I was born and raised, Angel, the unwanted daughter of an ordained minister with narcissistic tendencies. The only safe place I ever had was my mom. We were each other’s best friends, confidants, and protectors. When she was diagnosed with cancer on May 10, 2017, it was the absolute worst day of my life to that point. I became her medical advocate, because my dad refused to advocate for her. His refusal to advocate for her eventually led to her death.
I attended all of her doctor appointments with her and, usually, my dad. My sister used her adult sons and preteen daughter as an excuse not to attend appointments. I had to leave my toddler behind or bring him with me, but I was still attended every appointment and surgery. I fought with my dad over how he treated her, what the temperature in the house should be, what he should be feeding her. Her illness wasn’t about him, so I had to protect her from his neglect and straight-up abuse.
My son, spouse, and I were present at the surgery where the doctor found the cancer. Though the doctor was unwilling to give a definitive diagnosis, he did tell us that he had never seen a case like hers that wasn’t cancer. I became the family contact so that she could have some peace. I called everyone who needed to know: sister, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and many prayer chains. From that day, I fought for her so that she could fight the cancer.
My spouse, son, and I drove the half hour to her house almost every day to make sure that my dad was caring for her properly. We brought her food that I knew she could and would eat. I never believed that God would make me wait fifteen years to have a baby then take my mom from that baby before he even turned two. I just didn’t see how this God I had been told about and worshipped my whole life could be so heartless to take my mom.
It took the doctors too long to start chemotherapy, because they needed to do a ton of tests first. Her PET scan results were shocking, but my faith never wavered. I believed with everything in my soul that my mom would win her fight. I didn’t know until later that my mom, dad, and sister all had dreams telling them that my mom would die. They were all able to make peace with her death; I was not. When my dad called my spouse on July 8th, my mom’s condition shocked me. My dad had taken her to the hospital the night before to get fluids, but didn’t make them take blood samples to see why she seemed so dehydrated.
She was unconscious on the floor of her bathroom, and my dad needed my spouse to help him get her up and comfortable. We immediately left the eye doctor and sped to my parent’s house where we were greeted by the fire captain’s truck and an ambulance. My spouse went inside; I tried to follow. The EMTs wouldn’t let me in the house because I had my son in my arms, and he did not need to see Nana like that. Once they got her into the ambulance, we followed them to the hospital.
We had a private waiting room in the emergency department. People came and went, doctors, pastors, family. My spouse tried to find somewhere for my son, but my mom was our only trusted babysitter, and she couldn’t take him. Once she was stable enough, they moved her to the cardiac intensive care unit. My spouse and I took turns staying with my son, so that he didn’t have to experience the worst life has to offer.
By midnight, she had already coded twice, so I called my pastor to come pray with her. He walked in and immediately saw that I wasn’t doing well. I had been sick to my stomach for hours. I had napped on the floor of the waiting room with my son, but I looked almost as bad as my mom. I was slowly coming to the realization that my mom would not be leaving the hospital alive. About halfway through my pastor’s prayer, I stopped him and asked my spouse for the trash can. They had just set it in front of me when my stomach erupted. I’ve lost many memories of that day, but my pastor’s reaction still sticks in my head. He was impressed and grateful that I didn’t vomit all over him. He left to pray with my dad, sister and unconscious mom.
I stayed in the waiting room because I didn’t want to give my mom whatever I had; she already had enough to fight. My dad and sister still look down on me for that decision. Two and a half to three hours later, my mom coded again. The amazing staff brought her back, but warned that with each subsequent code, it was less likely she would live. They were causing her pain for no reason, though they said with the amount of medicine and sedation she had flowing through her body, she probably couldn’t feel it.
Everyone who was left in the hospital, my dad, sister, nephews, niece, spouse, son and I, met in her room to hear my dad’s decision on her fate. Except, he hadn’t made the decision. He said he couldn’t make the decision. I was my mom’s medical power of attorney, so my dad made me make the decision, and I’m sure he still looks down on me for that decision. She had a rough life. First a neglectful dad who cheated on her mom such that she had a half-sibling only a few months younger than her. Her stepdad abused her. Then she had the great pleasure of marrying a narcissist. I can’t tell you how many times she called me crying about him spending money they didn’t have making it so she could never reture. I told him she needed to rest. That no matter how hard she and we fought, she deserved to rest.
We told the doctors “our” decision and they unplugged her. My spouse, knowing that I still have PTSD from being in the room with my grandpa when he died, asked the staff to turn off the alarm sound on the heart monitor. My dad and sister said their goodbyes. I held my almost two-year-old son in my arms as I told my mom that it was okay to go, that we would be okay, that we would miss her, but we would get through. As soon as I gave her permission to go, I felt her soul leave her body and float away. My spouse, son, and I walked out of the room as my dad and sister walked back in. I knew I needed to do my duty and call everyone, tell them that Mom was gone, but my grief overwhelmed me. I could not breathe. I could not see or hear either, until, I heard my sister say, “Can someone shut her up?”
That day, Angel died and N’omi was born.