Tuesday, October 6, 2015

my mother almost died in my arms this summer

We took her to the ER and they gave her an hour to live. They said to send for all relatives. We braced ourselves for the worst. Then, she did not die. It took her one month in the ICU and an extra two more months in the hospital, but she decided not to die. And it turns out, I was disappointed.

I love my mother. We have a great relationship. I know her, I get her, and even though I can disagree with her on many things, I love her whole-heartedly.

But I was ready for her to die this summer.

I had recently buried two cats that lived with me. One was 18 when she died and the other 19. Both of them died in my arms and at that turning point when the body started to shut down, they both gave off a specific scent I will never forget.

This summer, as my mother was in my arms, I started to smell that scent coming off of her.

To give context, Seoul this summer was on massive lock down due to the MERS epidemic. Schools were closed, hospitals were shutting down, and emergency rooms were chaos. My mother's health started declining on Friday. By Saturday and Sunday she was in a bad place. But all the advice from doctors in the family was to keep her comfortable at home and bring her to the hospital on Monday. It was Sunday evening when I noticed the smell. I asked our family members if we could get a nurse to come to the house to take a look at her. Everyone got up, started making phone calls and within thirty minutes we were in an ambulance riding to the nearest ER. And that is where the doctor told us she had a hour to live.

So we waited. And she lived the night. Then another. Then another. She got pneumonia. She recovered. She was on dialysis. She got off it. She was on the ventilator. For three-four weeks. Then she successfully got off that. There was no brain damage like we had feared. Her first word after she was taken off the ventilator was "cola." Damn.

Now she is back home and we are back to our weekly routine of Saturday morning phone calls. But first, I had to get over being disappointed that she did not die. Because I had already prepared for this departure, I had a hard time re-adjusting to this new paradigm. In the beginning I felt like I was talking to a ghost. And I did not want to talk to ghosts. But slowly as the days and weeks went by, my mother, once again waited for me to mature into my own body and we are now looking at her life, my life, our lives, and doing what we do best. Practice love.

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