My mother passed away in 1998. She had been undergoing treatment for cancer but it finally took its toll. I was called to the hospital on a Thursday afternoon and I rushed to meet her there. She was well enough early that evening to receive the pastor from her church for a short visit and she and the pastor prayed together. When he left I stayed with her, but I didn’t interact with her as I thought she needed to rest. I didn’t want to disturb her. Since I didn’t really know that she was within hours of her death I just sat in the chair next to her bed. She was my mother and I guess in a childish way I couldn’t think of her dying, only getting better. I mean as kids do we really think that a parent will die. They seem so strong, so present and so enduring. My mom was a saint to me and I thought of her as invincible.
Later that night she passed away and in her dying moments I did go to her bedside and tell her I loved her. Had I known that her passing was so close, I would have focused all of my attention on her. I regret to this day that I didn’t have the foresight to know the end was near and that I should have wrung what I could out of our last few hours together. I should have talked to her. I should have held her hand. I should have told her over and over how much she meant to me. And when the doctors told me that because of her Living Will they couldn’t take any extraordinary measures as death approached, I should have held her.
A friend of mine recently lost his dad. He was able to be with his dad at the nursing home where he had been placed. Other family members were able to be there as well. Together, as a family, they were able to spend several weeks caring for their dying relative and played an important role in the dying process; and will be forever blessed, I’m sure.
From what I’ve heard about my friend’s experience with his Dad I’m sure he cherishes those final days and hours. Unfortunately, I let that opportunity slip though my hands and it haunts me still. So, I believe in making the most out of the dying experience. I will always have regrets about the night my mom died and my hope is that when I die, I will have my family with me. I pray that they will not just sit in a chair reading a magazine or dosing off, but that they will engage me, talk to me, comfort me and treat every second that passes as a blessed opportunity to say goodbye. And I pray this for them, not for me, for they will have to live with the regrets for not having done so.
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