Sunday, December 6, 2009

About a Goodbye

by Ingrid Prohaska

Today is the anniversary of my mother's death and this story is about it. I thought a lot about if I should publish it, but for me that day is much more than the day my mother died. I think being so close to death was the most important happening in my life and since that day I have a new and for me a special view on living , loving and dying. For me started a new life that day.
I will leave you now alone with my story. I hope you will enjoy reading it.

I want to tell you a story, a fascinating one, a story which is maybe hard to believe and maybe you will call me crazy, but maybe you will find a piece of hope, a piece of love.

It all started with my mother’s heart operation on 9th November 2006. It was a very bad day in fact, the operation wasn’t as successful as the doctors had expected. It was nearly midnight when I left the hospital, the words of the doctor still in my head, “She has a two percent chance at surviving the night.” But I wasn’t allowed to stay with her; they actually sent me home, but they promised to phone if her end should come.

I went to the underground, only a handful people were waiting for the last train. I walked along the platform when I heard my mother’s voice behind me somehow above, “Hallo Puppe,” she said, “was ist los?” And automatically I started telling her what the matter was. I told her all I knew about the operation, everything I did that day, to whom I spoke, where I had waited, when I had a meal, when I smoked a cigarette. I told her every detail.

That was the day when I started speaking to her. When I was with her in hospital - they had sent her into an artificial sleep - I spoke to her, I told her everything from outside, about my everyday, told her everything I saw in the moment, told her stories about our past, and I talked to her about our future plans. I was sure she understood my words. Sometimes she moved her closed eyes as if she wanted to answer.

But I also spoke to her when I was not with her nearly the entire day. I talked to her from the “Good morning” when I woke up till the “Sleep well and dream something beautiful” when I closed my eyes for the sleep.

Four weeks went by speaking to her all the time. But I never heard her voice again.

On 6th December 2006 7.45 am my mobile rang. The doctor from hospital told me that my mother would die within the next hour. I called my brother while I was dressing myself. I walked towards the hospital telling her that I was on the way but also telling myself that she wouldn’t die today. Well of course I knew she would die one day, but not that day, any day but not today, not under such circumstances.

I reached the ward where she lay, I reached the room where she lay, I saw that they had set up white light walls to separate her from the other patients. On the windowsill there stood a carafe of water and two glasses on a white set. There she lay, eyes closed as everyday, the machines worked as everyday, only a look on the control-monitor told me that she was in a bad condition. I sat down on the left side of her bed, as I had done the last four weeks and took her hand, “I’m here now.” I said and kissed her face. I caressed her hand, my hand ran several times over her cheek, I wanted to be with her as close as I could. And I talked to her. But that time I noticed that my words sounded like saying goodbye. I said that she should take care of herself, and that I would take care of myself, that I would do, what we promised each other before her operation, that we would take the best from the best and the most beautiful from the most beautiful for our future lives.

From time to time I turned around to have a look on the monitor hoping that her condition was going better, but it only told me that she was getting worse. Meanwhile my brother had reached us. “They asked me if we wanted a priest for our mother.” he said. I shook my head. Well we were christened but we hadn’t been very close with the church for the last years, and secretly I thought to myself, that the smell of the unction and a strange male voice would tell my mother the she had to die. I was still hoping for a miracle or something similar. My brother walked away to tell the nurse our decision and I started to feel insecure. “Did I take the right decision?” and without thinking my right hand reached my mother’s forehead and my thumb gently drew a cross. She frowned as if that was not welcome.

It was a dim foggy day as it is normally that season. But suddenly a ray of sunshine reached my mother face and I turned my face towards the window. And I said very pleased, “Look the sun’s coming!” I turned my head towards my mother again and said with tears in my eyes, “Do, what you think it’s the best for you.” and after a short break I continued, “We’ll see each other again.”

A short time later - my brother was already back again - the doctor came and stopped the machines.
“She’s gone,” he just said, “and now you both have a lot of things to do.” I looked at him, tears in my eyes and sent him a furious look. “Leave us alone, please!” I said and my brother added appeased, ”We’ll come soon."

A few moments later we left her.

The nurse told us that we could have a look at her again when she had put away all the electrodes for the control monitor and the needles for the infusions. I nodded but my only thought was now, “Get out of that place as quick as you can!”

I longed for a cigarette and my brother and I took the elevator to get downstairs. Outside we stood together, I can’t remember if we were talking or just standing around stunned about what had happened. After smoking the cigarette I said “I’m ready to go back.” He nodded and we held each other for a few minutes.

Back on the ward again we saw our mother the last time. The white lifeless body didn’t look like my mother anymore. And I thought, “Where is she? She must be somewhere.”

The doctors and the nurses condoled with us and I can remember that I heard me answering to one of them, “Life will go on. My mother always said, somehow life goes on.”

We went to my brother’s car on the parking deck and he drove out of the hospital; on the street I saw the people moving, I saw that all the buildings and trees stood on their places as nothing had happened; everything looked the same as before. I said out loud, “It all looks the same, but nevertheless everything is different now.”

My brother brought me home, we stayed together. I’m sure we talked about what had happened, but I can’t remember the words. After a while we got hungry and my brother asked me if he could leave me alone to buy some food. I agreed.

I sat in my high-backed armchair staring on the ceiling, thinking about what had happened, but also noticing that all the fear was gone when I heard my mother’s voice again, “Hallo Puppe,” she said and suddenly I felt her very close. She sounded very happy and I had to smile. “Hi” I just said and continued talking to her as I did before.

Copyright © 2008 Ingrid Prohaska


  1. Hi Ella! My words aren´t as good as yours.... Thanks for posting such a well described article! To be honest I had a similar experience, but the other way round. When our son was born, I also went through the streets after his birth, watched the people and the surroundings, and thought: All looks the same, everyone looks the same. Does nobody see, that a new life appeared on earth? and so on, and so on... That was also a very touching experience. Only that the situation was a "win" and not a "loss" of life situation. Keep on writing, and of course posting!

    Nice greetings, Thomas

  2. Thank you so much for your comment!
    Yes - a birth must be a similar experience. I think such deep touching feelings make our lives richer. Even when it's painful - I don't want to miss such experiences!
    Have a great time,