Mom’s gone. From entry into hospice to her final breath: thirty-six hours. It was peaceful and I don’t know if she knew we were there.
I’m relieved it’s over. My grieving process started long before now, long before she first became ill in November. Years ago, when the decline began, I knew we were headed for the end we got. The long, slow decline, the insistence that everything was fine, then the increasing meds and pain. The progression from slow walk to shuffle to cane to walker to wheelchair to hospital bed. Then the real decline, from an insistence on getting well, to a willingness to listen, to simply nodding at everything, to no communication at all, except to refuse food and wave away the emergency room doctors while shaking her head “no” as they stood over her with their tubes and IVs and syringes. She had no problem telling them it was time. She also had the legal paperwork detailing her wishes. All I had to do was enforce them.
I “womaned up” and told the doctors, “No more. She’s the mom, and she said so.”
And then the nice people from hospice step in, and make things peaceful until the end. Next you have to sort, sift, shred and tidy up the life that person left behind. Photos, tax papers, receipts, doctor bills, furniture, books, knickknacks, money, credit cards, jewelry, china, dishes, clothes – how did all this stuff fit in this space, anyway? And why is some of it here? So much of it seems so innocuous, so pointless to even store and keep in a one-bedroom apartment. But it all mattered to mom at some point in the past, if not the present.
While working through the apartment, we found a notepad on her dining room table. She had started writing her autobiography, perhaps as a memory exercise, possibly as something to leave the grandkids. She spoke about her childhood: the multi-family Brooklyn home she lived in, her father’s dairy store, her best friends, snowball fights and school crushes. She spoke about her marriage and early life raising three kids. Sadly, the memoir is unfinished. We will never know what she would have said about her long widowhood, or taking care of her aging mother and mother-in-law or her later life as she coped with losing her friends to the ravages of age. In some sense, I’m sorry about that unfinished story, because she wrote very well. But I like the idea of her story “ending” with the happy time, before age and illness and pain took over and brought us to this point.
Rest well, mom. We’ll keep writing the family stories in your honor.