"Jim, do you think we're getting close," Margaret asks, casting her eyes to her sleeping slumped shrunken mother in the nearby recliner. "She just said she was going to get up and make spaghetti." After lingering on her mom her eyes unfocus and tear up , transforming her face to that of a little girl resigning herself to unfathomable sadness for the foreseeable future.
"No, I think she had a precipitous downturn but has reached a plateau where she will persist awhile. She will never be like she was before, we have to get used to the new her, " I sighed. I could be wrong (I am speaking from memory of my own parent's decline) , I have been wrong a lot about Donna this past month she went from older woman with lump in her breast to dying woman with three different cancers eating her breast, lungs, liver, and possibly more lurking in the recesses of her physical body the doctors have not scanned.
The plateau is: sleeping for brief periods, waking up in panic or imperious demand for alleviating a physical pain, speaking incoherently (her gums have shrunken, her dentures no longer fit, she slurs) whatever concern floats up when she achieves consciousness.
"Oh Jim I am all agitated, I feel like I am dying too, " Margaret tells me after tending to the latest thing wrong . Nauseau. Dry heaves.
I know what she means: a hollowing out of the inner vitality, a sense of frenetic need for pointless action which will bring no real help , the mental exhaustion of not achieving real communication, the reward of her falling asleep we take advantage of by hunching inour chairs fretting over Donna's next return to awareness.
What gets to me is what seems to me to be the miasma that is the substructure we take for granted, the human body, the so called miracle of evolution. It is thought of as the self sustaining organism with an intelligence of its own; and it is, til insulted beyond possibility of repair, whereupon this self sustenance becomes a horrific parody.
She doesn't eat anymore.
The nurse explained that when death is near, there becomes a competition so to speak between the heart and lungs to persist. All energy goes to these organs. Too much would be taken up by digestion.
And she persists in a body which brings only agony.
And we are empathetic: we take on her agony and die along with her, and when she actually dies I suspect we shall be reborn.