Tonight, as I write this, is Sunday evening, January 8. Four years ago, it was Tuesday evening, January 8. That night, I spoke to my Mom on the phone for the last time. She sounded alert but weak, and resolved that her time had come. I hung up the phone and burst into tears. I knew deep down, this was it.
Twelve hours later, around 9:00 on Wednesday morning, my Dad called me. He sounded stressed, yet remarkably calm, as only my Dad can. He was unsure what to say. The time was coming, the end was near for my Mom, and I should get over there when I could. I had just dropped the kids off at daycare. I called Andy and told him he could not leave town that day, as planned, for a client meeting. My Mom was going to die.
I guess we knew the end was near, but we didn’t realize how near it really was. Just nine days prior, we set up Hospice care for my Mom. We were told we could expect 4-6 months yet, and my Mom was going to take advantage of some of the services, such as massage therapy and music therapy. Instead though, I think she realized that living in the condition she was in was not really ‘living’. And she wanted to live on her terms.
I stopped at Caribou for coffee and ran a couple of errands. Then I went to my parents’. I remember thinking that the errands could wait, and that I should get over there as soon as possible. I also remember thinking that I was scared to walk in their door, because I knew the next time I walked out, things would be so different. I would be without a Mom. I wanted to hold on to having a Mom for as long as I could.
The only sound I remember when I got there was the ticking of a clock. I felt cold and I was shivering, although I think I was shivering because of nerves, not the cold. I could feel my Mom’s presence, and went into the bedroom where she was. She looked different; the strength that I associated with her was gone. I spent some time with her, laying next to her, my head on her heart. After a while, I got up and went to her closet. I was still cold and grabbed a sweatshirt. I still have that sweatshirt.
I spent the rest of the day with my Dad and Sister, doing a bunch of very surreal tasks while waiting. We were told it would take some time because my Mom’s heart was very strong. It would be the last thing to shut down. We made a list of who we needed to contact, a list of what we were going to do next. Andy and the kids stopped by in the late afternoon and we ate dinner in shifts. While we all ate, my Dad napped on his bed, next to my Mom.
Several hours after I initially arrived, after we were well-nourished, after my Dad had a chance to rest, and after we all had a chance to to say our good-byes, my Mom made her exit. We watched as she took her final breath, and then we noticed something. There was a teardrop leaving her left eye, a fitting symbol of someone who fought so hard to live, but knew now that it was her time to die.
That was around 8:00 in the evening on Wednesday, January 9, 2008 – four years ago.