With a sigh, it was over. Five long hours of struggling for breath as her heart beat slower and slower and then not at all. My magnificent mother was dead. It was agony to watch her fight to stay alive. Bitter-sweetly, I was glad that both the physical pain and the mental anguish called Alzheimer’s no longer tormented her. I began to sob. My dear sweet mother was no more.
I know that death is a just a part of the cycle but it was an incredibly cruel ordeal for Mum and all the people who loved her. Why? She didn’t deserve to suffer. She was a good woman, a loyal friend, and sacrificed herself for her family. The diagnosis of dementia made her so angry and afraid. I called every week but it was emotionally traumatizing to visit. I did my best but I failed her.
The beautiful fall morning was benign. I had the day off from work and puttered in the garden with a lot of physical labor. After exhausting myself, I took a shower and sat down to read a book. The phone rang, Sister #2 said, “You better come down, Mom is near the end.” I queried, “Hours? Days?” She is a hospice nurse and knows the physical signs and responded, “It will be soon, very soon.” I told her that I’d come. I literally threw some clothes in a bag, made sure the cats had vittles, called my neighbors and a friend to let them know that I was leaving, and I went.
Encountered terrible rush hour traffic and two major construction zones. The sun was setting as I arrived at the hospice center. Sister #2, her son, and his wife were there. Mom looked like she was sleeping but they said that she hadn’t spoken or responded for more than a day. My emotions were blocking my ability to see her aura but I knew that she was already “gray.” I whispered to her parents, her brother, cousins, and her departed friends to be present and help her make the transition. I gave her a kiss on the cheek and said, “Its okay Mom, go.”
My sisters arrived with our Dad and brought along my friendly niece, daughter of #2. They were polite but cold. We took turns holding her hand. I thought it was rather disrespectful to watch tv and talk around her. I know that she could hear so I would go over and tell her that I loved her. Mom hadn’t eaten or drank anything so her mouth was dry and lips chapped. My sister would swab out the mucus in her mouth and apply chap-stick. Mom would groan and occasionally wave her hands. She did make the “I love you” sign with her hand so I know that she was there.
My nephew and spouse departed and we settled in for the night. Dad took the comfie lounge chair, Sister #3 slouched on the couch while #1 & #2 guarded the bedside. At about 11:15pm Mom began to struggle. #2 tilted the bed so mom was almost sitting but it still was hard for her to breathe. The duty nurse brought in some medications to help her relax and a morphine dose. It seemed to calm Mom down but her breathing would vacillate between gasps, regular breaths, and pants.
Dad and siblings all managed to sleep on and off but I couldn’t relax. The couch was not comfortable so I had to get up and walk around once in a while. I called a friend to let her know that Mom was dying and she agreed to inform the rest of my friends. Excruciating to watch Mom strive to inhale, the most difficult experience of my entire existence. She is the one person who has always supported me, taught me so much, and provided unconditional love. I didn’t want her to be in pain but I knew that I would miss her terribly.
Mom’s hands became cooler as the hours ensued. Her earlobes deflated, which is a sign of extreme dehydration. Two sisters were sleeping and the other half-dozing. Dad was half-awake in the chair by the bed when Mom’s breath changed. I knew it was the time of her transition. I yelled for the sisters, they jumped up and we were all there as Mom slipped free of this mortal coil to ride the light fantastic and join the ancestors in the stars.
I will always love you, Mum!
Copyright © 2013 by Ima B. Musing; All rights reserved