Day 4 of The Thankful Project is to discuss an experience.
|2-17-13 The last time my Mom was able to hold my hand on her home|
As I will find with each of the prompts for this month, there are several experiences I am grateful for over the past year of my life.
Our society loves to welcome a birth and new baby but sadly death does not receive the same fanfare. It can be truly a beautiful and spiritual moment to be with someone during their last days and moments of their life. I was fortunate enough that I was able to be with my Mom during those days in February.
As I have described it to many, my Mom’s decline was not a slow movement down a hill but rather directly off of a cliff. As a Hospice employee, I was constantly aware of the changes in her health and had planned on requesting a referral and admission to hospice at her next oncology appointment ( I had even spoke with the RN letting them know I thought it was time but that it would be best if my Mom heard it from her medical staff). However, suddenly her condition declined and she was unable to swallow her pain meds and was becoming dehydrated. I then stepped into my role as a Hospice employee to get her referred and admitted. Upon admission, the nurse felt it could be a week but of course, no one could be certain. Within two days, I insisted she be transferred to the 24 hour Care Center (my Nanny needed the security of knowing staff were around all of the time).
At the time she was transferred, I wasn’t certain that she knew who I was and felt we would not get a “good” death. Fortunately, I was shocked when she was brought into her room. She was more alert and oriented than she had been since her surgery in November. I almost felt the staff would think I had been lying but remembered there was documentation. During the few hours of that Friday night she was able to talk to us, laugh with us and was comfortable. As the next few days went on, she begin to go in and out of alertness but was able to acknowledge her many friends and co-workers who came to see her.
During that weekend, I experienced many what I call “movie moments”. One was being by her side when she held her best friend’s hand and thanked her for being her friend for all of the years (almost 50 years). It was her friend and I who were by her side when she whispered she was “Ready to go”. Joann (her friend) and I were each able to let her know we would be OK without her and that she could go on. The rest of the family was able to then say their own good-byes.
The photograph above was taken in the early morning hours of February 17th and was the last time Mom was able to reach out and hold my hand. I was sleeping by her bed and it was one of the few times I was crying. Her voice was soft as she grabbed my hand and stated “Sherri, you’re OK.” It wasn’t “You are going to be OK.” or “It’s all going to be OK.” It was “You’re (already) OK.”
It was calming and has been something I have kept with me over the past months. I was already OK and she was validating it for me. Just like a mother until the end.
As the next days went on, she was placed on a pain pump and eventually had what the hospice world knows as terminally restlessness. We knew it was only a matter of time but her body continued to push on.
On the morning of February 19th, I woke up at 1:30 – there hadn’t been a sound that I was aware of but when I checked her, her feet, legs and arms were beginning to become cold. The nurse on call had stated there had been nothing at midnight when she checked. At that time, Mom was talking but we couldn’t understand what she was saying and she was looking toward the ceiling. The Nurse and I agreed that she was obviously seeing and talking to someone. (If only we could have known what that was).
Her death was extremely peaceful as her breath became shallow and the time in between became longer. I sat by her bed from 1:30 until her last breath at 4:00 am. The peace I felt in that room can not be described or even placed into words. There was also a part of me that was excited – excited that she was no longer suffering and would be able to be with my Dad and her father and her grandparents.
Death and the dying can teach us many things if we are only willing to learn. I have been fortunate enough to be beside many as they took their last breaths but none as significant as my Mom. I hope that I will always remember the peace I felt that morning. Life is short, enjoy it!