may 23, 2015…

…that is day that my mom died, at about 4:30 am. i was the only person with her. 

i remember everything in great detail. 

especially the events leading up to her last breaths.

i remember a family member sharing a confidential, personal email that was between my aunt and my mom, outlining why no one wanted me there in the first place. 

to find out that my mom didn’t want me there, was a crushing blow. one that could have been avoided. but in hindsight, i think that my family member wanted to hurt me, just because he/she could. 

it started a chain reaction, in which i “unfriended” every family member on that side of my family. making me look “crazy and ridiculous.” i burnt bridges and isolated myself, because i believed that my family member, had my best interests at heart. 

my mom’s only form of communication was her ability to write. that all changed about ten days before she died. her vision changed, leaving her with double vision. overnight, she could no longer communicate with us.

she would try to write, but spatially she couldn’t see to separate her letters. so, instead of placing letters next to each other, she piled one on top of another…making a cluster fuck of gobledy-gook. my nephew had the idea to move the paper slightly with each new letter, but that rarely got good results.

i remember her with her mind fully intact, trapped as a prisoner in her own body. she couldn’t cry because it made mucus and phlegm…and she had no way to swallow or blow it out. she knew that she had no choice, but to “bite the bullet.” she was terrified and in excruciating pain.

she was on home hospice, in montana. i guess that my understanding of what hospice was…a way to keep your loved one perfectly comfortable until they died…and what hospice turned out to be, were two completely different things. hospice for my mother, just prolonged her agony and terror.

i remember being up all night with her while she was in excruciating pain, giving her the medication, as directed at the appointed times, but nothing would touch it. i called the charge nurse, who had me increase the dosages and shorten the time between them.

i did that and that didn’t help either. a few hours later, my mom’s friend-a lifeflight nurse came to visit and aspirated the contents of my mom’s stomach, and measured it. it matched the exact ml. amount that i put in her feeding tube throughout the night. none of the medicine had absorbed into her blood stream or stomach lining.

it was memorial day weekend and neither the hospice nurse, nor the doctor’s office could be bothered to do anything for her. the doctor wouldn’t prescribe fentanyl patches, because he said that she was too thin, and she would have an overdose. the hospice nurse said that they didn’t do iv’s, so no intravenous medication.

the best that they had to offer was something called a “soft set,” which was supposed to administer medication subcutaneously. however, only the traveling nurse knew how to do it and was four hours away. the nurse sent a family member to the hospital pharmacy to pick up the medication. 

my family member returned and we waited. family members and friends came and went. i sat with my mom and tried desperately to understand what she kept trying to write over and over. no one could decipher it and we all tried.

the traveling nurse showed up at about midnight. she was a very nice woman, but she explained that she suffered from parkinson’s…her hands were very shaky. we gave her the medication and she asked where the supplies for the “soft set” were. she told us that the nurse from earlier was supposed to leave them. she didn’t. 

the traveling nurse offered to drive an hour and a half each way to get the supplies and come back. my mom shook her head, “no.” the nurse aspirated my mom’s stomach again and told us that if we didn’t give her any water in her feeding tube, that the medication should absorb. she gave my mom some medication that way and it seemed to take the edge off. the nurse left and said that she would be back in the morning to check-in on my mom.

i remember that my mom motioned that she needed to use the bathroom. i told her that i would make it easier for her and went to retrieve the bedside commode. no sooner had i turned around, than i heard a noise. i whirled back and witnessed a very determined, strongwilled, proud woman propel herself from her chair with every ounce of strength that she could summon and begin a trek, which would become her last.

she made it half of the way down the hall toward the bathroom, before i could reach her. i reached her and helped her to get the rest of the way there. she pointed at the door and i gave her, her privacy. i needed help to get her out of the bathroom and to her chair. she sat there for awhile and tried to write something down, over and over.

she wanted to go into the den, that she had been using as a bedroom. we helped her into a recliner in there. she tried writing again. others got frustrated and exasperated…and, went to bed. she and i were left together. i stayed up with her for hours, trying desperately to understand.

finally, she was able to write down some letters and words that i recognized. she was also able to draw and motion some symbols. i asked her questions for another hour, to which she either nodded or shook her head. i finally understood what she was trying to ask/tell.

i remember trying to do all of the things that i could think of, to comfort my mom. i tried rubbing her feet, singing to her, and telling her stories. she looked me in the eyes for the last time, took her index finger and dragged it across her throat. the next to last thing that my mom told me, was “to be quiet.” i asked her if she wanted me to leave and she shook her head.

there was a hospital bed in her room. she pointed at me first and then the bed. she wanted me to stay, but be quiet, and not look at her. i got on that bed, laid on my back, and stared at the ceiling. i was tempted to look at her, to watch over her, but i didn’t. i abided by her wishes.

i remember lying there listening to her breathe. she started with short, panicked, pained breaths and slowly shifted to long deep, relaxed breaths. i laid there and wondered about all kinds of things, but mainly i was numb. so much had happened. so much had been revealed. 

there i was, the last person with her. the person that she didn’t even want there in the first place. however, the only person who never left her side or gave up on her. i didn’t get exasperated or frustrated and stomp off to bed. i stayed, because in the end…she did want me there…and because, i wanted to be there for her. i loved her.

i strained to hear if she was still breathing. at one point, i thought that i heard a gurgle and a long exhale, but i still wasn’t going to look. i certainly didn’t want my mom to be sick, in pain, or to die…but, i also didn’t want her to be in pain, or to suffer. i didn’t hear anything, everything was silent. it was around 4:30 am.

i decided to get up and use the bathroom. i did so without looking at her, just in case, because she was insistent that i not look at her. i used the bathroom and came back very tenatively. i walked over to her and she looked like she was sleeping peacefully. she no longer had a pained look on her face. i listened for breath sounds and took her pulse.

she was gone. i waited for about five minutes and then called, and woke up family members. we called the traveling nurse and she pronounced my mom dead. the guy from the crematory came next and he put my mom in a bag…put the bag on a gurney…and put everything into the back of a white suburban. and, that was that…she was gone.


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