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Balance her between your eyes
It's hard to say how much time is left; it's always been hard. We didn't talk about it directly, but I know my mom didn't think she'd have much time after her diagnosis based on her insistence that we keep things as normal as possible for as long as we could. If I could guess, she probably thought she had months, maybe years. I know, in the deepest part of my heart, she had no idea it would be 18 years.
Every year comes with its own reasons to think this is the year she will die. Every year comes with some stretch of times where I live between two worlds--the one where grief can hum in the background and I can do normal things like grocery shop and do dishes without incident, and the one where all the edges of existing blur and I feel like I'm walking through some sort of nightmarish dream.
I started to convince myself that maybe she wouldn't die, maybe she would outlive us all. It feels that way. As I watch friends bury parents who hadn't even been remotely sick when my mom was, as more friends and acquaintances numbers get pulled in the lottery nobody wants to win, I sometimes wonder if God forgot about my mother.
It's feeling real again, seems inevitable when I see the way her bones protrude from under her skin. There is not much more that can waste away before there's nothing left. Swallowing has become more difficult and the cough deep in her chest makes me wonder how much of what's she's being fed is ending up in her lungs instead of her stomach.
I am trying to live my life despite it. I realize that has been the case all of my adult life. Twenty years of making plans and holding my breath. I am tired. I am angry. I know grief and life and hurt are not meant to be compared--it's useless anyway--but I wonder why us, why her? I live between the world that exists, and what could have been if my mom was still here. But I know the end is near, at least nearer than it's been. I hold my breath more, book trips and tickets and always get the insurance now, "just in case."
I do my best to move forward, but it's hard to breathe sometimes, with the buzzing electricity of anger and sorrow and "what could have beens" that surge inside me. The cells in me that were once hers, tethering us both to this earth while her body decides what it will do next. I carry her with me, in me, always, and I feel like I could burst at the seams at any minute. Is this what it means to love? Is there ever a point where I'll let go?
Above all else, right now I am tired. Tired of carrying that ache that does not go away, only dims or hides. It's been so long and so much life has grown around it despite it, but it shadows every bit of my being, an invisible veil between me and the rest of the world.