April 1st, 2022… Mary Ann Damato… a beautifully loving woman with moments of Double Pump Flip Offs… Kateri’s Mom (Mom to 7 others… Grandmother or Abuela to 8ish more)… my Mother-in-Law… passed away on Friday morning. Stoopid cancer.
Mary Ann was a wonderful person in my life. I loved watching… and experiencing… Kateri’s relationship with her mom over the years. I loved getting to know Mary Ann… and her getting to know me. I love that we became family through the moments and time we spent together. I love that she considered me a son long before Kateri became my wife. When it comes right down to it… Mary Ann was part of “The Good” in the world. From here in the Northeast and across this country, to the villages of South and Central America, to the streets of Mexico where she would teach art to the kids on the sidewalk… she has friends and family from all walks of life who will feel the loss of this loving and compassionate woman. Take care, Missy… I love you… tons.
Now, I don’t really have much experience with death. I don’t come from a large family. I wasn’t close to grandparents, cousins, or anything. I’ve been fortunate that a vast majority of my friends are still around. And I live in a country where we don’t talk about death in a positive manner much… which may sound weird… but it’s something that we all experience, from one point of view or another, at some point in the timeline of life. Although I don’t have much experience with it, I kinda feel like the lessons I’ve learned on the topic were taught (and being taught) in an expediated night class that I’m court ordered to go to!
Being here with my Mom for the last three weeks is a completely different experience than being there with Kateri as I watched cancer destroy her body and take away her breath. I’m in a different role here in Idaho. I’m playing a different part… in a different scene… of a different movie. The subject may be the same, but it’s a version that I don’t quite have a handle on. Even though I already know how the movie is gonna end… it’s the final scene that’s still being written… and I’m having a pretty hard time with the writer. In all honesty, I kinda wish I could fire the writer… but I think they unionized a long time ago and have obtained… what’s that called?… tenure.
I am currently in the process of losing the most important person in my life. When Kateri died, that distinction shifted to my Mom. (Sorry… there’s a hierarchy and we’ve all got favorites.) In the last three weeks, I’ve learned a few things. One of the lessons I’ve learned is that losing Kateri sorta prepared me for the time when I will lose my mom. It kinda sucks to draw upon the memories of that time in my life, but it showed me just how rough life could get… and subsequently, that I would make it through. I mean, at the least… I’ve made it until today!… which is good enough.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the last couple of days simply listening to my mom breath as I sit on the old wooden chair next to her bed. Every time she takes a breath, I count until her next one. 1, 2, 3… 1, 2, 3… 1, 2… 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7… 1, 2… 1, 2, 3… 1, 2……. 18… and so on and so on. I actually find it relaxing… until the counting continues into the teens and twenties… that sucks. I’m sure I’m trying to get a gauge on where we’re at in the process, but for the most part… I just wanna be there for my mom when she periodically opens her eyes. I can’t really stand the idea of her being by herself in her room in the final days of her life. I want her to see… to feel… just how much she is loved and that she is not going through this… alone.
I started this post yesterday. Today, I began using a stopwatch as I sat on that wooden chair. Her breathing pattern has changed to the tune of take two breaths… a twenty-three second pause… take two breaths. Let me tell you… those pauses aren’t fun to hear.
I’ve noticed that death has a smell. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s the same smell that filled the air when I was sitting with… and holding… Kateri.
I’m tired. Physically, emotionally, and psychologically… exhausted. I don’t wanna think about leaving, because when I do it means that my mom will be gone. I wanna be here and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to be here… but I’m also ready to be home.