The mood was grim in our house on this night, as it always was when my mother was at her sickest. My mother was suffering at the hands of what I know now to be systemic rheumatoid arthritis: the pain was clearly eating up her soul and body alike.
I looked at her as I helped with her evening pills, hoping they would bring some magic to lift the cloud hanging above us. I looked at her hands, so deformed by this monster of a disease, and I feared I might cry in front of her. I knew she wouldn’t like this at all but I couldn’t shake the voice of her saying that she thought she would die tonight. Or did she say “wished”?
I was twelve years old at the time and the meaning was probably lost to me. She did in fact catch the teary look on my face, and truly like a mother she knew what was on my mind. “What if I die now, would it be so bad?” she asked. I mumbled something to the effect that this was not happening but of course evaded the real question.
My mother died some ten years after this late-night incident, after a long, desperate struggle with poorly controlled pain. She has been dead nine years to this date.
The events of many a night unfolded in a similar manner with even more unanswered questions, but this day remains with me. Many a night I look up at the ceiling and can’t help but wonder if I did say the right thing. Many a night I mourn what this represents to me as pain that was poorly controlled, driving one woman and many others out there to such depths of despair. Many a night I think of these things as I arrive to care for my patients and do right by them, whenever the opportunity arises.