My mind works in moments, I catalog things that way, good or bad. How we cope with our moments is what ultimately defines who we are. What we carry with us, what we let hurt us, and what we let change us. What I have realized is that there have been times in my life where someone else’s moments became defining times in life. Those times when choices someone else made completely changed who I was. Times where you have no control over how much something hurts you because it wasn’t your moment.
I hadn’t seen my mother in awhile, not since Michael had moved in. I was at work at the hospital, it was a normal day, nothing different from the one before. The reality of how life works is so hard to comprehend, how you wake up and go through your routine, having no idea that it would be one of those days that changes everything. As I scrolled through the census of patients, there it was, her name, next to the words “overdosed coma.” She was in the ICU, as I walked up to those doors and picked up the phone, it was unbearable to have to say her name.
She was intubated, and had been unresponsive since she got there. The nurse began to tell me what she knew, my mother had taken an excessive amount of pills and fallen in the bath tub, she had laid in the water for several hours. She had hypothermia and had no pulse when paramedics arrived at her apartment. Her face was bruised and she had dried blood in her hair. It felt like I didn’t know the woman laying there. I had always known that her addiction would escalate, but this? Maybe it was that I had never thought about the medical side of how she would go. I had thought about losing her, more times than I could admit, but the picture of what that actually looked like was something I had never prepared myself for.
A phone call to Michael filled in some of the gaps of what happened. He had not been home, she had taken all of his pills, and he found her in the bath tub when he returned. He called an ambulance and left her apartment. Funny how that works, her “son”, someone she felt so loyal to, couldn’t be there when things got tough. An addict has the luxury of avoiding the wave of someone else’s moment. Its a selfish, defensive disease, like a bomb shelter that keeps reality out. And here I was standing alone next to my mother under the weight of a moment she chose.
The days and nights that followed were devastating. It gave me opportunity to dig through her life and once again try to pick up the pieces. Bills hadn’t been paid in months and I made Michael leave her apartment. He was emotional and concerned, but admittedly could not go to the hospital to see her because he was using and unstable. I was so conflicted by my own reaction, was I preparing for her death or was I trying to control her environment for when she went home. The next couple days were a blur, sitting there staring at her, lifeless and cold.
On the fourth day the question came, did I want to attempt to stop life support and see if she could breath on her own? The answer was something I wasn’t sure of, I didn’t know if it would be harder to lose her or have her live and watch her have more time to hurt herself. Was I hoping she would wake up or was I hoping she’d finally be at peace? This would end up being the biggest internal conflict I ever experienced. And when they stopped the machines, and pulled the tube from her throat, she decided to stay. It was not her day, her life wasn’t over. The fear of what she would do with more time overcame me. No choice I had made brought me to that place, but that breath she took, forever changed me. Our moments became like muddy water, no line between where hers stopped and mine started. Her moments were a part of me.