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In September, my Mom was diagnosed with a glioblastoma brain tumor. Doctors recommended surgery, followed by a regimen of chemo and radiation.


I went with her and my Dad to the surgery, and was with her for a few days after the surgery. I also made a trip back to the hospital (3-and-a-half hours away) to visit her. We had a nice visit that day, and her memory seemed SO much better after the surgery. We were all hopeful, even though doctors only gave her 12-14 months to live.


Then she began the chemo and radiation. She seemed fine the first couple of weeks on radiation, and I visited her a couple of times and, again, we had nice visits.


But then she quickly, inexplicably, got worse. (My personal belief is the radiation--which I was against from the start--caused her rapid decline. It was a new protocol where they give three weeks of higher-dose radiation, instead of six weeks of a lower dose. However, my Dad and other family members wanted to follow the doctor's advice and go with radiation, so, I reluctantly agreed to it.)


Anyway, as she began to decline, I drove the 3.5 hours to see her the Monday before Thanksgiving, and went to see her again on Thanksgiving Day. No one in Hospice could say how long she had, but her death, they said, was not imminent. Thanksgiving Day was difficult. My poor Mom was very teary-eyed nearly the entire time, and when the CNAs got her out of bed to go to the bathroom, she cried uncontrollably because she was in such pain. Then, about an hour later, she awoke from a deep sleep crying hysterically. I said, "Mom, can you tell me why you're so sad?" And she said, "I don't want to go up there." I asked, "Up where?" and she responded, "To God." I didn't know what to say, but all I could think of was to say something where she might feel as if she still had some control over her life. So, like an idiot, I said, "Well, Mom, you're in the driver's seat on that one. YOU decide IF, or WHEN to go. No one else."


In retrospect that was such a lame thing to say. But, it did seem to calm her down. She stopped crying, looked into space as if she was thinking about what I had said, and they replied, "Okay." I should have taken that opportunity to talk more about the reality of the situation. But I had to turn away to get a tissue as it was, telling her my allergies were acting up. (I didn't want her to know I was crying.)


Five days after Thanksgiving, I got a call from Hospice, saying Mom asked, "Where's my company?" I called Dad (who can't drive due to being left 85% blind from a stroke) and got a ride for him to immediately go see Mom. I asked the Hospice nurse how long Mom had, and she said, "probably a week."


I should have immediately left home and driven to see her. But I had an appointment to get new tires on my car (the front tires were nearly bald) and an oil change that Friday. I was able to get the car in on Thursday, so I thought I would take the car in then, and head home on Thursday night or Friday morning. The Hospice nurse said she thought that I would still have time to see Mom before she died.


Well, on Thursday afternoon as I was getting ready to head home, I got a call from my cousin that Mom died.


Several things pain me about this: (1) That I didn't leave immediately. I could have rented a car (I didn't feel safe with the bald tires due to impending storms). Why didn't I do that?! (2) My aunt told me that my cousin, whom no one in our family had seen in over a decade, walked into my Mom's room, and five minutes later, my Mom died. My aunt said "I think your Mom was waiting for you, and she thought your cousin was you. When your cousin walked in, I told your Mom, 'Everyone is here. It's okay for you to go. Okay, so I lied that everyone wasn't there. But because you weren't, I didn't want your Mom to have to hang on and wait for you. She wasn't conscious anyway.'" (3) Nearly all of my relatives (except my Dad) have told me repeatedly I should have been there. And, I know they are right.


I have no idea why I WASN'T there. Mom and I were always so close. She was ALWAYS there for me. I wasn't there when she took her last breath. And I can't get over the fact that, if she did wait for me and thought my cousin was me, that she would have been so disappointed/angry w/ me when/if she realized it wasn't me who walked in at the last moments of her life.


The only explanation is selfishness. Ever since Mom got sick, I had a lot of anticipatory grief, and cried nearly every day after I talked with her on the phone. It was so painful to have "lost" my Mom before she even died. But I should have made it about her, not me.


I have waited for some sign from Mom that she is okay now. But have received none. My Dad received some signs, so I can only assume Mom's spirit is so upset with me about not being there that she doesn't want to contact me. The only thing I can do now is be there for Dad. Hope that will somehow make up for not being there4Mom, but I know it won't.

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