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Like all difficult experiences I've had, mom's death replays in my dreams. It always happens just like it really did. I spend a lot of dream-time just watching her breathe, hanging on each pause between breaths in the suspense of it possibly being her last. After a long while, I go to sleep and wake up suddenly not long after. My brother comes in the room a moment later and tells me that he thinks she just took her last breath. I go into the living room and stand beside her in her hospital bed. I see her chest move slightly and feel the lightest breath from her mouth. Her heart still beats, sporadically and so so softly. I sit with her for a while, my hand on her still-warm arm. Then I see her breathing stop. It was subtle, almost unnoticeable. The last breath she released shuddered her body slightly, and I felt her arm quiver beneath my hand. I touch my hands to her neck and her chest, searching for a sign of that soft, arrhythmic pulse. Gone. She was gone. Dead. I looked at her face and mulled over the knowledge that she wasn't behind it anymore. I've heard throughout my life that sometimes senses continue for a while after death, so I told her again that it was okay. I told her how I loved her and would miss her, but reminded her of my promise to make sure that everyone would be okay. After sitting and talking to her empty body for a while, feeling her arm grow colder in my hand, I left the room to call hospice and inform them. I waited for her to get colder and stiffen slightly to make changing her clothes easier. I put her in her second favorite top - a blue and purple tie-dye top with a neckline I'd helped her cut into a v - because I knew she wouldn't want her favorite shirt to be wasted. When she was alive, the process of changing clothes was a delicate one that required consciousness of tubes and sensitive areas, knowledge of her waning ability to balance, and patience with her frustration. Now I moved her body's limbs roughly to dress it, letting the beginning rigor mortis remind me that I was dressing a corpse. One of her wishes before death was that the nephrostomy tubes that drained her kidneys be removed as soon as she was "too dead to know the difference". Hours past the last sign of breath or pulse, it was time. My father removed one, and I got the other. The tube surgically planted in her kidney didn't want to be removed. It required a type of persistent force that I had trouble applying to even a lifeless human body. The best I can describe it, it's what I imagine it would be like to rip out a chunk of someone's hair large enough to take scalp and maybe a little skull with it. When I successfully yanked the tube out, it came with blood, skin, and unfamiliar tissue that I can only assume was kidney. The people from the funeral home came and took her, carrying her out through the kitchen and loading her into a mini van. Dad and I cooked and ate a good breakfast in preparation for the days of paperwork ahead of us.
For some reason, I request to have an autopsy done on her body (which makes no sense because she was cremated months ago). I'm with the doctor in a morgue-type place with white walls and bright lights. Her body is brought out, and the doctor says that she's actually in a coma and not dead. After some unspecified time of medical dream magic that I don't witness, she's alive again. She's in a hospital, and she's weak but alive. She asks me why it was so easy for me to say goodbye. She asks why I didn't cry and how I could rip the tubes from her body without breaking a sweat. She asks how I was able to sleep while she was dying and why I didn't insist that hospice send a doctor to check on her in case something could be done. I don't have any answers. We hug and I sob that I've missed her, that I still need her. I leave the hospital and the dream shifts directions somewhat but keeps the theme of her still being alive. I tell my brothers and take them to see her. Things gradually take on the characteristics of an average dream where mom's still alive and part of things. We plan her recovery and set up a room for her. I recover her clothing from Goodwill and buy her pretty new blue shirts like her favorite one. I put her "Mother" necklace on her that I got her last year for Mother's Day, and it's like the whole week of her dying never even happened. It's as if the cancer went away instead of killing her, and I didn't spend hours with her dead body.
In the real not-dream world, I wake up. In the half-awake haze, my first thought is self-consciousousness of being asleep when I should be picking mom up from the hospital and taking her to her new room with her new wardrobe and the paintings and poems I'd made for her. I'm halfway through getting dressed and scrambling for shoes before reality fully returns and I realize that it was a dream.
Something was missing...someone was missing. An integral piece of my person was slipping away again, slipping into the great dark night that I had just pulled myself out of mere months ago. How could I be slipping back again so soon?
I went back to the house in which existed the hole. I thought I had covered the hole, packed it in deep. However, it seems I dropped a seed within, for it had grown in my absence. Upon my return it transfered its roots into my own person. I did not feel its dragging effects until many days later. Then it hit me all at once.
You're like the day, keeping my nightmares at bay. But how long, I wonder, can you withstand this great task... How long will you be offering your services of helping me, of caring for me, of holding me through my long nights....
I had that dream again, though I've never told you of it, you have seen the effects.... Even if you were here, i would be rather stand-off-ish.... I wouldn't likely inform you of my current state. But you would hold me, not expect me to speak, and you would run your fingers over my hair as I drift off to sleep in the safe hold of your arms, like two rock shelves shielding me from the terrible force of the storm just through the gap.