Death Is Stubborn  

Posted by Brock Booher

When I started writing this blog I made it clear that some things belong in a journal, not a blog. Last month I wrote several potential blogs that ended up as journal entries because they were too personal. That's why I missed posting last month. I apologize if this entry is too personal as well, but I figured a lot of you have dealt with death on a very personal level also. Maybe you can relate to some of these emotions.

I went running a few of days ago for the first time in almost a week. It was a nice spring morning in Phoenix with a nice breeze. I should have been enjoying it, but instead I stopped in the middle of my run to cry. I was falling to pieces inside.

My mother is dying, but that isn’t a surprise. Let’s be truthful, we are all dying. Her date just happens to be a little closer and the signs of her impending demise are beginning to show. The cancer in her peritoneal cavity is taking its toll. She has grown very weak and has lost so much weight that she is barely recognizable. She hasn’t eaten since Dec 24th, and sleeps most of the time. If it weren’t for her stubbornness, she would already be dead.

I visited her several times last month, and after every visit, I struggled not to fall apart inside.

She is one of the strongest women I have ever known. Her mother died when she was eight years old. She bounced around from relative to relative for a few years while her father struggled to provide a home and a future for her and her sister. She married young, and started having children (by choice) at an age when most young women are still thinking about high school prom. Ten children later, she battled with dirty diapers, dirty dishes, and dirty floors. Along with raising ten children, she raised a garden. She stretched a dollar until it screamed and shopped for bargains at second-hand stores. She learned how to repair cars, frame houses, and weld. If you wanted her to do something, just tell her she couldn’t do it. I think the only thing she never really mastered was the computer, but that’s mostly because she viewed excessive time in front of a screen as frivolous.

When she had cancer as a younger woman, I didn’t worry. I knew she wasn’t ready to die, and she wasn’t going to give in to disease so easily. Her stubbornness would carry the day. She lived, of course. Now, after two battles with cancer and a death sentence passed on her by modern medicine, she is finally succumbing to the disease that tried to rob us of her so many years ago. Death, it seems, is more stubborn than she is.

I knew she would not go in for treatment this time, and I accepted it. I knew that her faith in the next life was strong and would carry her through. I had accepted her death intellectually. I had accepted her passing spiritually. But I had not come to grips with her demise emotionally. How could I let her go? What lighthouse could I turn to in the storm of life? What rock could I count on when everything else was falling apart?

My mother has always held her emotional cards close to her vest. Her even temper and poker face carried the day. I could rarely tell when she was angry, unless she was switching me with a switch from the forsythia bush. When chaos and emotional mayhem reigned around her, she was steady as sunrise. When tempers flared and voices rose, she was like a duck on the water, smooth on the surface, but paddling like crazy underneath. She was a hard person to get to know, but not a hard person to love.

I guess that I was still in denial about death really claiming her. Somehow I still believed that she would figure out a way to stiff-arm death once again. I expected that she would be too stubborn to let death take her one single second before her appointed time. So far, she has done just that.

My mother continues to linger and wait for death to claim her. As the signs of the gaining disease begin to show, I have accepted the fact that death is more stubborn than she is, but only by a narrow margin.

This picture is from several months ago. Her condition has worsened day-by-day and we wait for her merciful passing. Meanwhile she continues to make death wait, or maybe death is finally making her wait.

My sweet sisters, like angels, have carried the weight of caring for her in her final days. My father keeps vigil for the appointed hour.