Learning To Love You More




Assignment #31
Spend time with a dying person.

David Wang
Houston, Texas USA



I visited my mother, Susan Wang, in her room at the Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, Texas on Tuesday, September 30, 1997 at eight in the morning. She had been diagnosed with colon cancer three months ago and had undergone chemotherapy. Unfortunately the disease had already progressed too far into her body and was now confined to a room waiting to succumb to the disease. I drove in to watch over her while my father who had spent the night went home to change clothes and call relatives.
The room was dark when I first entered the door. The curtains were drawn but they glowed a bright orange color from the sunlight trying to shine through on the other side. The room resembled murky pond water. I could see dust floating by in the room only appearing in my sight as they pass through random sunbeams streaming into the room.
My mother laid on a bed surrounded by various equipment on the left side of her bed. Everything was quiet with the exception of the occasional beeping of a monitor or the shuffling of my mother's body in her bed. I helped replace the bed covers that had shifted from sleep overnight. I could see that she is clothed in a hospital gown that revealed her pale naked body. There were only trace amounts of sweat present despite the distressed look on her face. Her hair was wiry and thin and all over her face. The chemotherapy was not enough to make all of her hair fall out but I would find a lot of hair on her bed and pillow.
Behind her head attached to the wall was a large plastic cylinder. It was filled with a dark liquid. Of all the times that I had been in this room, I had seen it grow and grow. It was the infected bile and fluids that were steadily being removed from my mother's stomach through a tub as the cancer progressed. The dark, ominous fluid grew with each passing hour before miraculously disappearing by the next day. There was also a bag of medicine and a bag of nutrients being given to her through an IV. There were two different areas on her arm that they ran the IV needles through: one at her wrist, the other on the top of her hand through the vein running along through the middle finger. The needle, from what I saw, was over an inch long and resembled a thick needle using for sewing thick fabrics.
My mother never spoke during the times that I visited her. She would open her eyes every once in a while as the nurse tried to feed her or to change her bed pan. Her eyes were hazy and vacant the entire time. I don't think she was consciously aware of the people in the room at any time.
On this day, her breathing was increasingly erratic. I saw her chest descend and finally rise slowly after what seemed like an eternity. I tried talking to my mother the first couple of days I visited her. She would sometimes open her eyes but she never spoke. I stopped trying to speak to her on this day. I focused on just watching her and holding her hand that was free on my tubes or needles. Around eight-thirty, she started coughing heavily and then went into sudden cardiac arrest. The doctor and nurses were called in right away to try and revive her. At this point, I was led away into the hallway. My father showed up shortly afterwards while the hospital staff were still in my mother's room. A person from the hospital asked to speak to me and my father. He showed me a form that showed us what options we had to choose from if my mother went into a coma and could not revived. I had to explain this to my father in Chinese since he did not understand English very well.
My mother passed away shortly after that. Her body still in the bed was rolled away from her room to the morgue downstairs. Her face was covered with a blanket. I went into her room to gather her belongings and saw how spacious the room was now that the bed was gone. The curtains had been partly opened and sunlight came in partially. The monitors and machines were still present making noises every once in a while.