The Dude on the Right
death certificate reads "Time of Death: 11:55 PM" and the date of her death was
Monday, October 20, 2008. Actually, I’m not really sure the exact time on the
death certificate, because I haven’t actually seen it, and technically what is
written is wrong even though "officially" correct, but for me my mom will always
have passed away on Saturday, October 18th, at 3:32 PM.
be a long blog post.
It was just over nine months ago that my dad died. Simply put, he was done.
After 78+ years of fighting multiple sclerosis, a brain tumor, thalamic
syndrome, a slight stroke, and a cavalcade of other crap, he was just tired and,
even though this sounds weird, he opted to just let his body die. He entered the
hospice center and a few days later, well, Dad on the Right had passed away, but
not before my sister and I got to see him one last time, which I would like to
say was a lovely, serene scene, but when the body dies over a few days, as
sometimes happens, the visual aspect can be a little jarring. Seeing dad,
though, hours before he passed, was nothing like the experience of hanging with
my mom for the last four days of her life.
But as difficult, emotional, and visually/auditorially disturbing those days
might have been, at 3:32 PM on October 18th, Mom on the Right set my
heart at ease.
You see, Mom wasn’t really ready to die at first, I think, but her body was
finally giving out. She smoked for years, eventually was diagnosed with
emphysema and had some partial blockage requiring a stent, and nowadays all of
that seems to be lumped into something called COPD. Then a few years ago she was
diagnosed with lung cancer, and even though the end was going to eventually
come, she kept up the fight. But Mom didn’t want to die in a hospital or a
hospice center – nope, if she was going to go, well, it was going to be at home,
so she ended up in home hospice, resting comfortably for the past few months in
her easy chair. Then, a few weeks ago, she became increasingly tired (I could
tell because she wasn’t checking or replying to any e-mails), and as my brother
and sister rotated duties caring for her, and from the talk of the hospice
nurses, mom’s time was coming, and my turn came to return to the old country,
Lorain, OH, to take care of her for a spell.
When I arrived she was tired, but still had her wits about her. When she
would have her short bursts of energy we would have quick conversations about
the upcoming election, the Cleveland Browns, how she still can’t stand the
manager of the Cleveland Indians, how Lorain has gone to shit, and she doesn’t
really like Rachael Ray but still watched her show on The Food Network. But as
the body goes, so does the mind, and as a day went on Mom started to become
confused, her eyes started to give her problems focusing, and in my down time I
re-read a couple of times the "Crossing the Creek" guide the hospice center
leaves with their "families" to help them understand the things that will be
happening, and in the end, it is all about helping the person about to pass to
make that journey to their next destination.
So I found myself covering the curtains with an extra blanket because the
light was bothering Mom’s eyes. I didn’t watch TV because the glare and images
on the screen bothered her. I brought Mom’s CD player into the living room where
she rested, and luckily I had a way to play her iPod through it (yup, the nurses
at the cancer center were duly impressed an 80 year old woman listened to her
music through an iPod!). At times Mom seemed scared, at times she seemed alone,
at times she had a burst of sadness yet seemed coherent things were coming to an
end (Mom was upset she never made a list of organizations she wanted to donate a
few dollars to at her passing, so we worked on the list together for the minutes
she could), and at times she just seemed, well, pissed.
And through it all, the only thing I could think to simply say is "Mom, it’s
gonna be okay."
Saturday came, and at first it seemed like another day of bizarreness, with
the morning having a slight episode. But then, in the afternoon, Mom woke up
again, looked at me sitting across from her, and I went to sit next to her.
She wasn’t stirring, she wasn’t angry, she didn’t seem sad. I held her hand.
I asked, "Do you need anything?" She looked at me, smiled, and said, "No, Andy,
I’m okay. I’m okay."
Mom went back to sleep after that moment, at 3:32 PM on Saturday, October 18th.
For the next 56ish hours mom’s body worked to finish the dying process. There
was the incoherent talk, the "death rattle" (which I had to keep reminding my
sis that it’s worse for us to hear – not so much for mom – at least so said the
"Crossing the Creek" booklet and mom’s nurse), and sometime around 11:40 PM on
Monday, October 20th, Mom tried to get up one last time, Mom’s
breathing had stopped, my sister said she couldn’t feel Mom’s pulse, and it was
about ten minutes later when the hospice nurse showed up, she tried to find a
pulse, hear a heartbeat, and get a blood pressure reading, and a little before
midnight she pronounced my Mom had passed away.
I’ve never seen anyone die before, and "What is a normal way to die?" might
be a blog for another day, but for me, my Mom died at 3:32 PM on Saturday,
October 18, 2008. After 82 years she was finally "Okay." It just
took her body a little while to catch up.
Mom on the Right is now "Okay."
That’s it for this one!
I’m The Dude on the Right!!
Mom, I love you!!!