This is Katy Polony’s story of her parents’ death, as told by her son, Antal Polony
Of my two parents’ deaths, the death of my mother was the more significant for me. Partly because it came first, and partly because it was more sudden. It wasn’t a fading away, like Daddy’s. It was a decision she made, one day and then the next. It was really hard when my mom died. When my dad died it was more of a relief, because by the time it came he was really practically a vegetable; that’s what his life had become at that point.
I cried every day for months after Mummy’s death.
“Because it had gotten so horrid, she took her own life.”
She died from osteoporosis, from the pain in that illness. Because it had gotten so horrid, she took her own life. I remember going in to see her in the hospital in Boston. She was on her back, recovering from surgery. She asked me to bring her sleeping pills, which she kept in this little wooden box by her bed. She took them from me in a little handkerchief and put them under her pillow. I knew what she wanted them for, but she didn’t tell me that, not outright. But I knew, we all knew. It was just the way she lived her life. It made sense to us; she was in so much pain. But those pills weren’t strong enough. So she just went on with her choice. She asked another family member of ours, who had access to stronger pills, and this person brought them to her. I spoke to her the day before she died, and just like before, she didn’t have to tell me, but there was something in the way we spoke to each other, something about the conversation, I just knew. I remember, the last thing she said to me: I said “Goodbye, Mummy, I wish I was there with you.” And she said, “Don’t say goodbye, say au revoir.”
The next morning, back home in California, I heard that she’d died.
Well, my whole life sort of shifted on its foundation after that, and the best way I can explain is that she, more than Daddy, was the link to my past. She knew everything that I had been through. My childhood, young adulthood, it was all contained in her.
“I feel like it wasn’t really until they died that I grew up, when it was forced upon me.”
I used to wonder before she died if there would be a sense of freedom. And there was. She was my moral foundation when I was growing up. Even now I find myself doing it — I was always double-checking the decisions I made, what she might think, what she would have done. Sometimes it felt like a burden. But there are certain times when I wish I could turn to them for advice. I feel like it wasn’t really until they died that I grew up, when it was forced upon me.
Her death brought my brother and I together. We began to completely lean on each other. We never used to get along so well, but now, we took a road trip together and talked nonstop. We’re like best friends now.
But Daddy died very differently. For him death was drawn out. We all saw it coming, long before it happened, in fact, we were there. I was there, watching him die, and it was incredible. I just stroked his arm, he lying there in the hospital bed, and I swear to God, when he breathed his last breath, he turned towards me. I did the drawings of him then, in Boston.
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