Thursday, July 9, 2015
My mother passed away on July 4th, 2015 at the age of 88. I spent the last two and a half weeks of her life with her, much of it in hospice waiting for her to pass. It was the first time I had been that close to the dying process and I am grateful I had that time with her. It was a very strange experience, often fascinating, sometimes surreal. (2 of 5 posts)
Today Mom was chatty. It felt as if she was saying goodby. When she woke it was with the words, "it's lovely to wake to my two daughters together". She told us how much she loved us. Asked us to give her a kiss. We told her we loved her and were with her. She wasn't alone. We say those words over and over. She tells us she saw mama, her mother who has been gone for many years. Tears well up. I like to think of her going from our love to her mother's love. I say to her,"there is a special connection between mothers and daughters". "Yes, there is" she replies. We have a bit of a love fest, each pronouncing their love like a call and response. Then she says, "So to bed". Her sense of daytime versus night is a bit confused.
We are nearing the end. My brother came in Saturday night. He was the last of the immediate family to arrive.He came to the care center late at night and Mom knew he was there. They exchanged some words. I was unsure if she'd be able to talk much longer. Her voice was beginning to get garbled. She now has her family with her.
I awoke at 4:30 am to the nurses assisting my mom. My niece lay cocooned in a throw on the floor, my sister nearby on two chairs. We have been camping out in her room, afraid to leave for long. We want to be there with her to the end. The care center has been wonderful to her, but also to us. They bring us food and pillows. She had a roommate originally, but that was before her decline. It would be difficult for a roommate now.
We were never a family that was especially comfortable with touch. Now it's all I want to do. I hold her hand, I stroke her arms, her legs, her face. I want her to feel surrounded by love. I want my touch to communicate what my words cannot.
We met yesterday with the lay leader from the temple who will conduct her funeral. My sister and I both remembered that our mother always loved the Birkhat Kohanim, the benediction in the service.
"May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and grant you peace."
When I hear it I always think of her. Strange how a whispered comment from her at a long ago service stays with us until this moment planning her funeral.
My brother has written a eulogy, as have I. My sister drafted an obit. My niece will also speak. I am not sure I can speak without tears, but they tell me that's permissible. We each know different sides of my mother. We plan her funeral as she lays nearby on a collision course with death, but still clinging to life. It is another surreal moment.
There are many details to dying. First the healthcare decisions, often closely intertwined with financial. Then funeral home, service, reception, cemetery. My territory is financial. Accounts and property to retitle, documents to file. I make a list of autopays to stop or continue, expenses to go away that require action on my part, number of death certificates needed. I wonder if other people think about such things. This is territory I know, something I can do in a situation over which I have little control. Oddly enough it calms me. Still, strange to deal with practicalities before death has arrived.
I wonder about my mother's experience. What does she feel physically? emotionally? Does she realize what is happening? I write down what she says. Precious words as we know they will soon end. Some are intriguing. She has talked of going on a trip, Asked how long it will take to go to her new płace. Why does she have to leave? Today she said "new body or old body". I discount nothing. There is much we don't know.
Some of her questions reflect the endless loop of Alzheimer's and we answer them over and over. Where am I? Why am I here? What can I do to get better? No purpose is served in telling her she is dying. She has told us in the past she is ready, happy with the life she lived. She told me early in the past week or two that she didn't think she would get better and maybe it would be better to go "bye-bye", her euphemism for death.
We think she is trying to resolve the loose ends in her life. The people she talks of are those who were close to her, but where there is something unfinished. She was with our father and her brother when they died and talks less of them because there was resolution.
We deal with the mundane along with the spiritual, life and death coexisting side by side. We live in the surreal space between the two.
And so we wait.