her chest, not long after her last breath, still blooms bright this time every year, right next to our front door.

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