I cared for you for two nights. The first night, you were somnolent, barely responsive to touch or vocal stimuli. Your body was giving way to the cancer you had been living with, unbeknownst to you for several years. I was assigned to be your nurse because I was familiar with the language your sons spoke while you were non-verbal.
As I cared for you, I fumbled to find the right combination of words I used in my childhood to express concern and factual information to help your sons cope. They were losing their mother. But they wanted to see you do better, so they coped by meticulously following every number I told them and bringing their own equipment to monitor your vitals.
They were scared and at a loss. They wanted to see you go a different way but they weren’t ready to stop any intervention that meant they had an extra moment with you.
On the second second night, I saw what brightened the heart of your two sons, who waited anxiously at your bedside, day and night. You opened your eyes and opened your mouth for a few hours. In those moments, your sons buzzed quietly around the room to attend to every small gesture you made until you closed your eyes again and returned to being somnolent. Despite that moment, I knew you weren’t doing well. Your lungs couldn’t function enough to oxygenate you adequately. Your body was starting to swell from the molecular imbalances as organ functions were starting to deteriorate.
I wish I could have understood our shared language better to help your sons better understand the process of dying, something we all have to approach. I wish I could have understood our shared language enough to broker a conversation between the team and your sons, so your comfort could be primary. Perhaps it wouldn’t have mattered regardless, but I can’t help wondering.