September 23, 2008
Perspectives in Death & Dying
Word Count 725
My mother is dying, and we are already trying to make up for lost time. During visits we talk about how she’s feeling, mentally and physically. My mom was in a terrible car crash while under the influence of drugs. When the car collided with a telephone post her ankle was shattered and she was in and out of consciousness for several days. Six surgeries and over five years later she is permanently disabled, due to infection and poor care. She also suffers from mental illnesses ranging from clinical depression to borderline personality disorder and has not held a job in nine years. As I grew up I watched my mother’s mind and body deteriorate. She has gained weight after countless stays in psychiatric wards and rehabilitation programs, and her teeth are falling out and her face has aged tremendously as a result of prolonged Meth use. If my mother looks like she has been to hell and back, she has, but I still look at her with admiration and love because I share those scars. I have suffered along with her through her lengthy battle with drugs and alcohol.
Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that we are sitting together talking, playing with her kitty Oreo, or watching a movie I brought over. I’m glad we have a good relationship again, because when I was a teenager that wasn’t the case. Throughout my adolescence I often felt more like a mother than a daughter. My brother and I helplessly watched my mother’s life spiral down the drain. Since she couldn’t take care of us, I moved in with my Grandmother and my younger brother lived with my step-dad. Reluctantly, we became accustom to our unstable lives. Before my mother hit rock bottom she lost our home, wrecked her car, and was in and out of mental institutions. Some of the worst times I remember were while she was using Meth and we were forced to exclude her from family functions. I felt guilty when she asked me for money, I wanted to help my mother but I refused to help her habit. It is so confusing and upsetting when you can’t trust your own mother. I was forced to lie at times and sometimes the best thing I could do for her and for me was to avoid her altogether. At her worst my mom was shooting up in our bathroom and selling herself for drugs. Eventually, she became unrecognizable, an empty shell, less than the shadow of my former mother.
When I was younger and my mother was still well, we used to grow fruits and vegetables in our garden, go fishing, and cut wood to heat our two-story home. She was a good cook and never forgot a goodnight kiss, this is how I want to remember my mother. I am wiser because of my mother’s experiences, and I have begun the process of finding my own voice. I was only thirteen years old the first time my mom attempted suicide and sent us down our current path. Before her breakdown my mom never told me much about her past. She grew up in an abusive environment and was the only one home with her grandmother when she died. Her and her three sisters were put in foster care, she eventually earned her GED and had me when she was twenty-two, the age I am now. My mom has always told my brother and I that we are “the best things she ever did” but now we are the ones forced to face the consequences of her lifestyle.
The truth is that my mom will die if she doesn’t get a Liver transplant. In addition to the other conditions I already mentioned, she contracted Hepatitis through a blood transfusion after the birth of my brother, this in conjunction with alcoholism has accelerated the possibility of Liver failure. While my mother is afraid of dying from this disease, she says “the pain is worth a second chance” but in order to even be added to the Liver transplant list, she has to be completely off drugs and alcohol for two years. My biggest fear is that even if my mom can stay clean and sober for two years and get her name on the list, she may die before they reach her name. [excluded]
“I have not used any patient, family, or care giver’s actual names in this report except where I’ve received their permission to do so. I took, and will continue to take, every reasonable step to respect the privacy and dignity of the persons with whom I came in contact.”