Saturday, January 29, 2005

Being there.

I was there when my mom died.

She seemed to be in some distress between 6:00 and 6:30. It seemed to me that she was crying, but I could not communicate well enough to understand what was happening to her. At some point, I realized that she hadn't blinked in all too long, and I pointed this out to others.

We thought of a couple of things that may have been wrong and contributed to her difficulty. I blamed myself for something I missed; my stepfather blamed himself for something also. We consoled each other.

Being alone with someone who's about to die is a burden. If you're ever in this position, get a partner. I knew Mom would not last the rest of the week regardless. I'd accepted her death. Even with that, I had to process a little guilt from being alone with her when the trouble started. I had to contend with the idea that I may have missed something.

We called other family, and we called the hospice nurse. I held Mom's hand until Grandma got there, and then I relinquished my seat to her. My sister and Mom's sister each held her other hand at different times. We waited.

Just before she died, I saw Mom's eyes move toward where Grandma and I were sitting. Then they moved back. I tried again to get a response from her, but nothing happened. Then she had a lot more trouble breathing, and she was gone shortly after.

Most of us cried, not all together, and not all at the same time, but all near the time of death, which the nurse put at 7:57. I fear that I will always remember looking at Mom's face after she died. It was yellow; she looked like a ghost.

We called many people that night. We probably had four cell phones going at once. The nurse made the official calls, and someone from the mortuary showed up shortly. We left the room while they took the body.

The nurse had to witness the disposal of the morphine, and we made an appointment for the next morning with the mortuary to discuss the funeral arrangements. After that, it was a very quiet night.

With Mom's machines turned off, and her empty wheelchair stored in the empty bedroom, the house seemed almost peaceful. Some people said they'd have a hard time sleeping. Our daughter, who'd missed the whole event, didn't go to bed until very late, but she slept, as they say, like a baby.

I rested fairly easily. I had feared the event far more than warranted. I'd built it up to be an awful event that I might never recover from. Once it was over, I was relieved to find I was more ready for it than I thought, and what I felt mostly that night was gratitude for the people who helped me, and sorrow for others who'd also lost.
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