Thursday, August 7, 2014

Thank You Mom

The call finally came, the call I had been expecting, and dreading. We could do this, we could do that, but it will only prolong her death and may not help at all, the doctor explained. I know she has a DNR, he said, but are you sure? I'm sorry, he said, but I have to ask. No no no I stated calmly. No more suffering, no more pain. Her wishes were clear. But....she is afraid to die, don't let her be afraid, I begged.

I called the nurse's station one last time, asking them to put the phone to Mom's ear. Hello mom, it's Lynn. I love you I love you. I will be there this afternoon. She made small noises on the other end and then silence. We listened to each other breathe for a bit and then I said, I will see you soon, and hung up the phone.

I didn't expect to get to St Louis in time. But my mom is so strong, and stubborn. Just because the doctor said one to three hours I knew she would try to prove them wrong one more time.

I had to change planes in Chicago. When I called Nancy I fully expected her to say that mom was gone but no, of course not, she was still alive.

Landing in St Louis I flew to Mom's condo, dropped off my bag, picked up her car. Calling Nancy again to see if she wanted me to pick up anything for her before heading to the hospital. No no, she replied, don't stop anywhere. Get here as fast as you can.

Mom's hospital room was quiet. I went to her side, found her hand, held it tight. She squeezed my hand. Her breathing was shallow, her eyes closed. Cody was there too. Nancy cried, said goodbye to mom, her cousin and her best friend.

Cody and I continued to sit and watch. Breath in, breath out. Hands held. I felt like I could stay there forever. My fear and anxiety about what awaited in St Louis fell away. I was so glad to be there.

Around 7 pm Cody and I were hungry. For some reason we knew that death wouldn't come while we were gone, or at least that if it did it would be because that's how mom wanted to go. We went up to the corner to Panera's, the same Panera where I had gone to get mom sandwiches and potato soup to break the monotony of hospital fare.

Back in the hospital room I told mom I had her favorite sandwich. I took a few bites but couldn't eat it and set it aside. Time passed, breath in breath out. Her hands were slowly growing colder, a sign, the nurses told us.

Susan's plane landed late that night. My cousin Michael picked her up at the airport, brought her to the hospital. Susan brought a brief rush of energy into the quiet room. She took the place beside Mom's bed and held her hand. I curled up in the recliner. At some point midnight came and the next day arrived. July 31st, 2014, mom's 86th birthday.

Susan exclaimed, mom's hand is warm! Feel it! I felt it and she was right. I know my mother knew that both her daughters were at her beside.

As I drifted off to sleep in the recliner once again, the nurse came into the room. Your mother's heartbeat has become very slow she explained apologetically.

I stood at the foot of the bed, Cody on one side, Susan on the other. We watched as mom took one small breath, and then another, and then one more. I put my hand on her foot. One last breath and then no more, but her heart continued to beat. The nurses could hear it on the stethoscope and we could see it on the monitor. So strange because she was no longer breathing, but my mother always loved life so much, it was hard to just let go I'm sure.

When it was over we knew. Suddenly my mother was no longer in that hospital room. The body in the bed was not her. Her presence could no longer be felt. The nurses told us to take as much time as we wanted but all we wanted to do was get out of there. I took one last glance at the body on the bed, but my mother was gone.

My mom did not have an easy life. She had more than her fair share of trouble and challenges, but she always found a way to be happy, to find some joy in life. And she tried with all her heart and soul to be the best mother she could to my sister and I. She was far from perfect, but then none of us are.

And there at the end she gave us the most incredible gift. From watching her peaceful painless death, I now feel less afraid of whatever death might hold for me. I am so grateful that she didn't suffer and that she waited for us to be by her side. Thank you mom, thank you so much. I love you and I will miss you forever. Thank you.

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