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Rated: E · Documentary · Death · #2001278
The true story of the last few hours I spent with my Mother as she passed away.

I hear the sound of the wind as it rattles the loose pane of glass in the window frame. My parents bedroom is lit only by the sunlight that is filtered through the Mock Orange bush outside the window and a single bulb in Mom's reading lamp. I become aware of how quiet the house is. I think back to my youth when this house was rarely quiet. There was always activity and rarely was that activity quiet. I think back to the time when Steve, my brother and I.....

I notice a change in Mom's breathing. This quickly draws me back to the present. I listen carefully. One minute then two pass until mothers breathing falls back in the the usual rhythm. I slowly begin to relax. I put my hand on Mom's shoulder so she would know that someone is there, with her. I think how lucky I am to share this time with her. I know Mom's journey is almost finished. She is dying. The medications are keeping her comfortable and she is resting again. I whisper a prayer asking God to make her transition from this life to her life with him as easy as possible. I feel the assurance that my prayer was ansered long before I asked.

As I sit next to her bed, I start to feel a little ache from sitting in one place for too long. I watch Mom for a minute longer. I then get up and make my way down the hall to the kitchen. The kitchen table is in organized disorder. There are paper plates and plastic cups, snacks of all types and other treats that friends and family have brought. I smile as I think of the people that have dropped off food for our family and the other visitors. They always ask with, genuine concern, if there is any thing we need or if they can help in any way. "No", the standard reply, "but thank you for thinking about us". The entire family is grateful for the outpouring of concern but yet, we feel a little uncomfortable being on the recieving end of their kind actions. I smile and make a mental note of who brought what so that "Thank You" cards can be sent. I reach into an open bag of Fritos and take yet another handful. As I much on the chips, I become aware of two things. First, Im not a bit hungery and second, I really dont like Fritos. I eat them anyway. I look around the corner and see my father sleeping in his recliner. I know he is hurting just as bad or worse than his children are. I am so happy that he is able to rest.

I make my way back to my parents bedroom and retake my seat near the hospital bed that hospice provided for Mom. I find myself studying Mom's face. Its only been a few minutes since I left but I think I can see a little change in her face. The wind outside has calmed so the only sound other than Mom's breathing is the hum of the air compressor that keeps the mattress pad inflated. As I think of the cheerful hospice nurses that have been caring for mom for so long, I feel the urge to pray again. This time I pray for Valerie and Amy by name. I pray for blessings on them and their families. I pray for their safe travel and strenght as they care for a number of others, not just my mother. As I finish my prayer, I feel a wave of emotion wash over me. I feel the sting of what can be best discribed as a combination of sadness and anger. I reflect over the past months. I am recently divorced from my wife of nearly 22 years. I came home to a note that simply, yet firmly stamped an abrupt end to our marriage. I was soon to learn that my wife had choosen another man, my former best friend, to spend her life with. The anger grows. How could someone who claimed to have loved you, just abandon you, weeks before facing the death of my mother. My anger grows larger as I think of how just five months ago, I was sitting next to her grandmother as she was dying. How could she just leave me here to deal with this.....

I jump as Mom's breathing changes yet again. This time her breaths are much more labored. Emotions start to well up as I consider the probably meaning of Mom's change in breathing. I take a deep breath. I feel a little relief as my sister, Kaye, walks in and sits on the other bed. I can tell by the expression on my sisters face that she too notices the difference in Mom's breathing. We sit together quietly, exchanging glances but not words. I see the tears start to form in Kaye's eyes. Tears form in my eyes instantly. Quietly, we sit and watch our mother slip the bonds of this life and prepare for her final journey. I start to feel an ache in my chest. I close my eyes again. A prayer starts to spill from my heart.

"Dear heavenly Father, thank you for your kindness and mercy. I thank you, Father, for this time you have given me to spend these last few hours of my mothers life with her. Thank you for the christian example that Mom set as a standard in our home. Father, please take her hand and guide her to her reward. I thank you for allowing me to be born into such a wonderful family. Thank you Father for your son, Jesus that freely gave himself on the cross to take away our sins so that we may have the gift of eternal life with you. I love you Father and I praise you name. I ask that I would reflect your love so that others might see you in me. I pray these things in Jesus's name, Amen"

As I finish my prayer, the telephone rings in the other room. Kaye quickly retreats to the dining room to answer the call. I remain. In an attempt to keep any doubt out of my mind, I begin to recount all the blessings I have been given during this time. The first thought that enters my mind is the re-discovered friendship with a classmate from school.

Audra was alway special to me. We both grew up as "faculty brats". That is to say that both of our mothers were school teachers. Audra and I were the same age and spent many afterschool hours waiting for our mothers to finish there days and make plans for the next school day. Audra was a beautiful blonde haired, blue eyed girl with grace and confidence well beyond her years. I would watch as she practiced her twirling routines in the wide open foyer of the elementry school building. I would watch the determination in her eyes more than the twirling of her baton. I would watch her work hard and fight for every element in her routine. I often wondered if I would every be able to have the same degree of commitment to something in my life. At some point, I placed Audra on a pedistal in my mind. She became someone that I would observe, with great joy, but somehow, she became unapproachable, that is until the school Christmas program. Audra and I were chosen to be aliens from another planet sent to observe an Earth Christmas. We were probably in about fifth grade. The night of the program, Audra and I were dress in green turtle necks with shiny, metalic gold space suits. Our faces and hands were even painted green. We arrived early so that no one would see our costumes. I vividly remember sitting in a storage room on a rolled up wrestling mat waiting for the show to start. Audra was "blinking" things like Jeanie on the television show, I Dream of Jeanie. She was not a bit nervous and just overflowing with happiness. I remember being happy to be with Audra, yet very nervous about being with her. Audra, seeing that I was nervous, simply plopped down next to me and boldly, yet lightly, kissed me on the cheek. My nerves went away. I was thrilled. That started me on a path....

I was jolted back to reality with yet another change in Mom's breathing. Mom's breathing was still labored but her breaths were much more shallow. I studied her face. I told myself that I didn't want to remember her as I saw her now. I felt like all the things that made her Mom were now gone and just her body remained. As I looked around the room, I noticed that the sun was much lower in the sky than before. With less sunlight, Mom's reading lamp seemed much brighter. I had heard Kaye talking on the telephone. She made her way back into the bedroom. It occurs to me that Kaye was walking softly, as if not to wake Mom up. She whispers to me that Valerie, one of the hospice nurses is on her way out . With Kaye back in the room, I walk back down the hall to the kitchen. I walk aimlessly. I walk to the living room to find Dad turning on the evening news. I walk around the house looking for something, maybe nothing. Soon Valerie arrives. She is her normal, cheerful, self. She quickly examines Mom. I feel Dad walk into the room behind me. As the nurse turns to face us, I notice the change in her expression. Valerie walks up to my father and delivers the news that we all already knew. Mother is slipping away, at a much faster pace than originaly thought. Valerie tells us that it is time to call our sister, Gaye, so she can be with us when the time comes for Mom to pass. I make my way into one of the other bedrooms and call my brother, Steve who lives in Texas so that he can be informed and maybe wont feel as bad about not being able to be with us. As I walk back to my parents room, I can feel my stomache start to churn slightly. I sit in my chair next to the hospital bed. I have a helpless feeling come over me. I close my eyes to pray. I pray for strenght and guidance. My prayer takes the form of mental ramblings of jumbled thoughts. Suddenly, a very deep, strong, current of lonliness comes over me. I slip my hand into my pocket to find my cell phone. I hit the contacts button. I scan through the contacts for someone to call. I find no friend thatI can trust with my feelings. The number I would really like to call, Audra's number, is at home in my notebook. Trying to put on a brave face, I leave the room and call my neighbor, Mike. Mike answers. I tell him that that I might be late coming home because my mothers time is short. Having regained some control, I walk back into the bedroom and retake my seat. I spend the next few minutes just sitting and listening to my mothers breathing. Her breaths are now very labored and erratic. I find myself simply looking at Mom. She looks so frail. I estimate that she probably weighs less than sixty pound. She has been in decline for so long that I try to imagaine what she looked like when she was closer to her normal weight. My mind is filled with the reality of this moment and the future. I know I will see my mother pass today. I think about how different my life will be after today. I try to visualize the holidays without her. If I remarry, my wife may never have known my mother. I feel a little ache, starting in my chest, that quickly makes its way to my throat and then to my eyes. My tears begin to run. I have learned that there is no use in wiping them away as each wiped tear has its place taken by another. I quietly cry as I place my hand on Mom's shoulder. When the tears slow, I look up to see my father standing in the door way. Without a word, I stand up and Dad takes my chair. He reaches for Mom's hand. I leave the room so they can spend time alone. I feel the urge to close the door when I leave but dont.

After a few minutes, my sister Gaye arrives. I know that I need to go home and feed the horses. I tell my sisters that I will be back as soon as possible. I spend the next hour driving home, feeding the animals and driving back. I use this time to openly cry, feel my emotions, acknowledge them and recover. I pray for strenght and then start to feel my strenght come back. I drove back looking into the sunset. The beauty of the changing colors and its tints makes me smile. Just miles before turning into the driveway, I flip on the headlights. This will be Mom's last day, I think to myself.

I park and hurry inside. Kaye and Dad are in with Mom. Gaye and her daughter, Stephanie are sitting in the living room. I ask about Mom. Gaye just gives me a little, half smile that tells me that things are worse. I sit and we begin to talk. After a short time, Kaye walks out of the bedroom. The look on her face said more that the words I can't recall that came from her mouth.

The family gathers around Mom's bed. I don't remember anyone really talking, just an occasional whisper. Mom breathing was very shallow, labored and somewhat ragged. Her breaths were unevenly spaced and her pulse was weak. I felt the need to be strong. I felt quite certain that I looked the part. What was unseen however, by all but God, was my need to run away from what was happening. I tried to figure out why I felt the way I did. I soon realized that the fear I was having was not the fear of watching my mother die, but rather a growing fear of being alone. I glanced around the room and saw what I was sure was a similar expression on my fathers face. I look at the alarm clock on the dresser, it reads 9:00pm. We all stand queitly. The sound of my sister fighting back tears is the only sound other than Mom's breathing. Gaye and Stephanie are begining to tear up. Kaye moves to the foot of the bed with them. I look at my father. He is sitting on his bed with no expression on his face but tears in his eyes. I move up and take the place where Kaye had been by Mom's head. Again, there is a change in Mom's breathing. Her breath slows. I place my hand on Moms shoulder. She is so thin, I can easily feel her pulse. I nearly jump at the sound of my own voice. I truly dont remember what I said. I just wanted to assure Mom, that we would all be alright and she could let go. Mom's breaths became farther and farther apart then stopped completely. I continued to feel her pulse through my hand that was resting on her shoulder. Very soon her pluse just simply faded and stopped. Someone asked me if she was gone. I checked for a pulse at her wrist. I felt none. I just nodded to my sisters. I looked back at the clock, 9:11pm. Our mother had gone to her reward with God. As she was fond of saying, she was "gathered unto her people". I knew that she was now with them.
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