Heartbreak

I FaceTimed My Dead Mother

Photo: Sergio Photone / Shutterstock
old woman looking at phone in bed

A few days before my mother died my sister was at the nursing home with her and asked if I wanted to see mom. I kinda did and I kinda didn’t. I haven’t seen my mom in over 2 years.

Last time I saw her was when I had to go to Canada for a family emergency. She looked like a zombie but not quite death-warmed over. She still had a little color in her face and some meat on her bones.

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Mom was a beautiful lady. She had an amazing smile and such a wonderful and friendly disposition. Everyone loved and respected her. She just made everyone feel welcome. All the time.

When Alzheimer's hit her in her early 60s we had no idea what to expect in the coming months and years. I had seen some people with Alzheimer's, not many minds you, but some. They seemed healthy physically, they just lost all their marbles.

I guess I was expecting the same from mom.

It didn’t happen like that for her. It was so much worse than I had ever imagined.

The few days before my mom died

“Do you want to see her”? my sister asked.

I had to think about it for a bit. Do I? I had no idea what she looked like anymore. It would be my chance to see her before she died.

“Sure”. That’s all I could muster.

And there she was. I was shocked and horrified. This is a joke, right? That’s not my mom.

She already looked dead, and she was barely hanging on. Can’t someone just put a pillow over her head for God's sake? What’s the point of her existing like this?

I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t feel, I couldn’t even cry. I sat in shock and horror.

I told my sister to please turn the camera around. I had seen enough.

The day of ‘the call’

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Then the day came I got the call. We were all waiting for it to come. We knew it was going to be soon. A few days after I saw my mom barely breathing, barely alive, the call came.

My sister asked once again “Do you want to see her”?

But it was different this time. This time she was really dead. A day we had been waiting for for years had finally arrived.

“Sure” I replied again.

She didn’t look any different than she did three days prior except this time there was no life. She was finally dead.

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Am I supposed to say something to her now? Do I tell her I’m sorry she had to suffer needlessly for over 15 years like this?

Do I tell her I’m sorry we couldn’t have stopped this sooner? Put an end to this madness sooner?

Do I tell her I’m sorry I didn’t visit her very much when I was still in Canada?

What do I tell her now? Rest in peace mom you had a good life? Is that the proper thing to say to your dead mother who you are FaceTiming with?

I knew there were other people in the room. My 3 sisters and a couple of aunts and I think my uncles were there too.

Do I pour my heart out to her now while everyone stands by and listens?

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I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t say a word. My mouth opened but nothing came out.

I moved the mic away from my face and whispered to her, “Goodbye mom. I’m sorry and I love you. See you on the other side.”

Seeing my mom dead, via a cell phone camera, was probably the most numbing thing I have ever experienced in my life. I couldn’t touch her face, I couldn’t hold her hand. I couldn’t whisper I love you in her ear and kiss her forehead.

I felt like I was in a really bad scene from a sad movie. It was just so surreal.

Was I glad that I FaceTimed my dead mother? Honestly. I don’t know. How would I have felt if I didn’t see her? Would I have been angry with myself for not saying goodbye to her, even though it was through a cell phone video?

To be honest, part of me is glad I did, another part of me would rather have not done that. What I saw was a zombie. Not my mom. That image will forever burn through my mind.

That’s not how I want to remember my mom.

I am trying to go back more than 15 years when she was still able-bodied and smiling. I’m trying to picture her cooking dinner and laughing. I’m trying to picture her in her happy times.

I’m trying to remember the happy times. I’m trying to erase the image of my mom, in her lifeless state, looking like a zombie.

And it’s not easy.

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Iva Ursano is a Canadian ex-pat living her best life in Guatemala. Her passions lie in inspiring people around the world with her stories and rescuing street dogs. Read more of her on her website.

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.