No More

Pat Duffy Hutcheon, Humanist in Canada (Winter, 1999/2000), p. 21.

"You wouldn't let a dog suffer for months like this!"
Her brown eyes accusing me, from that hopeless bed of pain.
No. only a mother, I wanted to say..
Only a mother who had devoted her life to easing the pain of her children.
Too many children from too many bone-destroying pregnancies, 
Too little food for the children's mouths-never a surplus for nourishing a mother
Who, in her last stay at a hospital, was told by a misogynous doctor, 
"It's your own fault, you know. No doubt you never ate the proper foods. "
"Suffering, " intoned an uninvited visiting pastor, "Is required of us by God.
You must trust that He will not assign you more than you bear."
"No more," she begged me after that, "No more hospitals."

Torture is sanctioned for mothers-encouraged by our traditions. 
Skeleton collapsing on her vital organs, little by little.
Morphine frowned upon, "if patient insists on remaining at home."
But she had lived her life at home, struggling against endless drought to grow a garden and feed her poultry-
Those precious lifelines of "proper food" for her offspring.
Sending older children at night to Grandmother's house for bags of coal, 
Suffering for the son who robbed the post office to buy candy for the little ones.
Selling her furniture one piece at a time, 
Waiting for funds from my absent father
In a neighboring province, desperately seeking jobs somewhere. 
A fighting Irish father who, brave to the 'end
Dying of cancer and too much alcohol and far too much despair, 
Succumbed at last in the grease beneath a crippled car, 
Tools of his proud trade in hand.

"No more," my mother said, at last, and closed her lips.
She had found a way-a cruel way for none but the very brave and strong.
I took the water from the room and could only hope
the path ahead would not be long.
Then a tortuous and tortured week that only mothers could endure.
A dreadful crisis in the night, an ambulance and finally
The blessed morphine shot, the blissful rest so long denied.
"Are You feeling any pain?" I asked, beside her bed that afternoon. 
"Just sleep, " she smiled, at peace at last. "No pain. No more." 
No more.
This must not happen. Not to mothers. Not again to anyone. 
No more.

-Pat Duffy Hutcheon