The Wrapping Up of Such Sadness.

It’s been 16 long and theiving months of it all; and now that it’s over and my mama has passed away, it feels like a dream: halfway surreal and traumatic, and halfway a street that’s enveloped by fog too thick to navigate.

It’s over.

It’s over.

All I can say is that it’s over.

..and the torment is wrapped up. My mama has lost the fight.

Candid Moments: Me and Mom on 1/29/2017.

Mom finally got through her second round of chemo yesterday…it’s been a helluva fight for her to just to be well enough to get the course finished. Also, she is officially free of the oxygen tank for now, which is BIG for her given she had 4% saturation when she went into the ICU. 

….told y’all my mama is a badass. 😎

I Know.

I know what you’re thinking…

You’re thinking dark things to yourself now…like:

how all of those people in your past, the ones you helped nurse through to recovery from breast cancer, colon cancer, even a brain tumor; they’ve all gotten well and forgotten about you, when you needed those kindly offered favors returned. Oh Mama, how well I perceive how you feel.

You’re thinking about all the years that you poured out of yourself into others who are long dead already; you’re thinking about how short your end of the stick turned out to be; you’re thinking that you’ve been conquered by the things that other people do or say…or don’t do or say; you think it’s time to resign and become this helpless refugee who can’t find the motivation in your brain to keep your body moving your bones.

I’m thinking about how strong your spirit is when I look down onto your drawn face and seek out any flicker of light within those sunken eyes; I’m thinking back onto my youngest recollections of you: a beautiful woman in a skirt and pantyhose, wrenching at a flat tire on the freeway shoulder – not giving a fuck. I’m thinking about how much you have gone through in your hard lifetime already, even before Cancer pirated your body and brain; before your partner abandoned you and you became homeless…and, when I think about these things, I can barely breathe. I’m thinking about how you have the right to decide when you’re too tired to fight this bullshit life any longer, to “throw in the towel” as you said this morning to my nodding head and tear-streaked face. I’m thinking about so many things that make me feel as if I’m being strong-armed by some invisible being, robbed and stripped of my medals and badges.

You’re thinking it’s time to go; I’m thinking how much I hate the fact that I understand how you feel, completely.

Mama, you are not helpless, you could never be that; you’re not built that way…but you can be tired; you can be forlorn; just don’t be gone too soon.

The Immensity Of It All.

It feels as if I have swum too far out and snapped my board in half against a storm.

It feels like I am ever-battered by the disappearance and return of surprise rogue breakers.

It feels so full of darkened, smoky expectations and brewing anxieties.

It feels like such a tiny, shrunken world.

It feels as though my chest and esophagus, ears and eyes sizzle with sadness and grief.

It feels so impossible to take this reality into myself, to accept it as truth.

It feels so immense and heavy and is so hard to carry.

But I am forced to pick it up.

Selective Listening.

I was aware of the seemingly minor discrepancies that have popped up between my mom’s and aunt’s stories about trivial things at first – but increasingly, these slight alterations in the ways that they perceive things have grown into regular spats between them. I feel like a small child again, stuck between my mom and dad when they argued and said awful things about each other. But now my mom is my dad’s role and my aunt is in my mom’s. My dad and aunt are both “by the book” people; each being a law-abiding citizen and tax-paying voter. My mom…well my mom is just my mom…she’s not into any category by itself, she’s too much of a social butterfly (or used to be) to sit still very for long.

My aunt used to be an ICU nurse, years ago when I was young, before becoming an attorney on the County Counsel; she married well (in terms of security and stability, at least – he’s a jar-head and also a retired lawyer) I think when they are alone, they hardly ever say a word to each other. She loves basketball (being 5’11’, long and lean with legs to stop traffic, even at her age), loves good food and wine, and fosters a rather warped (though rich) sense of humor.

My mom used to move furniture with her (soon-to-be EX) husband, cross-country for decades. We all know the horrible story of her choice in a mate, so she is currently alone. My poor mom is newly homeless, jobless, dying of cancer in one hospital setting after the next with the same three (sometimes five or six) faces hovering around her constantly; mama told me yesterday that she feels helpless and hopeless – like the thorn in the foot.

It was at the wrapping up of such a discouraged conversation, as I folded the paperwork pertaining to her life insurance policy and her bank account back into my purse to mail off on Tuesday, that I turned around to see my stepdad in the doorway of her room, standing with his eyes on the floor in total submission, almost as if he were kneeling at the chopping block already.

Apparently, since my visit to him, he found the balls (although, too late to make any difference) to eradicate my offspring from his residence “for good”, so he claimed.

It became obvious to me within a matter of minutes that they he and my mom have been in contact quite recently, as she had no issue with him pulling up a chair to her bed and sitting with her.

The things he came there for were 1) brought with him certain pieces of mail that mama has been worrying over; 2) told her that he doubled his own life insurance policy since he has no known medical conditions; lastly, but most shockingly and painfully, he announced,

 

“Boo is out of my life for good.”

(I say “painfully” because it was obviously a painful reality for him as he said it to her).

It was at that point that, despite my threats against his life if he came near her, I opted to leave and give them some time once I received the nod and wink from mama. I didn’t want to listen to any of the unhealthy bullshit that they have both grown accustomed to over the time that Boo has been pirating their’ (former) household and lives. I didn’t want to listen to my stepdad (my former karate sensei from the summer between kindergarten and first grade that’s been part of mom’s tribe ever since) talk about planning his own suicide due to the irreversibly damaging choices he’s made for both of them since her diagnosis. And maybe seeing him all broken down and with his bottom lip quivering like that will give my mom some sense of something, after all – who knows?

When my Aunt hears of this, she will lose her gods damned mind and be very angry with me for NOT making my stepdad leave immediately; but that wasn’t what my mom wanted at the time and she is a grown and lucid (for now at least) woman still, isn’t she?

 

Human Loyalties.

Today, I want to discuss the notion of loyalty; and, what loyalty means at the end of the day to me, at least.

My mama has been married to my my stepdad for just over 31 years (their 31st anniversary was on 28th of December); she has NEVER strayed on him or done him dirty in all that time (outside of the trivial bullshit that people do to each other when they spend too much time together) – and he has never done her dirty either.

When she was diagnosed with terminal cancer on December 6, his initial response was to remain in full-blown denial about it until she nearly died the first time she was taken to the ER (the sudden fever of 104 degrees, C-dif and septic pneumonia). It was at that point that he must have realized how near any time that they had remaining together was to being over; and he began to display dickhead behaviors such as flaking off her appointments, not answering or returning her calls and, most shockingly, never coming to visit her when she was recovering in the hospital ICU.

My mom’s heart was broken by this alteration in his behavior, needless to say; and her feelings toward him changed, accordingly. Due to her compromised immune system, her release from the hospital required certain things directly pertaining to her environment and its safety in the face of her vulnerable and weakened state. Again, he did nothing to make this happen for her to be able to go home to her own house to recover. He refused to kick my meth-addicted daughter out completely and permanently (methamphetamine smoke is NOT an okay element for someone in my mother’s condition, nor are any of the people or things associated with it’s destructive nature); he failed to make the few adjustments that were asked of him, failed to show up for the jobs that he and I were supposed to be covering for my mom, and eventually – he disappeared altogether. Yes. Disappeared.

During the past few weeks of living Hell for my mom and the rest of our family, he has been doing gods know what somewhere else, without even a call to inquire about whether his wife was dead or alive. When my mom began to show signs of true delirium (due to a brain seizure that lasted for 5 days), she would re-surface to lucidity pretty often at first. During those times, she would be heart-broken over and over again to “learn” that her husband had abandoned her. Watching her go through that repeatedly was one of the hardest things I have ever had endure, and something snapped inside of me during that blur of days strung together in my mind; it was something I will never forgive him for, doing that to her during such a crucial time of her dwindling life.

When she returned to the hospital in the grips of the seizure (this most recent time), I finally had the freedom and time to track his sorry down and talk to him face to face, a circumstance that may or may not have been what my mom wanted me to do, but was done either way. I described in minute detail, the nightmarish existence my mama had come under over and over upon realizing his absence in her life; I told him that I hoped he and my daughter were happy for what they’d done to my mom; I told him if I ever saw him anywhere near her hospital room or subsequent residence, I would have a bullet put through his brain. I told him what a piece of useless shit he had been turned into in my own perception, and I also told him that my mom should have left him years ago. The very last thing that I made sure to point out to him was the way that: if the tables had been turned and he had been diagnosed with cancer or some other terminal illness, my mom NEVER would have abandoned him. NEVER.

Before I left, I reiterated my threats to him, if he comes near my mama again for any reason.

And those, as rough around the edges as they might be, are my random thoughts on human “loyalties”.

Guess Who Has Resurfaced?

…For now, at least.

And, I will not squawk at a single thing about her mental return, no matter it’s duration. Gods, it is just so fucking good to see my REAL mom again, after the last few weeks of her  degenerative Living Hell. I honestly believed that I would never get to talk with her all about the traumatic events that have led us here; I was sure we’d never be able to sit and sift through the details that ended with the horrid, 5-day-long brain seizure that she endured right under my nose; I was certain that I would never know why and how it all went to shit so fast for her after her diagnosis…I had prepared myself for the reality that my REAL mama died recently, and what I had in her place was the “New Mom”.

(Didn’t I say that there was definitely something besides depression, fatigue, side-effects of chemo or simply late stage cancer happening to my mama?)

The rest of her once: thick, long, widely admired, randomly touched by friends and strangers, alike “dirty dishwater blonde” hair had fallen out while she was in delirium; and she was not happy at all. A few fruit cups and an whole milk cappuccino later, she was directing me through her bureau to find her new t-shirt. It’s  a shirt I bought her when her chemo started last month; though she didn’t find it amusing, much less wore it. She sported it tonight with her bald head and nose hose as I wheeled her around the grounds of the rehab center in the pouring rain, with the song ‘Whose Crying Now?’ by Journey (her all-time favorite band) playing in her lap. She was totally alert and full of her normal piss and vinegar tonight. I loved every minute of it. It was a gods damned good night.

Delay.

FOREWORD:

They say that the delirium is late-stage cancer – nothing more. Perhaps it is, I can’t say at this point. What I can say is that the delirious woman is still my mom; is still worthy of my love and support; is still a person who I love very much, suffering…dying.

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Let me tell you a short (though, repetitive) story; one I have come to know by heart without consciously trying…one that plays itself out through each and every nightmare I have if I am lucky enough to fall asleep deeply enough…one that has come to define each and every “visit” I get with my mama, anymore:

The Bedpan: It is an inevitable circumstance, no matter where mama is.

In whichever facility that she is hospitalized, she is bedridden and increasingly unable to move without severe pain. She, therefor, has been reduced to a bedpan or commode when she is lucid, or, a fucking adult diaper, otherwise.

In her lucid times, the diaper must come off, else she have a massive coronary. During these interim of semi-coherence for her, is the perpetually running song and dance of trying to go to the bathroom. My mother is on diuretics for edema in her legs at present, and therefor has to pee like every 15-20 minutes no matter which state she is in…a detail that seems to define every moment that I spend with her anymore: the horrid revolving door of trying to get a fucking bedpan in time.

The orderlies and nurses are slow as molasses in any setting we have been; they seem to take pleasure in the circumstance of making my mama wait until she can’t hold it any longer, and a mess ensues, without fail.

Then, there I am: frustrated beyond words with the staff for letting this happen AGAIN; and there’s mama: so broken down and defeated by the humbling experience that she’s enduring, she just cries while I clean her up. Each and every time this occurs, it sinks my mama lower into her resignation to death and departure. Each time she cries, it does something to me that I can’t yet find the words to express accurately, but I can say with certainty that her tears in this context make me want to seriously hurt someone, or worse.

As a result of this hideous cycle of requests for basic assistance, delayed responses, messes to clean up, and mama’s subsequent withdrawal further into darkness, I have begun to absolutely dread going to see my dying mother at all.

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More (Scattered) Thoughts.

I’ve written about it before, the way the shine went out of my mom’s eyes upon the death of her mother; I’ve written about the extended period of mourning and bereavement that she experienced (and continues to experience in many ways, even now); I’ve written about the weird things she did after her mom passed away late one night, i.e. refusing to take off the sweater that belonged to my grandma for at least a year afterwards, or the taking up of chain-smoking cigarettes like it was a sport and she held the title of Champion (she is now paying for those solo marathon smoking fests that sometimes lasted throughout the night on the front porch of her former home). I have written about all these intricacies belonging to the grief that seems to have drained the life right out of my mama in the end; and I have picked apart the ins and outs to the responses and behaviors attached to my (former) mom’s processing of it all. I can now say that I honestly and thoroughly understand and comprehend on a deep level: how and why the shine left her eyes with the emotional blow of her mom’s death – I can see the shine going dull in my own eyes little by little too, if I dare look into a mirror. My skin has changed in texture and color, my mouth perpetually wears a frown – my shoulders sag, I sigh a lot, and deeply.

I have also been on an emotional kind of high-alert in regard to my mom’s feelings and her personal level of overall peace throughout her recent diagnosis of cancer (her death sentence) and the subsequent nightmare-esque circumstances that have become our day to day existence. I have been watching her stiffen her lip and put on the dog through it all, telling herself and everyone else that she doesn’t think cancer is going to kill her, and things like that. I have been able to sympathize with her and what she’s going through all along so far for the most part; but I still can’t seem to bring myself to imagine the world after she’s gone…

I have written about my many longstanding issues with my mom stemming from childhood; I have written about the many years we let pass by hardly knowing one another at all; and the things we knew about each other were not born of fond sentiment (on my own part, at least). I have always been so afraid to turn out like my mom did – the way my young brain has molded her in my recollections from early on – raving and spitting mad, a foul-mouthed Squaw, the drunken breaker of my mine and my brothers’ hearts. I spent so long in judgment of her for how she dealt with the loss of her youngest child, my brother JJ; for how she never allowed me to even mention him in her engaged presence after his tragic death; for how she never acknowledged his hurt and pain, even after he was gone – like I am anyone pass judgment on anyone – look at my kid, for Gods sake. I see so many things differently nowadays, and am glad that I have had the chances to accept her as she is while she was still able to comprehend that acceptance and appreciate what it all meant to both of us.

It’s a weird jumble of thoughts that have been swimming been around in my head and heart lately; and it’s all rather hard to put into words, if not impossible, but I want to try:

I see that we are each, indeed, creatures made of the same stardust – all of us.

I see how it’s a fact of Life – the very essence of Life – everything we do and everything we are is seeded by our parents; each thought that we have, even subconsciously, somehow and on some level ties back to the ones who bore us, nurtured us or contributed to our young lives; the moments when we think out loud and say things that we don’t even completely understand to ourselves, or when we quietly chuckle at a distant memory  from our childhood – it’s all loosely, but surely woven into the very essence of the many individualized notions of love, of being loved, of loving the best we know how to love, to the bitter end of Life…be it ours or our parents’ end, it will be the most bitter taste that the other has ever had to swallow. I know that the sun will not cease to shine on the day after my mom lets go of this world; I know that things will carry on like they always did: cars will drive people to work, and people will get married and babies will be born and my family will eat dinner together somewhere and drunkenly celebrate my mama’s Life…I just can’t picture it.

 

On a lighter note, I got a new job at the cemetery/mortuary today. And I’m not being horribly un-funny either, I am serious. I’ll be keeping books in the back offices, but I think it’s rather fitting all the same…a place where you are encouraged to wear black or dark colors to work EVERYDAY; a place where you aren’t allowed to laugh in the hallways for any reason, a place where you get kudos for the most sullen look in the office. I thought it was perfect. And apparently, so did they.

White Noise.

It’s mind boggling how quickly everything can evaporate away into nothingness; it’s amazing to behold: the way that within the span of time it takes to order certain documents and sign certain papers, everything around you shifts into a totally different form, shape and appearance than that of the former “everything” that defined existence…how little anything means all of the sudden, how trivial the majority of things are in Life…the cold, hard fact that here is no justice, even in death.

I have been catching myself saying things out loud to nobody in particular sometimes; hateful and angry things that come from the bottom of my tattered heart…things like,

 

“Fuck every God, fuck the Gods…there are NO Gods…and if there are Gods, the Gods are bitch-made pieces of shit!”

 

or

 

“Kiddie-fuckers and psychopathic murderers, terrorists and those sick fucks that torture and abuse animals…they’re all walking around, they’re all taking deep breaths, somehow…as my Mama suffers, as she fixedly circles the proverbial drain in a fucking hospital bed, fighting for even the misery of spending one more day that way.”

 

The past two nights were spent consecutively in the same ER, watching my mom’s stiffened figure shake and tremor on a gurney as she detoxed from every pill she takes for chronic pain; nobody cares at all about her because she won’t be staying (she’s a Kaiser member) and my brain felt as if it began to sizzle at some point. I sat on the stool next to her, stifling silent, frustrated tears as I watched my mom feebly trying to scratch at the neck brace/head collar that the hospital staff refused to remove for over 24 hours straight (they supposedly needed some elusive “trauma team” to clear her of the possibility of some serious fracture). She was FINALLY moved upstairs to the trauma care unit early this morning, whereupon she promptly fell hard asleep for the first time since her arrival, at least. The time leading up to this glorious sleep was spent miserably and tortuously in attempting to comfort and calm her delirium. Two nights and days of sheer helplessness and uselessness at her side; just a fucking breathing lump of waste rubbing her head and holding her hand as she swallowed moment after moment of terror-filled hallucinations and imagined unwelcome visitors. At one point, she was thoroughly convinced that “someone, a person” was looking at her from the ceiling tile, before becoming absolutely enthralled by the back of her own hand upon pointing up to show me which tile.

She asked me,

 

“Did I try to kill myself?”

 

This was an unexpected query coming from my mother; definitely a quite surreal elapse of time between she and I in the moment. This struck a chord in me, the daughter that my mama has nearly lost to suicide a handful of times throughout our rocky history together, to hear coming out of my mom’s mouth, as, she has been many things in her time alive – but NEVER has she before displayed even remotely suicidal ideation or tendencies. I stuttered and stammered in response, before just saying the truth:

 

“I don’t know Mama, I don’t think so…I think the pills were by accident, in confusion or something…I hope so, at least…”

 

I was thinking to myself at the time of how I’d surely want to die if I were in her shoes…ditched by my husband of 30 plus years when I needed him most; forgotten by the granddaughter I spent almost 20 years trying to show unconditional love to in attempt to make up for the absence I offered her mom; ripped from any semblance of normalcy or familiarity altogether and made to feel so sick that my hair all fell out;

…need I go on?

Torrential Rain.

Mom went back through the ER tonight via ambulance again; she is still in hospital…she is slipping away again. She was reaching out for me this afternoon and telling me I was beautiful. Her body has been doing that recoiling reflexive thing again and she can’t relax her muscles. She has been taking pills she isn’t meant to take when she isn’t supposed to take them…I knew she isn’t right lately, everyone says it’s the chemo…but, no – it’s something more than just that, it’s not fatigue or depression or even a fever…I don’t know what it is exactly that has gotten her so far out there but something other than just side effects of her treatment is at play, mark my words. And in the meantime, she has slipped into full-blown delirium.

I am in the process of accepting that I’ve seen my mama for the last time already, my real mama, at least. This acceptance thing…it’s been difficult to do when my new mama is so reminiscent of my real mama at times, and I often catch myself trying to talk to my new mama like she was my real mama, only to be snapped back to reality by the reality of talking to a human wall that never responds. I miss my mama so much and I catch myself longing for her even as I sit beside her. It’s so hard to see her so weak and feeble, it’s so hard to have the responsibility of feeding her because she will not remember to eat otherwise, she stares off into nothingness and she drools on herself…my mom drools on herself. She made a mess of her room today for no reason, she is so confused and I can’t un-confuse her, it’s so fucking fucked.

My New Mom.

Because of the collective whirlwind effect created by the sudden appearance of, and the subsequent hijacking of any former Life by this hideous reality, this thing known only as “my mama’s terminal cancer”:

  • I pushed it to the limit with keeping her with me at my house (actually, just a single rented room in a home shared with 2 bachelors) and nearly bit off way more than my can possibly chew;
  • I nearly pushed myself to the point of no return in regard to my own sanity and my own abilities;
  • I allowed myself to totally reside on the back burner for too long, and in turn began the cycle of forgetfulness and neglect in light of my own basic needs and any prior commitments made before the nightmare of Anticipatory Grief entered my day to day existence.
  • I stiffened my upper lip and sucked it up – I refuse to ask anyone for anything in the context of help with my mom, especially my new mom, due to her total and complete lack of any sense of self.
  • I moved her to a place where she isn’t going to be waited on hand and foot like I had been doing for her – having such a personal caregiver isn’t a good routine for her overall independence, despite what she says now.
  • Since the move, she has slowly declined in mentality to the point where as of now, she is too confused to find or answer her phone 9 times out of 10; she still cannot walk on her own either for some reason; she forgets her medicines and forgets to eat, she doesn’t shower at a;; anymore unless she is made to do so; she has no sense of humor, the only remaining thing about my former mama was the crazy thick hair – but that has fallen out now.

 

It’s like I have slowly come to be caring for a total stranger; this person is nothing like my mama. My new mom is stoic and scowls at me for no reason; she snaps at me for offering to help her with things when she is struggling.

 

“I wish you would just get out of my face for a change!”

 

This was what she hissed at me on New Year’s Eve, when I showed up to surprise her with some sparkling cider and pizza. She said she was tired of seeing my face whenever she opened her eyes. I left well before midnight and cried the whole way home.

Not How It Was Meant To Be.

My mom’s cancer diagnosis has turned into my own waking fucking nightmare in every possible way. In the beginning, In the very beginning, I committed myself to going through her treatment regimen  with her, as a supportive and constant and compassionate presence for her to depend on. This was when she was living at home, before she got pneumonia, when she was still fairly physically mobile and very mentally capable. Since the ICU, everything about my mom’s situation has been altered abruptly and uncomfortably for me.
Suddenly, she can’t go home to her own house because it’s not safe for her to be there for various reasons respective to her ability to heal from chemo and now, pneumonia as well. This doesn’t even take into account, the C Dificil infection she is barely recovered from, either. Nor,  does it mention the 12 tanks of oxygen needed at all times now. I haven’t been able to sleep for going on two weeks already, and I feel like tonight  (the night my mom is released from her scary hospitalization) marks just the beginning of a fucking living hell. It has already begun. I am sitting in the kaiser parking lot fuming while the pharmacy fixes the nurse’s fuck-up on my mom’s meds so that we can finally get the fuck out of this horrendously miserable place. But its not as if that means anything to me, though, as its the aftermath of all this fucking bullshit that’s probably going to drive me to fucking kill myself, or die of a massive fucking coronary. The stress and pressure of so much misdirected responsibility is fucking immense, and I do not appreciate any of what’s happening at all. After this absolutely chaotic and miserable experience of becoming a full-time caregiver to a mother who is meaner now than she ever was, I will no longer be willing to be the compassionate person I wanted to be. I no longer want to bring my mom to all of her appointments and support her like I committed to, not when I’ve somehow been forced into becoming a fucking full time caretaker. This is fucking horseshit. I understand people cant prepare for things like cancer, but I am absolutely disgusted by the absolute lack of planning whatsoever for simply the event of a serious medical emergency or basic aging. As a result of her poor choice in a “mate”, her total lack of any kind of organizational skills, and her obsessive compulsive lifelong  hoarding, I have suddenly and completely been thrown into the very unwelcome role of being THE ONLY person to CONSTANTLY care for her like I am a personal fucking nurse. The worst part about all of this is that my mom is in full blown denial about everything. She is delusional. She is mean and shitty to me as I bend myself into a pretzel to not leave her on her own, as she will be without me. THIS is NOT how I want to remember her; I did NOT want to grow even more embittered and resentful towards her at the end of her fucking life. But guess what? It didn’t matter what I wanted when she was healthy; and it matters even less now. My stepfather literally disappeared, she cant find him and he has not seen her once since she got put into ICU. She suddenly wants to divorce him (though, understandably) but who do you think has to take care of all that paperwork and emailing, lawyering and mailing, etc? Mom sure can’t. My brother has been useless, as have any and all of my mother’s siblings save for one, who is only around at random and when her hair looks good or whatever; she does this so she can rub in my mom’s face how healthy she is. I don’t really like her, never have. And really, she hasn’t been here to help with my mom at all when I really think about it, she went ahead and had Xmas at her house (a 45 min drive from mine) and insisted we come, which was Hell. She says things like,

“You are so capable, you can do this, you don’t give yourself enough credit…”

She says these things to me from the other side of her champagne glass with her pinky finger stuck in the air, standing in her massive kitchen, built on a sprawling winery property that she owns. She says this to me as I am worrying nonstop about how I am going to pay rent this month, as I have not worked since my mama’s diagnosis, being so directly tied to her treatment and subsequent rapid decline.