On February 14, 2012, we received the news that my mother had terminal cancer. Not only three months before, on my birthday, our father passed away in his sleep. It was devastating. For the first few days, she seemed fine. She went through pictures with my sister, Wendy, and me, deciding which ones she wanted at her memorial. All the pictures throughout the years were literally, one after another, a reflection or story of her and dad’s life together. It was a day with her that I will never forget.
My mom always was a fighter. She was the strongest woman. She literally could take anybody down, either physically or mentally. I think her physical strength came from her mental determination. She wouldn’t lose, no matter the cost.
A few days later, she was bedridden. How did that happen so fast? One day she’s up talking about good times and hugging us and then she’s in bed, barely talking. On February 22, the doctors said mom only had a few days left with us.
We asked for prayers for her peace and comfort, but it was horrible. I seriously don’t know how home health care providers can do it. Over and over they observe people die like this? They told us what to watch for: the crinkling of the brows and tightening of her eyes; that meant she was in pain. The shaking and convolutions meant nothing, they said; just the body shutting down. Just the body shutting down? That’s nothing? I am not even able to watch a horror movie, something that is clearly fake. How am I supposed to watch my mother’s body shut down?
On February 24th I posted an update for family and friends: “Today has been amazing with mom. She has come out of the “hibernation state” to visit with us for a majority of the day. We sang hymns while she hummed with us, read Scriptures, talked, laughed, and that time is so sweet and powerful!”
It was so powerful. While her vision was already gone, she could still hold our hands and talk to us. At one point Wendy started to cry and my mom said, “Wendy, are you getting a cold?” and we all laughed. Looking back, I wonder, how could we have laughed at all? But I guess it was relieving to know that she didn’t consciously know she was dying.
Each one of us had our special time with her. She told me she was proud of me for being such a good wife and mother and that I should get the photography part of my company up and running again, because I was good at it. She told my son that the way he loved The Lord made her so proud. She told my daughter that she was the light of her life. She told my husband that she was always so proud by the way he treated me and the kids and provided a nice life for us. Weird how those words mean absolutely everything as her last to you, even though she’d said them so many times before. Then, over the next four days, we watched her slowly die. She’d say things like “I’m trying to come, Buddy (my dad’s nickname) but I can’t get the door open.” Or “My Momma looks so pretty.” Then her speech became inaudible. And on the 28th, her chest stopped moving. I was relieved that she was no longer in pain, but it was heartbreaking. Truly, the hardest thing I’ve ever done was watch her die. Also, something I wouldn’t have missed for the entire world.
While she was in bed, the last week of her life, my sister found a book I bought for my mom, over 15 years before, for mother’s day. I never knew until Wendy brought it to me that my mom had written in it. And the book was nearly full. WHAT A TREASURE!!!
Reading it in the days after, one of the questions was, “What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?” and my mother’s reply was: “Watching my mother die.”
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