My mom died last year on April 29th. It was a Wednesday. That week is really clear in my mind. I went to see her on Sunday and even though she had lost her voice because of the radiation, she seemed to be doing a lot better. She couldn't talk but she could whisper and she was downstairs in her snuggie doing the Times crossword (in pen). When I got there, my dad was so thrilled because he had managed to get her to eat a scrambled egg for breakfast and that was probably the most food she'd eaten in weeks. So she was eating and she seemed like she had a little more energy and she was snarky and witty despite the whispering thing.
I brought all these pedicure supplies because I thought that it would be nice to pamper her a little bit, and we listened to the Beatles while I attended to her toes. I painted them some quick-drying shade of reddish orange. She had lost almost all of her hair because of the chemo but before it started to fall out, she bleached it to a brassy platinum. She refused to shave it, because she thought it was short enough not to be a problem, but there were brassy blonde hairs everywhere -- on the snuggie, on the couch, on the floor. My dad kept up constant dustbuster maintenance. She wore a hat when she went into Mt. Sinai for chemo or to the local hospital for brain and chest radiation. But at home, she just had one little dreadlocked tuft of hair left, right in the center of her head. It was sort of Tintin-esque. She didn't like the fact that the hair was all matted and she asked me to comb it out. I was afraid of hurting her, and when I tried to untangle the hairs, they all came out in my hand.
We spent a few hours together and then she got a blackberry alert that there was some problem with NJ Transit so she insisted that we get going so we'd make it back to the city. She wasn't loud, but she was adamant. My dad drove us to Liberty State Park to catch the Path train but of course we took the wrong Path train and ended up in Jersey City, where we finally caught the correct train back to Manhattan. We walked back to my apartment from Penn Station. I was feeling better about things. It seemed like she was doing a little bit better.
On Monday, I had jury duty and I had already postponed it as many times as I could by phone. I spent a few hours waiting in jury duty, cutting a rough version of a spot for VH1 Mobile on my laptop. After the clerks kept saying things about committing to two weeks of jury duty, if selected, I freaked out and ran to get an official deferral. I told them my mom was sick and I couldn't commit. They pushed it to October.
Emily and I went to karaoke that night and I drank a little too much and got emotional and sang songs from Barbra Streisand's "Broadway Album" in honor of my mom. Specifically the song "Being Alive," which, if you don't know it, is from Company and is particularly amazing when Babs sings it. My mom's favorite song off that album was "Send in the Clowns" but I couldn't bring myself to sing it.
On Tuesday, I worked on the VH1 Mobile spot and was getting ready to shoot a segment with my friend Graham about the intersection of science and pop culture.
On Wednesday, my dad called early in the morning and said my mom was in the ER and that I should get to South Orange as soon as I could. I called my brother and told him to meet me at the train station. I threw some shit in a bag and grabbed my laptop and ran to Penn Station. I emailed my friends who were supposed to come over that night to watch Top Model that I didn't know what was going on and that we should probably plan on postponing our viewing party.
My brother and I got to the hospital, where my aunt Sherry and my dad were with my mom in the ER. She was drifting in and out of consciousness. I held her hand and told her about singing Streisand for her. She had an oxygen mask over her face and couldn't speak but one tear slipped out of her right eye and slid down her cheek. My dad took us outside to tell us that the doctors were preparing a room for her but that they couldn't get her blood pressure back up and that we needed to be ready for hospice. While we were talking in the parking lot, by the loading dock, my dad's cel phone rang. It was the doctor. He said we needed to come back inside.
My mom was already in a coma when we got back. My aunt called her rabbi to come over to say the things that rabbis say in this situation. The rabbi arrived and said things in Hebrew and we all watched the monitors as her blood pressure dropped lower and lower. The rabbi told us that we should stop looking at the machines and instead spend this time telling my mom that we'd be okay. We told that we loved her, that it was okay to go, that we'd be okay without her.
She was gone in a matter of minutes. Her blood pressure was so low that she instantly went completely pale. I was still holding her hand.
I am not so sure that I am okay without her.