It seems like i have wishes every single day, ranging from the obvious: I wish my son were alive, to the obscure: I wish he would have had the chance to learn why leaves change color in the fall. But there is one wish that gnaws at me. I wish I had been able to fully grasp the gravity of the last moments I had with Noah, so that I could have more fully savored every single second.
The shock of his accident and the progression of events leading up to the moments where we had to say goodbye to Noah’s earthly form weighed so heavily on me that I feel somewhat robbed. I realize that two months later I am still struggling to accept and come to terms with this reality, but I don’t think I was able to grasp what was happening as it was unfolding. It all happened so quickly. I kept thinking and saying to people, “it was just two days ago that the kids were playing with the dogs on my bed!” My mind couldn’t go from “everything’s fine” to “my son is dying” in only a few days’ time. How could I have really been able to fully take advantage of the precious little time I had left to spend with him?
I know that I spent every possible moment with him. Laying with him, staring at his face, his hands, feet, hair, legs, arms. Tracing his belly button where he was once literally connected to me. Back when my body kept him healthy and safe. Even though I knew his spirit had slipped away, I held his hand, tucked his Suzy Bunny under his arm, talked to him. Sometimes, I would gently open one of his eyes. He had such beautiful eyes and even if the personality behind them was gone, I missed seeing them already. I took what I could get at that point and was glad to be able to gently clean the fluid and blood from his face, suction his nose and periodically check to make sure he wasn’t laying on any of the tubes he was connected to. He would have hated that!
One day, the nurses let me give him a sponge bath and lotion his skin one last time. Oh how I savored that! I remembered how Raiza, my mother’s Hospice “bath lady” would gently wash one leg then cover it immediately to keep Mom warm. That seemed so far away from me now and I could feel the sorrow of losing my mother mixing with this new pain. Still, I was glad to have learned this skill so that I could give my son this final bath, and make it comfortable and comforting for him, whether anyone thought he could actually feel it or not.
This bath was so different from his usual bathtime. Noah didn’t giggle when I tickled his toes. He didn’t hide the lotion bottle cap in one of his hands and make me guess which hand it was in. When I rubbed the lotion on one of his legs, he didn’t pretend that the other leg was jealous. Nonetheless, I acted it out anyway, anticipating what he would say or do and reacted appropriately. Actually, I did this almost constantly the entire time he was in the hospital. I knew what he would say, do or think and I talked to him and encouraged him accordingly. Even after he was pronounced “dead.” Even with doctors and nurses telling me and providing proof to the contrary, he somehow wasn’t dead to me. In some ways he still isn’t and in some ways he will never be.
Still, looking back, I cannot help but wish that my mind and my heart could have understood what was happening during those last hours, minutes and seconds. It was the last time I would ever see my son. The last moments of his physical form on this earth. That concept was just way too much to grasp at the time. I was exhausted and I could almost feel his exhaustion as well. His body was too broken to hold him anymore and my mind was too traumatized to understand what “goodbye” meant.