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UPDATE: They let me in.
UPDATE 2: Mom passed away in the early morning hours. Thank you to everyone for your kindness.
Four weeks ago, I spent one of the best days of my life in Provo, Utah—recording a poem at BYU for later publication, attending a friend’s poetry reading, and visiting my mom in the assisted living facility she moved to only months ago.
Mom is wheelchair-bound and has been struggling with constant physical pain and loneliness since Dad died last year. After some recent panic attacks, her doctors thoroughly evaluated her and determined that she qualified for hospice care and the pain medication she needs to be comfortable. That Saturday when I visited, my family celebrated her 81st birthday. Mom was even well enough to sing in the Sunday church service at her care center. Hospice care could last for months, years even. She was going to be fine.
I haven’t been able to visit over the last several weeks because of the extraordinary measures being taken to protect the residents at the care center; until today they finally let my sister in. Mom is dying; it could be any day now. She is withering away mentally and physically, and all I can think is thank heaven we were able to all visit and get her the help she needed before they locked down. She is struggling so much to live and I wish she could relax and let go.
I don’t know what else to say, but I wanted to tell someone. Here are two poems I wrote for her after one of my last visits.
She says it isn’t home,
this place where she stays
with walker and wheelchair.
It’s more like a garage,
a place to park and wait,
get maintenance till it’s time to go.
She buys me lunch when I visit
and I slip in payment undetected.
She plans to make a pie,
but has no oven.
She arranges music for church
that no one will sing.
Interminable guest in this living space,
she’d be happy to spin her wheels
if the key would just turn in the ignition.
Mom doesn’t know how to die.
She tries to relax, fall into it,
but keeps waking each day.
Her body shuts down around her
Dad hasn’t come for her yet.
She asks us to pray for death.
Who can take up those sharp words?
We pray instead for peace, healing.
We make her stay.
She endures and endures,
to no end, bitter