This I Believe…
This I believe…..that journeying with my mother as she approached death was one of the most profound experiences of my life.
In the fall of 2005, my mother came to live with me when it was clear that she could no longer live on her own. She passed away in my arms in the fall of 2007. Those months went by like the wind. Sometimes, gentle. Sometimes, with an unexpected fury. Sometimes as an inspired choreographer that sets falling leaves to exquisite dance.
Despite what movies portray, death is not the Garbo-like scenes of chaise lounge swoon, precisely delivered last words and…fading sunlight. Some die peacefully in their sleep, and others simply slip away. For many, however, death is messy, and a struggle – the likes for which few of us are prepared
Even though Hospice had given us a tidy little “blue book” that was intended to educate caregivers on things to expect, it was sanitized and far from the mark. They don’t tell you about bloody sheets, urine that is almost black, dehydration from kidneys that are shutting down, and the long hours of feeling so damn helpless. What was it that I could possibly to ease the pain of a mother who had struggled in birth to give me life and who, now, was struggling to surrender that body – no longer able to support her own life?
In the months prior, my mother talked openly and candidly about her death. We shared genuinely the feelings each of us had around the pain of letting go. I think we both sensed in early that fall, that it was almost time. Her appetite dwindled, she slept much more often, and there was frequently a far away expression on her face. I was losing her and it hurt like hell. Sometimes I would go to my room, close the door and my eyes would burn as I sobbed.
I used to tease her, making her “promise” to email me when she got to where she was going. I’m still waiting for that email. My mother had a deep faith that had matured and expanded over her lifetime. She had retired the “heaven” of her youth and, in its place, looked forward to a new existence that she was sure would include the love of everyone who had gone before her. She would often refer to a real “curiosity” about the “next chapter.”
When she took her last breath, I could feel myself wanting to go with her and the agony of grief descended with a weight that made it almost hard to breathe. It’s been a year and a half and I still grieve deeply. My mother, my dearest friend, my teacher and my angel. Despite the challenges, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat…..and, I would do it better.