Saturday, May 31, 2008

Still Here


We’re sitting on the porch and
I’m reflecting and being quiet
John’s talking.

We should do this and
we should do that and he thinks
I should go for a run with Catherine from
next door because
I would really like it.

And I probably really would but that’s not the point
and he catches my thoughts and says
he bets I thought that with my mother gone
no-one would still be trying to tell me what to do.

I smile and think that sometimes when people are
married for a long time they become
a lot like each other.

Or maybe they get married because
they are already a lot like each other?

-Leah Costello



Before she got diagnosed the second, and final time
I asked her how she was feeling about
her post-cancer life.

At that time, I believe,
she was mostly trying to
deal with the loss of her breast, the scars it left,
and the worry that the cancer might
come back.

So in answer to my question,
she said “Okay”.
And with more consideration,
“Pretty Good, you know”.
Because my mother dealt with everything that way.
And determinedly Optimistic.

But then she said, in answer to my question, that
the mornings were the worst.

She said that there were those moments
in the morning.
When you’re just waking up
from that sleepy haze.
The sun might be coming in.
The birds might be singing.

And you’re still just…feeling.
You haven’t started thinking yet.

And then it comes over you.

The reality.
The knowledge.
The understanding that things have changed
and are different now
and will never be the same.

Mornings were the worst.

Mornings were the worst.
But then she’d have her coffee
and go upstairs
and nudge the cat
and have some breakfast.
And have a Pretty Good day.

So I woke up this morning
in a sleepy haze
in my mother’s house
for the first time without my mother.

The sun was coming in the window
on the honey coloured beams
and the birds were singing outside.

And I was just…feeling.
I hadn’t started thinking yet.

And then it came over me.
The reality.
The knowledge.
The understanding that things have changed
and are different now
and will never be the same.

And I know what she meant now
that mornings were the worst.

This morning was the worst.

But then I went downstairs
and nudged the cat
and had some coffee
and then some breakfast.
I will try to have a Pretty Good day.

-Leah Costello

Friday, May 30, 2008

May 20, 2008 - 3:15 pm

May 30, 2008 - 3:15 pm

Her breathing’s really slow
and her eye lids flutter
and it’s really quiet.

But there are some birds chirping outside
and some ducks playing in the
pond made by the
overflowing creek.

Then, gently,
she just whispers to a stop.

-Leah Costello



I don’t know the medical term for it
but she’s got some kind of fluid
bubbling up in the back of her throat.

Her already strained breathing is
clouded further
by the froth and bubbles that
she’s trying to breathe though.

We wonder if this is maybe just part of the process
or if we can do something about it
to make her more comfortable
like we promised we would do.

Ruth left a vacuum-type thing
Like something you’d use in a dentist’s office
with a suction hose.

So I turn it on and it makes
a loud whirring sound
overcome only by the
whirring sound of the oxygen machine that is still
rasping in the corner.

We clear some of the fluid
but there’s more below that
and the suction won’t clear it out.

So I turn off the machine
and make her more comfortable
by touching her face and
holding her hand.

Listening to her and
watching her struggle makes
my own breath feel tight.

I hope, in agony, that she knows
and feels, that we’re doing our best.

-Leah Costello

Last Words


In the movies it seems like
people say their last words
and then shut their eyes
and they’re gone.

After 12 hours of her being unconscious
and unresponsive to
touch and sound,
I am wondering if I should stretch out
on the couch instead of
napping in the chair beside her bed
where I’ve been since Wednesday night.
I’ve been wondering this for a while
because in a situation like this
nothing happens quickly and you have
a lot of time to ponder even small decisions.

The couch looks more comfortable but then again
I can’t hold her hand from there.

And while I am thinking about this
she opens her eyes
and squeezes my hand,
which is still there,
and says “I love you both”.

Which seems like something
you would just imagine wanting
someone to say at a time like this.

But she actually just said that.

And now she’s been unconscious again
for nearly another 12 hours and I am still in my
chair because there will be lots
of other times
to lie on the couch.

-Leah Costello



She’s been unconscious
for over 12 hours now.

Which might not seem like a long time
if you’re lying on a beach on your
last day of vacation
or having a busy day at work.

But when all you’re doing
is watching someone breathe
and wondering if they’ll breathe again
it can feel like time is standing still.

She’s breathing on average
six and a half times per minute
if I were to count.
Which I do because what else
do you do when all you can do is
watch and wonder and count.

And six and a half times per minute
means that there are many times when
I think it has to be down to four now
because it’s such a long time in between.

So I count again and it’s still six and a half.

-Leah Costello

Thursday, May 29, 2008



Her nightie is bunched
under her arms
behind her back.
The collar is crooked and one side is pulled
up too high
and gaping
slightly around her neck.

At the store it would be
on a hanger
draped and smooth
but probably not as pretty.

-Leah Costello

Sunflowers for Mom


She’s sort of in and out of sleep
and part of it is that John can’t stay still.
He’s very intent on entertaining her
which is more than I have the will to do
and I admire his energy while
he admires my ability
to just sit with her for so long.

He comes with juice
and a spoonful of ice cream
and turns on her favourite music
and brings her a stuffed sheep.

He says that he will go and bring her sunflowers
but she has to promise to be here when
he gets back.

She nods yes that she promises
and seemingly seconds later
he arrives back with a huge
bunch of sunflowers
from the hill down the road.

I’ve heard the phrase
“her face lit up” but never really
understood it until
I saw my mother’s face
light up at the sight of that armful of vibrant yellow life.

Her movements aren’t completely coordinated
and she can no longer speak
but she reaches for the flowers
and holds them, glowing, while
John looks for a vase.

-Leah Costello