Beginning the Final Farewell

Mom and her Grandchildren

Mom and her Grandchildren

This past Friday, I drove to the nursing home and spent the morning with my mother.  She was looking more sunken than the previous day and her eyes were still shut and there was still no communication or response.  She just seemed to be sleeping, clutching the teddy bear one of the grandchildren had given her some years ago.

Because my husband and I had an appointment in the early afternoon, I said “goodbye”, kissed her, and slipped out around lunchtime after promising her that I’d be back the next day.  However, when I got home, I discovered a message on our machine from the hospice nurse.  She had been over there early in the morning and wanted to tell me that Mom was not doing well.  I called her back.

“Our daughter is thinking of driving up on Saturday to see her grandmother.  Do you think that would be early enough or should I tell her to come up today?” I asked her.

There was a long pause and then she said, “I’d advise her to come earlier rather than later.”

I hung up the phone and looked at my husband, who was already in the car waiting for me.

“I can’t go to this meeting,” I told him.  “I have to go back to see Mom.”

Our daughter with her grandmother on her 99th birthday

Our daughter with her grandmother on her 99th birthday

I left a message for our daughter at her work and then grabbed a bag of knitting and my Kindle and headed back to the nursing home.  Within an hour, the Commander arrived.  He’d cancelled the meeting and was there to spend time with Mom, too.

All week I had been wanting to sing hymns and other favorite songs to Mom but would get so choked up that I just couldn’t even get the words out.  This time, with my knitting in hand, the familiar motions of the needles seemed to calm me and I was able to start singing.  I sang and sang to her for hours.   She’s probably one of the few people who can say their way to Heaven was “paved with show tunes.”  I didn’t just sing hymns.  I went through my repertoire of songs from musicals like “Peter Pan”, “The King and I”, “South Pacific”,  “The Sound of Music,” and “Oklahoma.”

There were times that I just held Mom’s hand.  Miracle of miracles, her eyes opened off and on all afternoon although they were glazed over and non-focused.  She would occasionally make grunts as though she was trying to say something but no words ever came out.  I rubbed her back or smoothed her hair from her brow.  I’d lean over and search for the pulse in her neck because there were times when I couldn’t detect her breathing.  And I kept an eye on the clock and prayed that Laura would arrive soon.

Enjoying grandson, Jason and wife, Laura

Enjoying grandson, Jason and wife, Laura

At some point I finished reading Prairie School  by Lois Lenski to her.    I’d been reading this tale of life on the North Dakota prairie to her for several months and Friday we reached the end.

Laura arrived and we sat on each side of her bed, holding her hand and talking to her.  Laura showed her sonogram pictures of the baby that she is expecting.  This little one will be Mom’s fourth great-grandchild.  I had told Mom the happy news several weeks ago  and she had been so excited.

When evening came, Mom’s roommate, June, was wheeled back into the room.  June, bless her heart, had already “serenaded” Mom and I most of the morning and now her arrival brought some welcome light-heartedness to the room.  The nurses had drawn the curtain between the beds and were preparing June for bedtime.  They were attempting to get her pajamas on her.

“Why are you putting pajamas on me?” she kept asking.

“Because you’re going to bed,” they answered.  “You don’t want to sleep naked, do you?”

“Why not?” she replied.  “Naked is fun.  Don’t you ever sleep naked.”

“Heavens, no,” they responded.

“Well, you should try it,” she laughed.    She was still laughing when they said they needed to brush her teeth.

“Here they are,” she said.

Laura and I glanced up and our hands flew to our mouths as we tried to stifle giggles.

The nurses finally left and June continued to laugh and laugh on the other side of the curtain until all of a sudden she stopped and then said, cheerfully, “Ooops!  Looks like I’m going to need some new underpants.”

By this time our shoulders were shaking.

Things quieted down for the night, lights were lowered out in the hallways and the hours ticked by.  Nurses would come in regularly to rotate Mom from side to side.  Occasionally they would give her another dose of pain medication.  Finally we made the decision to head back to the house with the plan to return early in the morning.  I leaned over Mom’s bedside and kissed her forehead.  

“We’re going to bed now, Mama, but we’ll be back tomorrow.  We love you,” I murmured.

Always a ready smile!

Always a ready smile!



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