We’ve been waiting. That’s pretty much all our family does now. It’s our full-time job. We wait.
My mother-in-law, Mary, lies on her deathbed, breathing labored breaths. She has been unresponsive for a long time. Hospice remains closeby, administering end-of-life care. She hasn’t eaten anything or swallowed any liquids in six days.
And yet her pulse continues.
“I’ve never seen a heart this strong,” said the nurse. “She’s an anomaly.”
The nurses have been telling us that Mary might pass any day now, and they’ve been saying this for three weeks.
For three arduous weeks the family has camped in this house and lived beside Mary’s bed. We have spent hours, days and sleepless nights amidst humming oxygen machines, plastic medical tubes, orphaned roller walkers and abandoned wheelchairs.
And Mary’s rugged heart keeps defying modern medicine.
There have been moments when we thought it was going to happen. When we all gathered around her because we were certain death was visiting this house.
Mary’s stats would plummet. Her pulse would become irregular, her oxygen levels would drop. And we would all brace for
Last night this happened. It looked like the end. So we assumed our battle stations. Her children held her hands, stroked her hair, kissed her forehead and told her it was okay to leave. I stood in the background with my arm around Miss Sandra, one of the caregivers. There were hot tears in my eyes.
Mary’s breathing became weak. The rattling in her chest grew louder. This was it, we were all thinking. “Goodbye,” we were all saying in our own ways. “Be free,” said her daughter. “We all love you,” said her son.
Two hours passed.
I started getting a charley horse in my left calf muscle.
Four. Five. Six hours.
Eventually, everyone started to laugh. At first, this laughter felt incredibly irreverent—this was, after all, a woman’s deathbed. But…