River Styxx

I’ve stayed on safe turf talking about my Mom. Lately, my elevator speech is that she’s so debilitated it is impossible to traverse the void between my existence and hers. She is effectively an imbecile. I don’t use that word lightly. It is insulting to today’s ears. There isn’t a better word to describe her existence now. She is trapped in either a wheelchair or a hospital bed. Her limbs have atrophied such that she is very limited in her ability to move. She’s had a number of strokes. Each has taken a bit more of her motor control from her. She suffers from heart disease and diabetes. Her diabetes and the side effects of her medications mean that her renal system fails every few years and until lately, that has meant a week or so in the hospital to get that working again.

You get the idea. Frost [Mending Wall, 1914] wrote, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down. . .” The wall keeping me from my mother needs to come down. I want it down. I want her back. I want a vital, 83-year-old woman who will case-work me as she did most of my life. It hurts to see a husk of her sitting in a wheelchair, obsessively gnawing on an old cotton towel, staring at me with blank, fiery eyes. I want to talk to her, to be annoyed with her words again, to be able to traverse the bricks and hear more than a sibilant, “yes” or “no”. I know she is there but trapped in a cage of her own body.

Her particular dementia attacked her pre-frontal cortex first. She lost short-term memory and the ability to moderate her behavior. She was transformed into uncontrollable impulses. Everything was full-throttle. Now she cannot even control her swallowing reflex and has to be spoon-fed. The lioness that lovingly raised me is somewhere out of reach.

I could not pray to have God call her home for many years. It seemed cruel to wish death on someone. This, this tormented, imbecilic life, trapped inside a debilitated husk of her former health, this seems greater cruelty than having death kindly stop for her. Sunday was the first time I publicly asked for prayer to have God call her home. My grandmother, my Mom’s Mom, fought like this too until she finally went home. Both women were stalwarts in their respective Presbyterian Churches. Both are saved. I have no fear of them failing to cross St. Peter’s gates into heaven. Watching her life now, trapped on the nearer shore of the river Styx, among the living, seems crueler than letting her cross.