I came of age the day I lied to my mother. I was 50 and holding her hand. She was 84 and dying. It was Rosh Hoshanah
Her bones were trying to suck in dark bedroom air. I pleaded “Let me take you to the doctor…”
Her next to last words, “No.”
Pulling out wishes from years ago ‘save me unless I’m really dead,’ pleading again “you are in such distress…” and then my lie, “I promise you I’ll bring you home after. I promise you you’ll come home…”
Her last words, “OK.”
Other than the ER doctors telling me to wake my sister in Brooklyn NOW tell her to come to the hospital NOW, holding my mother’s hand was like any other 3:00 a.m. medical emergency, only this time she wasn’t fighting, singing, charming and admonishing me about how it was all my fault.
She did not come home. She died where she didn’t want to die. But she did not die in pain or fear or loneliness. She did not die in a bedroom made with decades of misery and disappointment.
Because I lied, she died holding my hand while my sister and I talked like machine guns about something else in our mother’s life we didn’t understand, which is just about everything. No longer the child who had failed her, I stepped into morning air with knowledge only gotten from absolute endings, and became a woman who survived a decision.
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