--Finishing my summer class thus completing HALF of my MEd!
--Taking a 6-day intensive class that involves field trips and literary tours of Boston and the surrounding areas (dorky I know but I'm really excited!)
--Myrtle Beach for 5 days
--At least one trip to see my best friend in PA
In the past few months I have gone to my brother's finance's bridal shower and my cousin's baby shower. Of course I become over emotional because I think of how much fun my mom would have if she was still around to be a part of all these happy memories. I thought it would be an appropriate time to post my third and final story from the past semester!
It always happens at the most inopportune times: the rushing emotional overload all because of one sensory memory. Some woman, unbeknownst to her, will walk by me wearing the perfume my mother wore for the 17 years that I knew her. The mixture of musk, vanilla, and sandalwood warms me without my realizing. The warmth is only temporary. Once I realize that the smell the comforted me for so many years is not my mother I am sadly reminded of the day my mother passed away.
Wednesdays had a routine when I was a senior in high school. Get up, go to school, pretend to be interested in being a senior in high school, buy a coffee, teach and take a dance class, go home, eat dinner, take a shower, and go to bed. There wasn’t much that changed from week to week. The second week of 2003 was not going to follow the normal routine. It was clear when my father came and told me that my mother’s doctors who had taken care of her for six long years told him that there was not much more they could do. The six-year battle with ovarian cancer was coming to a close. It was a matter of time and we were to just sit around and wait.
Monday of that second week in 2003 a hospice employee came to the house to begin the planning for in home care. My mother, who had lost so much weight she looked like a skeleton with skin, did not like having the man from hospice in the house. Maybe it was the sound of his voice, maybe it was because she knew that she was dying; whatever it was she was not happy. Later that evening she slipped into a comatose state. She was sleeping but in some small way alert. I knew the end was coming and at the risk of sounding terrible I wanted it to come soon.
Tuesday came and went. Nothing changed. In fact my memory of this day is so foggy I am sure that nothing eventful happened.
Finally, Wednesday, January 8, 2003.
I woke up, ate breakfast (two Oreos and a sup of tea) with my mother who was still comatose, and went off to school. During the day I felt as if everything was wrong. There was a foreboding that I could not shake no matter what I tried. I followed my typical Wednesday routine until I arrived at my dance studio. I pulled my instructor aside and told her that I did not think my mother was going to make it through the night. We cried and then I did the one thing that brought me joy, I danced. For that hour I felt normal things were right in the world. When my aunt picked me up after class ended I knew there was something seriously wrong. My mother’s family had all gathered in the house and was eating pizza. I went into my mother’s bedroom, where my father had moved her so she could be more comfortable; to tell her I was home. She was worse than when I left for school that morning. I knew what was coming. I went to muscle down a slice of pizza and talked with my aunts and cousins. All conversations are a blur except the last conversation I had with my mother.
I asked one of my cousins to leave the room while I spoke with my mother. I told her that I loved her and I thanked her for everything she had done for me and for all she had taught me. My older brother came into the room and we held her hands and cried. Her breathing was so labored it looked painful. My brother and I looked at each other and there was a mutual understanding. She had to go. While holding her hand my brother told her that it was time to let go. He reassured her that with so many people in the family who loved us that he and I would be taken care of. We called the family into the bedroom and we all stood around my mother as she took her last breath.
The next few hours are rushed in my memory. I hysterically cried to as many people as would listen. A hospice nurse came and pronounced her dead (I do remember screaming at this poor woman that what she was doing was ridiculous). The funeral home came and zipped her body into a bag and took her way. The last sound I heard was the gurney leaving the house, the last vision was the black bag that held my mother, and the last smell was my mother’s perfume.
It is quite possible that the scent of her perfume was permeated in my home and for some reason I could smell it at that moment. It could be that someone had sprayed perfume on her before she was taken away (my mother would never had left the house without perfume) or it could be that my teenage senses wanted to smell the perfume and feel comforted. Whatever the reason whenever I smell the perfume my mother wore I am both comforted and saddened. If only the women wearing my mother’s perfume that I pass by knew how much meaning their perfume holds.