Dying is a harrowing experience for the ones not dying. I wonder what it feels like to be the one who is dying? What was she thinking? Anything? What was she feeling? Pain? Fear? Sadness? Relief? I hope and pray it was like slipping into Savasana. Please let it be so.
On Saturday, I called the hospital to see if I could get a more clear idea of what was happening with my mother. My father had been providing contradictory information to me for the last few days and seemed frighteningly unsure. The case worker got on the phone and said, quite clearly, “You need to get here today.” Well then. It must really be time. I arrived in the evening. She was having trouble breathing, so they were administering morphine, which reduces pain but also reduces the panicked sensation of not being able to breathe thus slowing down the pace of breathing in and breathing out. Morphine was all she was on at that point, having been transitioned to palliative care. It was the end. I spoke to her and held her hand but she was quite out of it. I debated spending the night at the hospital, but my father was so upset and confused that I decided to go back to the house to be with him.
In the middle of the night, not sleeping, I thought about what I wanted to say to her. The time was here. No time to hold back. But I didn’t have anything to say. The desire for questions and regrets and what if’s was gone. I didn’t have all my questions answered. I didn’t tell her everything. But it didn’t matter any more.
When I was very little, my mother read out loud to me. The first books I remember her reading to me were the Winnie the Pooh stories. It occurred to me that she might be able to hear me and to be more aware of what was going on than I realized so I combed through the house looking for these old books and found the books of poems by A. A. Milne, When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. I left my sad and exhausted father at home and arrived early at the hospital Sunday morning.
I spoke to the doctor who was mercifully kind – so kind – and clear and blunt. She is dying. It will be soon. There is no hope. We will make her comfortable. (An infection due to complications following a hip fracture led to sepsis.) Doctors: we are overwhelmed and beg you for your clear guidance. Overcome with guilt and doubt, wondering if we should do more, it was a bitter relief to be told that there was no more to do.
Left alone with my mom. I gazed at her, my beautiful old frail mom who I have been mourning for so long. The vibrant and exceptionally accomplished woman who I knew as my mother had faded many years ago.
I began reading. The matter-of-fact tone and silly language of the poetry was so familiar and so enjoyable. I read a poem. Paused and sat quietly. Held her hand. Read another poem. Took another break. And so the morning went.
I offered her Reiki. I don’t really feel like a “certified” Reiki practitioner. It always seems mysterious and slightly ridiculous for a card-carrying intellectual to find such comfort in Reiki, but if ever there was time for me to have faith, this was it. I felt the energy in my soul and I offered it to her, praying that it ease the transition between the physical world and the spiritual world.
This is what I said to her that day:
I love you Mom. You can go now. I am happy. You don’t need to worry about me. I will take care of Daddy. You are the best mom. It is because you are a good mom that I am a good mom. I have two amazing children. Thank you. I love you.
Later that afternoon, I brought my father to the hospital. He was overcome, broken-heartedly exclaiming “Oh Sweetheart!” It broke my heart to see my stoic father lose his beloved sweetheart of 54 years. She was more agitated, less comfortable but more alert. She opened her right eye half way and stared and stared and stared at each of us. We just gazed in each other’s eyes. She drifted out of consciousness and we took a dinner break. We returned that evening and she seemed quite out of it. The lovely nurse assured us she was aware we were there and was calmer when we were there. So we sat quietly holding her hand. After about an hour, she breathed out and did not breathe in again. Then her breath returned. Not for long. Gradually, her breath faded away.
I love you Mom.
I have only just begun to follow your blog. Your experience with losing a parent has touched me deeply. I have not gone through this with my own parents yet, but I identify with some of your feelings regarding mixed emotions about a parent.
For me it’s my mom. She is now 78, soon to be 79. I have struggled my whole life with my relationship with my mother. I am not even at a place where I can feel deep love or talk about loving her in the way you expressed your last words to your mom. And yet, I want to. I can’t even imagine what my last words to her will be, but I hope, hope, hope, that they will be as kind and genuine as yours. Most of all forgiving.
Thank you for sharing such personal experiences and feelings with such transparency and helping those of us who want to but cannot yet put those words together for ourselves.
Thank you for reading and for your open-hearted response. It has taken many years and a lot of therapy to feel more at peace with myself and thus my parents. I am so glad you have found my blog helpful. Wishing you peace.
The tears in my eyes say it all. thank you for writing it and for saying goodbye in such an extraordinarily caring and healing and beautiful way
Sending lots of hugs your way. What a sad but touching post.take care.
Our mom’s never really leave us,love continues…
Following your blog now too.
So sorry for your loss Sally. Wishing you strength and love right now.
Thank you dear Jo. xoxo
I was so sad to read your blog about you mother. But at the same time, I was so touched by how you were able to be with her so completely till the end. I wrote this in a comment last Thursday, which got lost, I guess. But I wanted you to know that your blog really meant a great deal to me. You dealt with all the complicated emotions you had for your mother (and I had for my mother) with such love and care right up until the end. You truly made it possible for her to go into savasana.
Oh Deborah, thank you for reading and sharing your reaction. I hope to see you soon and to share a hug. Love, Sally