Eight years ago today, my Mom died, waiting until I arrived from China. I wrote down every detail. I found my brain ramblings and decided to post it, hoping they might help those of you who have recently lost a loved one.
Hospice is both the most wonderful and hardest endeavor I have ever experienced. In those final 72 hours, mom uttered the most precious things to each of us girls. She uttered I love you I love you I love you until she was out of breath. I knew she loved us but not until that day, did I really truly realize how much. Mom’s spirit was gone; she was just a shell. I put my hand in hers and she grabbed mine, her cold dough like skin.
And that was that.
The night before was hell and a half. Little did we know that many of the drugs that the hospice nurses prescribe are to make the family members feel better. Granted, the morphine and other organ anesthetics did help reduce pain for mom. The morphine was bitter. She got too weak for us to chase the squirt of morphine with a bit of Gatorade which made it a chore to dispense. Drop by drop we had to squirt it under her tongue, since the glands under the tongue would channel the drug right to her stomach without coughing. Mom would clench her teeth hating the bitter taste. My oldest sister had a good technique to get mom to take the drugs, reminding me of baby Elsie licking the milk off her owner’s hand in BORN FREE.
The drugs eased mom’s whoozing. My oldest sister was holding one hand, I was holding the other and my other sister was rubbing her head trying to comfort her. But by the end of the night, it was mom comforting us, all of our heads on her lap like little kittens.
It was then, before the sun peeked thru the window, that I felt the presence of a spirit. It was long and giant, much grander than a human, wearing a dark robe to hide itself in the corner. There might have been two. They were hovering above my sister. I saw it or them, they quietly took mom’s spirit and left.
I spent Christmas Eve sleeping on my mom’s side, watching Christmas story non-stop. Ralphie and Chinese food and fragile leg lamps. It was precious.
We had breakfast Christmas morning at Covenant Hospice. And nothing is sadder than Christmas morning at an old folks home. I found a Bible and read the Charlie Brown Christmas passage to mom at the breakfast table. One of the other ladies thanked me.
On Monday, I arranged for equipment to show up and planned for the big move the next day. Mom was feeling OK at Covenant but kept on saying, “I don’t feel right.”
On New Years Eve, we brought her to my oldest sister’s. There was a ton of snow and a half, the white flakes looking like a layer of buttercream on ice covered branches.
Later on that day, a social worker came to check mom in. The social worker would fill us more in on hospice, thinking mom would be there a while.
All of the time, I was wishing there was a crystal ball to know how long this would go on. It sounds awful but it’s the truth.
That’s how we spent New Years.
The next morning, Mom wasn’t doing well. Her wheezing began. We called hospice and early afternoon, Mary Ellen, the hospice nurse came by. She looked at mom and saw modeling in her hands (purple coloring), noted mom’s breath and was concerned. We looked at her pill plan. We called my two other sisters thinking it was getting down to the end.
Finally, after mom was settled down, I wanted to tune into the Rose Bowl game. MSU was playing. And of course, we couldn’t watch it. My sister didn’t have ESPN.
The next morning, my two other sisters arrived. One was there when the social worker showed up. She looked a bit like Aunt Mary and Mom thought she was Aunt Mary and whispered , “I wish she wasn’t so mean to Charles.”
My sister was under all seven layers of my skin by then and Ruth spotted it. I didn’t care about getting Mom’s hearing aids because quite frankly, I didn’t see any difference in how they worked.
Mom told Ruth her latest story about Ipsi, her imaginary puppy that was a genius. It was one of three puppies in a litter and Ipsi wagged it’s finger towards Mom to say, “Come and here and choose me!”
My kid sister left Friday morning with tears in her eyes. She had a court date due to her dogs. Her life is crazy but she is able to laugh at it. If she enjoys it, bring it on. She never saw mom again. Before she left, Mom smiled at her and said, I love you.
On Friday night, we called Uncle Norman and I busted out in tears. He said, “Tell Joan to behave herself and she knows what I’m talking about!” I face-booked cousins wanting to get the prayer chain going. I held he phone up to Mom’s ear so she could tell her older sister how much she loved her.
Saturday, I held the phone up to Mom so my kid sister and Ipsi and my Mom could talk. She told mom that that she was her sunshine. Ipsi just panted.
Friday night was pretty ugly as the “death rattles” began. My oldest sister brought up how when someone breathes, the sounds they make are Yeh Weh…or the name of God.
Talk about the ultimate onomatopoeia.
So, when one can no longer utter the name of God, life ends.
Mom died and Robyn the nurse marked it as 5:30.
The next day was blizzard fest. I used my Master-card to pay for mom’s cremation. They left a message on SKYPE that they will be dropping off mom’s remains Monday.
Delta has been very nice through all of this. I am on the plane and they didn’t charge me for changing my flight. I got a good seat, an aisle next to the only vacant seat on the plane with a frail looking Chinese lady sleeping next to the window. I will fly thru Guangzhou and will be spending the night there.
I posted something at facebook, “It’s a happy day in heaven”, with that Americana picture of mom and sisters. I got hundreds of responses and messages. It was really touching. The voices of my high school friends are still healing.
Eight years later while in China, divorced and mom-less, I think of that horrible day, but I didn’t wake up dreading January fifth. I laughed as I taught students from my stupid quarantine wearing yoga pants
So many of these painful details have faded. Like snowflakes, they have melted and have brought forth flowers. For those who have lost a loved one recently?
Flowers will bloom.