All hospitals rooms are pretty much the same.
The same neutral colored walls with linoleum floors that match. The hospital style bed with its plastic side rails and controls to guide the beds shaping to the patient’s needs. There is the light fixture mounted behind the bed with oxygen outputs and suction inputs and opposite the bed a flat wall mounted television and white board giving the patient the name of the Dr, Nurse, Technician, date and the phone number of the patient’s bed. There are heavy wood chairs with vinyl seats and rail mounted curtains that gave the patient the tiny modicum of privacy allowed in a hospital.
The room I was in this morning was sun filled. The large east facing windows allowed the morning light to flood the room with a soft yellow glow. The cold winter’s morning outside was forgotten, the room was warm, almost hot, from the sun and overactive radiators.
Had this been any other day my attention might have been drawn to the view from the windows: a panorama of the small NJ town in which I had grown up and returned to when my parents had become elderly and unable to care for themselves without assistance. The town, Summit, as the name implies is located on the first ridge of the Watchung Mountains and the vista allowed me to travel back in time as I could truly see where a lifetime of memories had been created and burnished by time.
Today, my attention was not drawn outside and to the past but instead it was focused inward and on the immediate, to the woman lying in the hospital bed in the center of this sun-drenched room. Like the view outside, she evoked a lifetime of memories but unlike the memories that were created on the outside these recollections went to the core of who and what I am. This was my creator whom was a part of every memory from the first moment of awareness to the present and every step in between.
This was my mother. I had come for a final goodbye and to sit with her on her last day. It was a fulfillment of a promise I had made to her nearly 20 years before and had assiduously maintained ever since.
That promise had been made while driving my mother home after a visit to my hospitalized father. He had just been diagnosed with Lymphoma and the implications of that diagnosis had hung over our car ride like smoke in the rain. The car ride silent except for the sounds of tires on pavement and the traffic alongside us. My father had always been the bedrock of our family. To us he was invulnerable. A member of the greatest generation, an immigrant who had barely managed to escape Austria before the war, he had gone on to serve as 2nd Lt. in the 88th infantry division during the war. On his return to this country he had completed his college education, masters and doctorate in record time. Along the way he met and married Mom and had gone on to a very distinguished career at Bell Laboratories and as distinguished professor at Columbia University. He was our superhero and we had just discovered his mortality.
We lived in our own thoughts as the world rolled by.
At a traffic light, where we had paused, she broke the silence. She had choked out her innermost fear. “I have never been alone. I went from my father’s house to your father’s house” and burst into tears. She rocked from sobbing. Her sadness buffeted me and broke my heart. How does a son console his mother when the role had always been the opposite way? How do you tell a mother it will be all right when that is what she always told you? Do you tell her that even though you have no idea what the future had in stored for our family? Is that the quandary she had always lept over the million times she told you that everything would be all right? She had always held true. She had always been there. No matter the circumstance. No matter the trouble. She had kept the faith and so would I.
So, I had promised her. She would never be alone. That no matter what I would be there for her. It seemed to give her strength and me a mission. It had sustained us while my father had gone through chemo and radiation and eventually beat his disease. Crisis over I returned to my normal life and was able to put my promise in storage for a while.
However, age is a persistent predator and 10 years later Dad fell and fractured a vertebra in his neck. Confined to a wheelchair, a two-year decline unfolded. Most weekends found me leaving my city digs and heading to my parent’s home to relieve my mother from her caretaker in chief role. There were weekday excursions spent taking them to various Dr.’s appointment all while trying to balance a work and diminishing social life. Inactivity, additional health problems including kidney failure eroded my father’s quality of life and with it a desire to carry on. What the Nazi’s could not steal from him disease and age had and he eventually made the decision to end his treatment and slowly slip into the good night.
After he had died, I was once again confronted with the promise that I had made to her and how to best manage it. I could try to help her live her newly solitary life remotely from my apartment on the UWS of Manhattan or I could try to live closer to be a little more responsive to her needs. Eventually, I made the decision to move to Summit. This was not entirely altruistic. After 30 years of city life I was ready for a change. Also, when my soon to be wife was asked where she preferred to live, she had voted for tall trees and green as opposed to the urban jungle. Summit seemed an ideal place to start our married life. Direct trains whisked you into Penn Station in 40 minutes. A familiarity of an old shoe meant that I could not miss a beat looking for the best deli or bakery. But mostly it meant that when she needed me to take her to the Dr. or the market or the call the printer had broken or a light bulb needed changing or dozens of other household chores I could help her with the minimum intrusion into my life. .
As I entered Mom’s room her nurse had stopped me. The night shift had had their hands full with her the night before. She had repeatedly tried to get out of bed and leave the room. Nurses and aides eventually managed to get her back to bed but it had been a fight. That was typical of Mom. She had a stubborn streak and managed to get what she wanted most of the time. It had served her well as a mother, scholar and author. I had no doubts what her efforts to escape her bed were all about. It was her stubborn refusal to leave us and if no one was going to help her escape the grim reaper she would do it on her own.
The nurse told me that they had upped her medication and now she was resting comfortably. When asked about what she thought the prognosis was she just shook her head and said “You never know. This could take a couple of hours. It could take a week.” This was not a surprise. When I had walked into the hospital that morning, I knew that the end to her time here with us was extremely near. That today or at the outside tomorrow she would pass.
I thanked the nurse and took a folding chair off the wall, opened it facing Mom’s bed and set up shop for the day. The coffee I had bought at the snack bar was placed on one of those C shaped tables that allow patients to eat in their beds along with a couple of Cliff bars, a notebook and a pen. The latter two in a hope that I could outline thoughts as they came to me as I waited the inevitable. I placed my coat over the back of the chair and rolled up my sleeves. It was warm and this was an uncomfortable enough experience without sweating.
I looked at my mom. They had inclined her hospital bed, so she was sitting at a 45-degree angle. She was slumped over. Her chin resting on her chest as if she were napping. Her pallor was awful. Grey and clay like even in the warm sunlight of the room. And my elegant mother, who would not even consider leaving the house without lipstick, had a drip of clear snot hanging from her nose. I knew I should go over and wipe her nose with a tissue but out of a fear of disturbing her rest I chose not to. This was more of a rationalization than the truth. It was actually an act of cowardice. I was more concerned with myself than her. It was as if I thought would catch what was sapping life from her, that should I touch her that death might take me along with her into the next life.
Not wanting to stare at her I peered out the window. The view from where I was sitting was only of the bare branches of the trees on the distant hills scratching at the crystal blue sky. They looked like gnarled old hands raised in praise.
Mom’s illness had been a whirlwind. Two weeks before she had been the hostess for a family holiday celebration. Surrounded by her three children and their spouses, 4 grandchildren, the older two with their significant others. It was clear to all who saw her that day that she was reveling in the warmth of having the family she created with my father around her. A picture taken that day shows her glowing and surrounded by the family she treasured above all else. The moment met so much to her; my notoriously camera-shy mother had surprised me when she asked if I could make prints of that image for her. She wanted to bask in that photograph, and I knew it was destined for a place on her desk
No one who was at that party would have guessed that her ending lay so near in the future, but I had come to believe that she knew or suspected that death was near. That the party we held that day was her farewell party…a celebration of the family she had created.
Perhaps I too had a premonition. I had almost not attended the party. When Mom told me about the party, she had described it as a birthday party for my older brother David who had the misfortune of being born the day before Christmas. It did not sit well with me. While I love my brother, I often do not like him very much. He had done little, verging on nothing on caring for our aging parents. While he called, he could never seem to find the time to visit or to help his siblings in caring for our parents. I had once confronted him on it when my mother had needed care after a bout with pneumonia. I had asked him to pitch in and relieve Marissa and myself of some of the burdens of caring for Mom. He had responded that “I needed to say “no” more.” Needless to say, his response had infuriated me. But it was consistent with his view of the world. Happy to give advice but reluctant to do anything of substance. This behavior had saddened Dad in the closing days of his life. When we would discuss his lack of visits and help, he would say, often in exasperated tones, “What did you expect?” It was a tacit acknowledgement of David’s shortcomings.
Mom’s reaction to David’s lack of visitation and care during my father’s long illness had been that of anger. Not only at him but at herself. There were angry phone calls with him excoriating him to do more to help, to do something to help but these were always balanced with tears blaming herself, like many mom’s, for their child’s shortcoming.
David’s lack of care, engagement and support had often blinded me with anger. Not only could I see the suffering that it produced in both parents, but it placed a far heavier burden on Marissa and me. A fact he almost never acknowledged. This lack of involvement and acknowledgement left embers of anger and resentment that smoldered deep inside me. As a consequence, when she had told me of her plans to have a birthday party it was like adding oxygen to a smoldering fire. Embers burst into flames. Angrily, I had said “So let me get this straight. You are having a birthday party for your son who could not find the time to visit you when you were in the hospital having a valve replaced in your heart and nearly died, despite despite living 15 minutes away. A celebration for the guy who drove by your hospital when you were sick with broken ribs and bruised lungs and could not take the time to hold your hand for a few moments. You are having a birthday celebration for this guy when I had to buy my own birthday cake this year? That is bullshit.”
Hurt and offended I had stormed out of the house letting her know in no uncertain terms that neither my wife nor I would be attending the party.
Time, a series of brutal workouts, and lengthy conversations with my wife and bouts of conscience had mellowed my anger. But what convinced me to go was more of a feeling than anything else. Malcolm Gladwell writes about in his book “Blink” how sometimes our brain process information in ways that sometimes help us make decision that seem to be intuitive but are actually based on a collection of data points that are uncorrelated at the time. It is only after time that you can see the decision was fact based as opposed to intuitive. It was that way with my eventual decision to attend the party. At the time I had concluded instinctively that this party might be the last time for all to gather around Mom. At the time there was no diagnosis, no illness or overt behavior that had suggested Mom was in decline, but I had been discussing for months with my wife and sister that something seemed off with Mom. That she was not fully sharing how she felt or what her Dr.’s was telling her.
Thinking about it in this warm, stuffy, hospital room some of the little things, barely thought of at the time, had given me clues to her health. I visited with Mom almost every day. It was reassuring to both of us.. Often, I would bring her a sandwich and several times a week I would bring her food from a local restaurant and we would have dinner together. My mother loved to eat but in recent months she had just picked at her food and to cover up her lack of appetite would move the food around on her plate as children do when told no dessert without one more bite. The lack of appetite despite having chosen the restaurant and the food should have been a clear clue to me at the time instead it was just a data point. Stored, for future retrieval but signaling no alarms.
Mom was a writer. The author of 13 books, an editor of countless others including Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut and her opus magnus, The Letter of Edmund Blunden, published in her mid-eighties. She was constantly at her desk working. Her work was a constant source of conversation for us. “What are you working on Mom?” She would detail a piece should be editing for a friend or the Grolier Club or tell me about the writing she had done editing her Great Aunts recollection of her shop “The House of Books Ltd” s. Or her own work on her recollection of the 1939 World’s Fair.
However, after a fall in early October when she had broken her ribs and ended up hospitalized for over a week, her answers had changed from what she was working on to what she had done. Her typical response when asked what she was up to was to let us know that she was organizing. This had drawn yellow flags at the time. Not only was my mother the most meticulously organized, bordering on OCD, person I knew but the fact she was organizing herself after a hospitalization made me think of the final days of her mother. Family legend had it that my grandmother had been admitted to the hospital after suffering a massive heart attack. She allowed the Dr’s to treat her for a week or so then demanded to be released. When she had arrived home, she had organized her things, including tying ribbons around her underwear, and then called her physician and asked to be readmitted to the hospital where she died a few days later. It had occurred to me at the time that Mom was doing the same thing but had been dissuaded by both my wife and sister as manifestations of my own fears as opposed to the reality of the situation.
Perhaps the biggest clue to Mom’s impending illness had been the fall she had taken in October. She had called me exceedingly early in the morning to ask me to come over and help her as she had fallen on her way out of the bathroom sometime in the night. She told me she had tripped over some clothes that had been on the floor near the entrance to the toilet. She waited hours to call me which she put off as embarrassment, but the pain had finally convinced her to give a call for help. Needless to say, I had rushed over to find her lying in her bed, stoic, but grimacing in pain. I also noted that my mother’s clothes were not on the floor but where she fastidiously placed them every night on a chair adjacent to her bed. It was clear to me at the time, that the clothes were just an explanation for her fall that she had made up. It was only when we got to the hospital and we discovered how low her blood 02 levels were that I came to suspect she may have feinted rather than tripped. However, her physicians were more inclined to believe that the problem with her oxygenation was due to the broken ribs, and the shallow breathing that resulted from that painful injury, rather than another explanation. As a consequence, they treated the symptom and had not searched for additional causes. While I still had my suspicions about Mom’s fall, I put them aside to focus on more urgent problems. She was desperate to get out of the hospital. Far more so than she had been in the past where while not exactly patient with her Dr’s ministrations she tolerated them because she saw them leading to better long-term health. This time she was insistent of being sprung from the hospital even if that meant hiring 24 hour a day care giver.
I had gone to work to arrange for care, Oxygen and the other details of getting her home and lost track of my concerns about her temporarily. It was not until she was safely ensconced at home with all details settled that I had remembered the family legend about Mom’s mom.
These thoughts brought me back to the present and looking up I could see that Mom had not really moved since I had been there. She still sat propped up in the hospital bed, gown and legs akimbo, grey faced and chin resting on her chest, the single drop of snot still dangling from her nose. I returned to my thoughts, and staring at my feet, unwilling or unable to watch as my mother left us.
My wife is a Brazilian, a Carioca or native of Rio De Janeiro, and it was our tradition to spend New Year’s in her hometown. We went for the weather and the wonderful tradition of bringing in the New Year with a beach party with fireworks from Copacabana to Recreio. We had left for Rio shortly after Christmas. Thanks to Skype and the ease of VoIP I would talk to Mom every day often more than once. These conversations were never long, mostly consisting on recounting the events in our lives (Who she talked to where we ate), the weather ( it was too cold where she was and too many mosquitos where I was), the family (David had not called, the Bates were having a dinner party) and her favorite subject, Donald Trump . She hated him with a passion. He represented everything in the world she was not. He was a vulgarian, where she was a lady. He eschewed knowledge where she embraced it. He was a loudmouth where she listened as often as she spoke. He led by creating chaos, she inspired by creating order where chaos reigned.
You did not need to look far to see the difference in how Mom viewed the world and the way Trump did. For as far back as I can remember Mom had a black and white lithograph above her desk. It depicts the chaos of a war zone with an active battle going on, the battlefield pock marked and full of the wreckage of war. However, in the middle of the print there is a small mesa, carved out of the battlefield and surrounded by fence there is a home. Inside the wall’s peace reigns. A garden grows. Children frolic. Everyone is safe. The creator of that sanctuary is how my mother saw her role in life. The carnage outside was is how she perceived the world Donald Trump sought.
My phone calls to Mom were always in the morning for no particular reason except that was the time of day where my other activities had not taken its toll as of yet and I most felt like talking. And so, it was on the morning of January 5. I had called to check in to tell her about some inconsequential things that had been going on in Rio or the size of the status of my mosquito bites. Nothing urgent. Nothing alarming. However, from the minute she answered the phone I was alarmed. She was not herself. She seemed distracted and confused, not her normal quick-witted self. She was not fully present and when I pressed her with questions, she did not answer them. Something was clearly wrong with her and she didn’t want to tell me about it, and she didn’t want to talk either so the call quickly ended.
I was concerned but instead of pressing her as I normally would have, I called Marissa instead. I explained my unease as best I could which was difficult as there was nothing in particular that I could point at. No slurred words. No confusion. Her breathing had been normal. It was a feeling, an intuition, that there was something really wrong. I think my sister thought I was crazy but would indulge me and check with Mom later to see if all was all right.
A few hours later I received a text from M. She had taken Mom to the emergency room. She was coughing up blood and they both thought it a good idea to get it checked out. She made it seem like it was not a big deal and I pretended that it was just like the nosebleed she had a few months back that necessitated a trip to urgent care because she was on blood thinners and the bleeding could not be stopped. A few hours later came word that she had been admitted and sent straight to ICU as they could not stop the bleeding.
According to my sister, Mom was not happy about this situation. She thought it ridiculous that for a little bleeding that she should have to stay in the hospital. She wanted to go home and be treated there. This was typical for my mother and her lack of concern did not ease mine at all. So, I called the airlines and tried to move my flight forward to the next day. Unfortunately, American Airlines and the gods of travel were not very accommodating. Flights from Rio back to the states were overbooked for the next few days and even if I could manage a seat it would cost more than $2,000 to change my tickets.
For the next few days, Marissa kept my brother and I updated to Mom’s status via texts and emails. We could not speak to her as they had put her on a ventilator. The gist of the message was always the same. She is doing okay. They are running tests. They are trying to get her O2 levels up. Needless to say, the lack of progress, the nature of her symptoms kept me on tender hooks. I tried to enjoy the remaining days with my wife, but a pall lay over the trip. Never a good sleeper I spent large portions of the night awake relitigating the events of the past few months. How she must have sensed that something was really wrong. All the little things that I noticed but did not press her on. How she organized constantly and did nothing. How, during our meals together, she would push food around her plate as opposed to eating any. Her coughing that on occasion would have her leave the room, something that had been going on since her bout with cancer but had worsened as of late. The constant organization. Her ever increasing ever demanding need for company. The persistent niggle of intuition that something was wrong that was like a scratch that I could not itch.
My wife, who had adopted my mother as her own, was calming to me. When I told her of all the telltale signs that I missed and of my intuitions, she reminded me how stubborn my mother could be and that there would have been no change in the outcome even if I had pushed my concerns about her. When I told her that I feared that this would be Mom’s last trip to the hospital she reminded me how strong my mother was and the fine care she was receiving. I was comforted by her words, but I had no illusions about the reality of the situation.
Over the next few days little was done to calm my sense of foreboding. As my mother was in the ICU unit there were no private phones so I could not talk to her even via my sister’s cell phone as using it was forbidden in the ICU. Moreover, the tests they were running on Mom’s bleeding were inconclusive. However, more and more it was pointing towards a bleed in the lower lobe of her lung. A place where a bit of cancer had been found ten years previous and had undergone both radiation and chemotherapy. Eventually, they intubated her to minimize the bleeding and sedated her heavily to keep her from pulling at her various tubes, wires and outputs. All this duly reported by sister via text, email, and phone.
I was scared, sad and apprehensive as I said goodbye to my wife the day, I left Brazil. We had spent a good part of the last few days discussing my mother and the likely outcomes. We both sensed that Mom would not leave the hospital which for me was like a sharp punch to a pressure point on your arm or your leg: sharp pain followed by numbness. My wife’s reaction was the opening of a vault of sorrow. She considered my mother her own as her own mother had died many years before. My mother’s struggle with eternity opened up all those pent-up emotions and let them out in a torrent of tears and sobs. She told me that she loved me and that she was by my side. But urged me to be calm and not let my anger and frustration get the better of me.
We had also discussed, at length, my concerns over what the future would bring. I knew that it was likely that my brother would frustrate and anger me. He would be long on advice and short on action. Then, at some point, he who had spent so little of his time taking care of would swoop in at the last moment as the savior of the hour, as the star of this show. Elaine knew it would take a supreme effort for me not to let loose of ten years of anger and resentment when that happened. I vowed to try.
The ten-hour flight home from Brazil, sitting in coach, provides little chance for rest and plenty of opportunity for overthinking. I got off the airplane with a check list of things to do but most importantly. I needed to see Mom. I needed to see what I could do. Thankfully, the flights home from Brazil land very early in the morning and with no luggage, save a carry on, and Global Entry I was home before most people left for work in the morning and at the hospital after only taking time to shower, shave and caffeinate myself.
The hospital where my mother was being treated is called Overlook (yes, a terrible name for a place where we hope the practitioners are conscientious but is forgiven for this name as it sits atop a hill). Its ICU is buried on a floor below the main entrance. And you cannot enter it directly. First, you must go to a waiting room and on intercom ask permission to visit the patient. Depending on the situation, whether a procedure is being done or the patient is having issues, you are granted or denied entry. When I had asked permission to enter, I was told to wait that Mom had been coughing up blood and needed to be cleaned up a bit.
I looked around. This was not my first time in the ICU waiting room. I had been there on a number of occasions when Pop had been in decline. I had found the place cold and lonely at the time, not at all enlivened by the easy chairs, living room couches and a television broadcasting quietly in the corner. Nothing could hide that this was a place for anxious people waiting for news that one way or another was going to impact their lives. This morning I had it all to myself and the silence was deafening.
When they finally called to let me know that I could now come back to visit with Mom I was only my anxiety was peaking from both the trip and the waiting. The ICU has little bays with sliding glass doors reminded me of motel rooms. Dim lighting along, whispered tones and a plethora of electronics provided an atmosphere of quiet urgency that permeated the place. Despite previous experience and the steeling, myself for what I was going to see over the last few days I was not prepared for was seeing Mom intubated, wired, Lived, and restrained. There was blood caked around her lips and in her intubation tube. My elegant, never leave the house without lipstick, Ferragamo shoe wearing mother, looked as if she was in some B grade science fiction film where technology had won the war with humanity. It staggered me.
The only good thing about being in ICU is that the nurses are absolutely the cream of the crop. While seeing the ugliest parts of the human condition they manage not only to be professionally competent but to be compassionate and caring not only for the patient but for the families. The nurses know that it is not just the patients who are suffering and struggling. Their families are on this voyage with them confronting issues and making decisions that religions were created to solve but rarely do. My mother’s nurse, whose name I cannot remember but whom I will never forget, saw me stagger from what I was encountering. She, in a kind but matter of fact way, told me about Mom’s condition. She was in a medically induced coma in the hopes that keeping her quiet would help the lung bleeds heal. While the jury was still out of the long-term effectiveness of the strategy as of now, they had not been able to get the bleeds under control as I could see from the dried blood that ringed her lips. Her ventilator was keeping her 02 levels up and her other vitals were under control. She encouraged me to speak to Mom; while she knocked out part of her brain would be able to hear me.
I sat in chair next to Mom and told her all the things I would have had been able to talk. the. I told Mom about my trip. How flying through Sao Paulo had saved me oodles of money but had added an additional 6 hours to my travels. I told her about Donald Trump’s latest inanity and about a Phillip Kerr novel I had finished recently. That I was here. We would figure out her medical issues and get her home sooner than soon. I told her that I loved her. Eventually, I ran out of things to say and told the nurse I would be back soon. I returned to the ICU waiting room and managed to fill a small wastepaper basked full of tissue.
Marissa arrived not long after my breakdown. She was jovial, upbeat and even humorous. I knew that this was not out of insensitivity. Quite the contrary. She used humor and jolliness in the same way a person covers their ears and whistles a tune when they do not want to hear something. It is a distraction from the pain that she was feeling. I understood this despite the fact I wished I could talk to her more seriously about what it was that I, we, were going through. Not only did she have a unique relationship with my mother, a daughter’s relationship, but she had been in the trenches with me in caretaking both or our parents. Despite having two young children, a job, and a husband when she was needed, she showed up. She had taken Mom to the hospital at the beginning of this latest adventure and as someone who had been through that process with both parents, I understood the trauma and psychic carnage that it produced.
In other words, she had earned the right to deal with this current crisis in any way she so chose.
She had come to the hospital not just to sit with Mom. We had arranged a meeting with Mom’s pulmonologist and primary care giver at this juncture, Dr. Allison Kole. I knew her fairly well. She was my pulmonologist having diagnosed and treated my sleep apnea. She had become Mom’s pulmonologist shortly her heart valve replacement surgery 15 months previous. Mom had developed serious congestion of the lungs while in recovery. Dr. Kole had been the pulmonologist on call. She had determined Mom needed to go back to the OR. Her lungs needed lavage and removal of the “junk” that was affecting her breathing. Mom had protested. She did not need the surgery.
Dr. Kole had been very patient (irony noted) with her. But after a short round of arguments back and forth Dr. Kole had said enough. Mom was going to surgery. When she briefed me after the surgery she told me Mom’s lungs had been full of mucus and other crap. That the structures of the “lung” were somewhat altered and that if she had not done the lavage she most certainly had died. I had not thought much of what she had said at the time. Instead, I focused on the positive news. Mom’s was going to be okay. Her ability to breathe restored to acceptable levels. I also remembered thinking how impressed I was her pulmonologist.
Dr. Kole arrived in the waiting area shortly after my sister. For privacy we retreated to a conference adjacent to the waiting area. After conferencing my brother via cell she got right to the point. They had tested the hell out of Mom. They had determined that the lower lobe of Mom’s left lung was the issue likely because of a bout with lung cancer and the radiation treatment that had followed. They had done what they could do without surgery, but the bleeding persisted. There was a procedure that they could do, a hail Mary effort, where they would laparoscopically enter Mom’s lung through a vein in her leg and attempt to reach the site of the bleeding so it could be cauterized. Mom would die without the surgery, but the surgery could kill her as well.
My mind looping on the fact my mother was dying. I remember my brother ask a few questions that I considered superfluous and designed only to make him sound smart. But we all agreed that our short term goal was to make sure Mom was as pain free as possible and not quite aware of what was happening around her.
We seesawed on what to do next. The surgery may not solve the problem and could kill her. Why put her though that with such a small chance of success. Then again some chance is better than no chance and she likely would not be aware of what was happening anyway. Eventually, we all agreed that we needed to give Mom this one last shot at recovery and agreed to have the procedure.