I don’t know how to tell you this.
And I don’t know that I even want to.

I keep thinking the words will come to me.
So, I’ve been giving it time.

But each day my mind feels blank.
Like a new Word doc, cursor blinking.
Or one of those page-a-day calendars, each empty page peeling off to show the next.

Which is why I’m writing this.

You can’t start out public, then go quiet, is what the voice in my head says.

So here I go.

It’s not the biggest deal in the world. She was ninety, after all.

I had her longer than most people have their mothers.

And I’ve been so open about what an asshole she was. The difficulties and complications that came with that relationship.

It both surprises me and seems predictable – how mired in contradiction I feel.

I can’t believe I can walk and talk through this. Or that I’m sad at all.

She died a month ago today.

I knew it was coming. Had been told six weeks earlier. You can read about that here.

Thing is, I’ve seen end-of-life enough to know the involvement of hospice doesn’t mean death is knocking at the door. Hell, my next-door neighbor was thrown out of hospice cause three years later she was still alive, bossing people around.

It’s a weird thing — to know someone’s dying.

I mean, we’re all dying. Technically. But to know a 90-year-old is in hospice is a different kind of knowing.

I had to tell her. My mom.

Had to make sure she understood.

Not that I wanted to. I totally tried to punt to her social worker.

ME “I wanted to reach out b/c yesterday my cousin informed me that my mother has lung cancer which has metastasized – so hospice is now involved…  I wanted to make sure you are aware of this, and more importantly, I’m wondering if my mother is aware of this. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.”

HER “Hi Darcy. Thanks for reaching out. I am so sorry for you, your Mom and the whole family.

I knew something was very wrong, as I’ve seen your Mom becoming weaker, needing more care, etc. I also am unsure if she has been told anything. She is aware of Hospice’s involvement, but whether anyone has told her her diagnosis, I just don’t know…”

ME “Thank you… Do you plan to process this with her? Someone needs to – it’s the ethical thing to do.”

HER “Hi Darcy. Agreed. I am very devoted to your Mom and will work with her on the diagnosis and what it means.  I’ll contact you next week and I hope that your visit this weekend will not be too hard for you.”

I don’t know how you notice a decline in your patient and don’t think to ask the medical staff in her assisted living facility if her diagnosis had changed. Or if she has a diagnosis at all.

I guess she chalked it up to being old. Old people decline.

Which is how I found myself sitting outside my mom’s facility with her that weekend, holding her hand while she smoked with the other, dark brown eyes looking into tired blue eyes, asking if she understood that her new “worker” is from Hospice.

She nodded.

And do you know what that means? I asked, lump budding at the bottom of my throat.

I can’t remember what she said. But she knew.

By then her speech was faltering; sometimes she’d answer. Sometimes she wouldn’t. She didn’t really initiate anymore.

I upped my visits to weekly. Which doesn’t make me a hero. It’s easy to show up consistently knowing it’s time limited.

When my phone woke me that morning, I knew.  Didn’t have to brace for it.  I’d been mentally rehearsing that moment for years. Decades. Turning it over in my head, playing with different scenarios so I wouldn’t be caught off guard.

She didn’t die alone. She died in the company of a new aid. Not a person who loved her. But better than alone, right?

It was her choice. One she made repeatedly over the last two years. She had options. This is what she wanted.

I went to the funeral, which surprised me. I hadn’t planned to. Had told my mother I wasn’t going. She agreed. Too many opportunities for family drama. Funerals are for the living. Not the dead. She didn’t need me there, she said.

But humans have funerals for a reason. And yes, they’re for the living. I’m alive. And I needed closure. I’d have found it my own way but appreciated having the option of attending.

I’m sorry it took me a month to write this. I prefer to write when I’m over something — not in it. I crave the nicely wrapped box with a relatable takeaway inside. But I’m realizing I won’t be settled for some time.

I can tell you this for now: As much as I’ve loved my mother, I wasn’t able to love her the way I wanted to when she was alive. Now that she’s gone — transitioned — I’ve felt able to love her in a different way. A less protected way. A more vulnerable way. And for that, I’m grateful.