Tuesday, January 19, 2016

My Mother’s Wish

When I was a young child my mother took care of a cancer patient, who was also a medical doctor. Then suddenly she was gone. I didn’t think about it much and didn't ask my mother. But when I was  older my mother and I once walked by that woman's house.  My  mother asked me "do you remember the time when I cared for the doctor who lived here?"  I said yes that I remembered her and asked my mother  what had happened to her. My mother told me that one of her friends "helped her," and explained that this was a kind of "professional courtesy" carried out by doctors to help  the suffering of one of their own. 

My mother wasn't much of a talker, but at that point i was old enough to understand exactly what she meant.  never heard about it before and my mother was "only a nurse," but I  promised  myself that, when the time comes, if needed, I would do my best to help my mother.  
My mother studied to become a nurse in Mandatory Palestine. In 1936 two new hospitals were founded in Palestine, one in Jerusalem and another one in Petach Tikva near Tel Aviv, and they also offered nursing training. My mother, who immigrated with her family a year earlier, was one of the first nurses to be trained in Tel Aviv.

Growing up in Israel in the early 60s, not many of us had a working mother. Mine worked as a nurse in our community until she retired and was always passionate about nursing and proud of her vocation.

When I was myself a mother we lived in the US, and whenever my daughters were ill they asked me to call their grandmother so that she could give them, over the phone, a medical advice and some kind words.
We returned to Israel in 1994, two years prior to my mother’s passing. I feel grateful for the gift of those two precious years.
It was only natural that when my mother was hospitalized due to strong abdominal pain I remembered my promise, and as soon as she was diagnosed with cancer I asked to see the doctor  and specifically asked him about the hospital's policy regarding euthanasia. My brother, who sat next to me, was startled; he obviously had not talked with my mother about this topic and was not aware of her wish. But I was calm, and the doctor who promised that he would do his best for my mother, was professional and forthcoming.
The next day I took my mother for an additional exam. She sat in a wheelchair and on the way we passed through a beautiful garden overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. “Look mommy” I said, “This is such a beautiful spot.” My mother, who used to love the sea, seemed detached and said nothing. I realized that she was getting ready to leave. When she asked me a little later to take home some of her things, because she “won’t be needing them anymore,” I didn’t protest, and accepted that it was her time.
My mother died that night, for weeks I was relieved, even glad, that her suffering ended. Then I started noticing that something unusual happened. My mother became part of me, and there was plenty of room for the two of us, it felt natural and comfortable.

I just got off the phone with my brother, and as usual we talked about our childhood. We laughed that our mother always asked him not to tell dirty jokes in front of the kleine (my brother is seven years older than me). My mother was right, I was still the little one when she left me at the age of 40, and even today twenty years later, I still get embarrassed when I hear bad language or dirty jokes and I need my mother to protect me.

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