Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It's Been A Long Night...

Over the past year or so my mother's health has been slowly deteriorating. At her age (late 80s) they were the inevitable results of the aging process. When I would call her she would sometimes forget that she had told me something, or she would call saying she hadn't heard from me in a long time even though it had only been a couple of days (or even a couple of hours).

In November she had a particularly hard episode, the latest in a long line due to her blood pressure and heart. She went into hospital and, after consulting with a heart specialist, they decided to install a pacemaker to keep her heart beating consistently. After the surgery she was sent to a physical therapy/rehab facility where she was supposed to be cared for and motivated to get up and move about after the surgery. Without going into it, that didn't happen and her health slipped more.

By February she had been in and out of hospital a few times. Christene and I had planned on my taking spring break this year in New Jersey to visit with her, so I went up with Ben to spend four days visiting. However, the day before we left my mom had another incident and had to go back into hospital, where she was for the whole time we visited.

When I first showed up she didn't recognize me. The woman who raised me by herself (my father passed away 48 years ago on 16 March just before I was born), who had yelled at me, hugged me, cared for me and kicked me out of the nest when it was time, didn't know me at first. It was a slow realization that crossed her face when she realized it was me, and her first words were, "My baby."

My mother would lapse in and out of consciousness and lucidity while we were there. She kept asking after Caleb and Rachel, and every once in a while the woman I knew growing up would shine through. Especially when, while discussing her living will, she said she just "wanted to cut through the bullshit" as I explained each part of it to her. It was painful to see her in so much pain that she could barely move her arm to sign the papers.

I held my mom's hand a lot that week. I would just stand at her bedside, or sit in a chair next to her and watch TV as she kept nodding off. She forget where she was fairly often, and asked me more than once if we were flying somewhere.

On the last day we were in New Jersey, I stayed until the very last minute before Ben and I had to get back to the airport. My mother's lunch was served, and we joked about hospital food. She didn't have the strength to even feed herself, so I fed my mother. Just like she had done when I was little. And we talked. About nothing in particular, just talked.

When her nurse and the doctor came in, I knew it was time to go. But I didn't want to. I knew that was going to be the last time. I hugged my mother, I kissed her head and told her how much I loved her. I had a lot of resentment from my years that I let go that day. She's my mother, and I love her and wanted her to know that. I walked away and told her, "I'll see you later, Mom."

Last night my sister, Wanda, called around midnight. Our mother passed away in her sleep at home. She had put into her living will that she wanted to be kept comfortable until the end. She hadn't been lucid for a few days, and was sleeping in a weak, restless way.

She died in her home, in her own living room, with family there.

She's flying now.

I miss you, mom. I love you.

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