IT’S NOT EASY TO KILL YOUR MOTHER
It’s not easy to kill your mother. Yet that’s just what my brother, Jake, and I are going to do this afternoon. We have arrived at the hospice just before the 4.30pm shift change, counting on the confusion of that period to allow us the privacy we need. We do not speak as we walk down the corridor towards our mother’s room. The whole place is painted in bright, cheerful colours but it doesn’t do anything to mask the smell of sickness and death. Not even the disinfectant does that.
She has been here almost three months now, since the disease progressed so far we could no longer take care of her at home. It started with a slight slurring of her speech and difficulty in swallowing. Endless doctors and tests later she was diagnosed with motor-neuron disease, something Jake, a paramedic, had suspected from the start. It has just started to affect her lungs and we know that it’s only a matter of time before she becomes dependent on a machine to breathe. We know she wouldn’t want that, wouldn’t want to live that way. So Jake and I have come here today to kill her.
The nurses are all milling in the hallway as we walk towards our mother’s room. We pause to say hello to a few we know well. Jake and I have been permanent fixtures for the three months our mother has been here, both of us having basically put our lives on hold to take care of her.
And there she is. She seems so small now, her body curling in on its self as it wastes away. She is bone thin, skin stretched tight over her skeleton. But her eyes remain the same. I can look into them and see my mother still exists somewhere in this ruined body, trapped with no way to communicate, no way out. Except death.
“Ready?” Jake looks over at me and I glance at him, realising we have not spoken or locked eyes since leaving the house.
“I guess…” I am uncertain now, not sure I can do this.
“Say goodbye,” Jake instructs, always the boss. We both lean over to kiss our mother’s hollow cheeks.
“It’s okay, Mama,” Jake whispers. “It’ll be over soon. We won’t let this go on any longer.” Mama’s eyes are clear as she looks at us both and I know this is what she wants. But still I cannot stop the tears from rolling down my face.
“Goodbye,” I manage, “I love you.”
Jake and I pick up a corner each of the pillow and, as we lift it, our eyes meet once more. Jake is crying too, the first time I remember seeing him cry since he was fourteen and broke his arm falling out of Johnny DeMarco’s treehouse. He gives an almost imperceptible nod and we lower the pillow over our mother’s face, pressing it down to suffocate her.
Five minutes, without any struggle, she is dead.
Do let me know what you think, okay?