My step-mom passed away on Monday after a long illness. I had been long estranged from that side of the family for a variety of reasons, but when I got word on Friday that she was on her deathbed, I set those reasons aside and showed up at the hospital.
If I couldn't live with her, the least I could do is be there for her when she died.
I wasn't prepared for what I saw when I arrived. My Dad, shockingly aged and frail in a way I've never seen before. My step-brothers, one of whom I haven't seen in a over a decade, and his kids, neither of whom I've met. And then my step-mom, laying half-sideways in the bed, medical equipment obscuring her swollen face.
When I looked at her, all the bitterness and anger dissipated and I just felt sadness and compassion.
I was on death watch for three days, while also trying to stay focused at work, and each day she got progressively worse. By the end, she was at home, no longer connected to monitors, no longer receiving any medical treatment whatsoever, and she was barely conscious.
I sat down to say some final words, not sure if she could hear me. I couldn't bring myself to say the words "I'm sorry" but I told her I loved her and that I was grateful. She couldn't reply.
My Dad is heartbroken, kept aloft only by the optimistic dreams of a widower: working on his train set, or selling everything and traveling the country in an RV. I worry that optimism will be swallowed by grief in the coming months. He may not be ready for the independence that has been suddenly foist upon him.
I was glad, at least, to get some closure.