Wednesday July 13, 2017
The day my heart broke.
I didn’t sleep much that might and when I did I had my glasses in my hand. I did this so that I could wake up and make sure that Mom was breathing. I noticed her breathing was much more labored and I knew that it would not be long.
When I got up that morning and immediately went to her to tell her good morning and that I loved her. I took her hand and I immediately knew that something was different. She was still alive, but the only way I know how to explain it is to say that she wasn’t in there any more. She was not responsive as she was before. Her hands were limp, her mouth open, her breathing very labored and from her chest, and her neck was seemingly over extended over the pillow.
Dad wasn’t awake yet and I remember praying so hard that I didn’t want her to go, but please, God please, take her if it means she doesn’t suffer. And to please give me strength, because I didn’t know if I could do this alone as my sister was not back yet.
It was as if my wonderful mother read my mind, because shortly after that one of my dearest cousins called and said she felt compelled, called almost, to be there that morning. I knew that Mom somehow, while in between this work and then next, had put that thought into her head and asked her to come. Mom had always been close to that cousin, her niece. And I knew once again Mom was taking care of me.
A little while later one of the doctors came in and did something so strange, yet said nothing. He took his stethoscope and listened to Mom’s abdomen. He listened intently and frowned. What I found out later that he was listening for sounds from her intestines. A healthy person will have sounds coming from the abdomen. However, when the internal organs shut down and there are no sounds, then death is near.
I started working on Moms nails again as I was waiting for Dad to wake up. And then I combed her hair. It was all matted and tangled from he laying on it and not being washed over the last few days. I was terrified of pulling her hair and hurting her, even though on some level I knew that she was in a coma by now. Most people who pass naturally actually go into a coma before death. For that I was glad because she had suffered so much over the last 16 days, and several years.
I sang to her as I combed her hair:
Surely the Presence of the Lord in in this place
I can feel in His mighty power and His grace
I can feel eh brush of angels wings,
I see glory on each face
Surely presence of the Lord is in this place
And I arranged her hair as best as I could. It was thin and frizzy from the malnutrition. I gently brushed hair out of her face and arranged her blouse. I knew that she would want to look as nice as possible, Mom was always a lady and a lady always looks nice.
When Dad woke up her immediately went to Mom’s side. I went to call my best friend and my boyfriend for support and encouragement. I didn’t know how to do this. I needed to hear their voices to help me. And I cried and I prayed. How do I let my mother go?
The ladies from Palliative Care came in to once again check and see how Mom was, how we were and if there was anything that we could do. The explained to me that the way she was breathing, from her chest muscles, that it would seem she might have a few hours, and that was it. They changed her oxygen mask to make her more comfortable, and asked a few questions.
I started frantically calling, texting and emailing my sister to please, please get there with the boys. Mom would want them there and they would want to say goodbye. I could not understand where they were.
And where was my sister? How could I do this? How could I help and guide Dad through it, while loosing my Mom at the same time? It was all so surreal. My head was swimming.
I cannot describe the emotions felt s=during this time. It was a sadness and reality I had not known before. It was fear and love and heartbreak and shock and…so many indescribable things. You move through those moments as if on auto pilot, as if you are not really you. It’s almost like an out of body experience because when I look back I see it from almost a third person perspective.
Soon my cousin arrived and I knew Mom knew she was there. My cousin was a retired nurse and no doubt had seen death before. I will never forget how gently and gingerly she took Mom;s frail hand and put her head down. Mom’s breathing was more and more shallow. We all gathered around the bed.
I was on one side holding Mom’s had and stroking her hair. Dad and my cousin were on the other side. Dad was holding Mom’s hand and had the most lost expression in his face. My cousin was gently and softly talking to Dad, while keeping an eye on Mom’s breathing. I twas like an unspoken plan – she would talk to Dad and be a distraction, while I took care of Mom in that moment. And so it went.
And as it got close, I could almost feel the moment. It was as if the heat from her hand receded in an instant. It wasn’t cold all of the sudden, but there was no more life being generated from that moment. It was a shift so slight and subtle I almost doubted it happened. You are never prepared to see your loved one take their last breath. Her breathing was more and more shallow, the time between breaths kept growing. I held her hand and stroked her hair and watched as her chest barely rose, then did not rise again. And she was gone. It was quiet, it was peaceful, it was the most beautiful and painful moment of my life.
Mu cousin knew and their conversation came to a lull. I looked at Dad, as he was still holding her hand, and said softly: “Dad. It’s time.”
He looked at her leaned over and said “She’s not breathing.”
It was 12:15.
And he fell apart. His wife, his best friend, his partner, his lover, his everything, was gone. He began to scream her name and cry. He called out her name over and over, more pleading in his voice each time. It is the pleading that comes up from the depths of your soul, where pain originates. He gently held her face, stroked her cheeks, his tears falling on her brow and gently down her cheeks too. It broke my heart. That was truly the hardest moment, to see my strong father in those moments after loosing what he loved most dear.
He cried and called out her name, begging for her to come back for maybe 30 minutes and then finally was able to speak to us. He asked me to make the phone calls and take care of all of the arrangements, he just couldn’t do it.
I took the cannula from her face and nose. I brushed her hair once more. I arranged the covers for her and tried to make it so it was easier for others to see her.
I cannot describe what those moments were like. I was lost. I could not imagine a life without her. She was my Mom. How could she be gone?
At 12:15 today, my beautiful mother passed away peacefully. She was surrounded by family and an immeasurable amount of love. We held her hands as she slipped from,this world into the hands of God. While it was the most painful experience of my life, it was also the most beautiful. It was truly my honor to be there with her. I have been so blessed to have her as my mother, and for this many years. Please continue to pray for our family as we go through this difficult time of figuring out life without this amazing soul. Please especially pray for my father who lost his dearly beloved of 49 years. She is a beautiful soul, was a wonderful wife, and amazing mother. I will miss her every day of my life.