May 20th, 2017
2:10 p.m. EST
I was going to let it go today. I wasn’t going to be public or discuss with anyone about today’s date, May 20th, and its significance to me. I thought I needed to let today be just another day in May. I wondered why in the past I had felt the desire to say it aloud, to write it down and share it publicly. I had dialogue with myself about this. I told myself just remember May 20th, 2003 at 11:10 a.m. and let it be your memory. My sister and I always send a simple text, “I love you” on May 20th each year. We know this date is always hard.
This morning my daughter and I went to breakfast, and we were talking about life. Somehow death became the bookend of our conversation. Maybe subconsciously I wanted to talk to her about today, to share my memory. So, I told her that in an hour 11:10 a.m. Central Standard Time would be the exact time Memommy died 14 years ago today. My mother, her Memommy. She began to ask me questions about that day. She didn’t know that I had watched my mother die. I have never discussed it with her. I have only repeated the entire experience one time. The week after my mother died I gave a friend of mine a detailed account. The experience of watching my mother die.
My daughter’s question was, “Did they take Memommy off the machine and then she died?”
No, there was no machine. My mother died at home surrounded by her mother (my Nana), my daddy, my sister, four of her sisters (one sister and her brother did not arrive in time), my daddy’s sister, and me. I was there.
I always felt that her death was hers. I didn’t want to discuss something so private. The memory I usually share is that it is the most beautiful experience to watch someone die and yet, it is the most gut-wrenching experience. It is a paradox. A contradiction. The incongruity of begging someone to stay and then, letting that person go by assuring them that we will all be ok. The ones left behind. The living.
I just remember watching her pain and wanting it to go away. To stop. I wanted her damn pain to stop. I wanted my beautiful young 59-year-old mother to sit up and be ok. To laugh. To boss me around. To tell me what to do. But, she didn’t. She just cried out in pain. So, there in my parent’s bedroom the hospice nurse continued to administer medication to my mother to ease her pain.
I remember my mother’s face looking at my daddy. He told her, “It’s ok, baby. It’s ok. You can go. We will all be ok. I will take care of Cookie and Karla. And, I will be ok. We are all here, and we will all be ok.” Her mother, my Nana, comforted her and told her she loved her. We all told her we loved her and that it was ok. I didn’t really mean it. I was only 40 years old. My sister was only 33. Our children were young. Too young not to have her, their Memommy. Our mother. It wasn’t ok, but I knew that her pain was worse than death. So, then, it was ok. My mother, always the pleaser, had all of our permission to go. To die. She did just that on May 20th, 2003 at 11:10 a.m.