My mother won her battle with pulmonary hypertension just after midnight, as Friday, August 24, 2012 announced its arrival.
She awoke from a long slumber which lasted all day and all night Thursday, and when asked if she was all right, she said, “Yes.”
“Do you need anything?” the nurse asked.
She said, “No.”
Then, she took one last breath and was gone.
I am certain she was correct. There was nothing she needed. And she was, in matter of fact, all right. Quite all right. And now . . . even better.
We got the call a few minutes after 1:00 AM that morning, dressed hurriedly, then made our way out to see her one last time. We watched as an RN used a stethoscope to examine her lifeless body, then officially pronounce her at 1:53 AM.
The nursing assistants there commented about my presence, remarking that “the sons don’t usually show up” when this happens, “only the daughters.” I thought that rather odd. But then, I had been her primary caretaker for the last 2 1/2 years; I did not even consider not going.
My wife and I had written things to her that the nurses were reading to her prior to her passing. I wonder if she heard? They say that hearing is the last thing to go, you know. Then, it occurred to me that with mother’s refusal to wear her hearing aids – that may have been a moot point. Humor. Sometimes it helps get you through the tough times.
Now, almost three weeks later, I am still trying to pick up the pieces of my life that lay broken . . . still somewhat in disbelief that it has truly finally happened. A memorial planned for late this month will bring family and friends together to celebrate her life. And I’m sure that will bring it into sharp focus for me again. When I see my older brother’s tears . . . it may all become real to me. Maybe.
But as I said earlier . . . “my mother won her battle with pulmonary hypertension.” It is interesting to me that even in her death mother was a true lady, knowing when to leave (as they used to say). In rehab, previously this summer, she had commented to me about reading The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch. I knew then that she was taking in his words, not just passing the time with another good book; rather, scoping out the way she wanted to be remembered, and how she wanted to prepare those who would be doing that remembering.
As I said earlier . . . “my mother won . . . .” The hospice RN had cautioned my wife that someone with mother’s condition would become more and more sleepy, then eventually would fall into a coma of an uncertain duration. I don’t think mother even bothered with the coma stage at all.
But as I said earlier . . . . She won. It is our loss. But it is her gain. Her great grandson visited her earlier in the week. He is just a toddler, and was unaware of the gravity of what was happening to her, of course. He was amused by the oxygen mask she was wearing as she sat in her favorite blue chair. He pointed at her. She pointed back (he was one of the few things that could enliven her). He pointed again. She raised her crooked arm and pointed back, poking her finger at him as she did. And then . . . they touched fingers. Multiple times.
My grandson will never remember that evening. My mother, and those of us there, may never forget it. Surrounded by the ones she loved, and spanning generations, she took in her final image of the little boy that meant the world to her, and she gave him a final embrace with that touch.
And then, less than 48 hours later . . . she won.