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October 27, 2008

A New Chapter Begins... Mom on the Right is Okay

By: The Dude on the Right
Her 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.

This will 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!!!


Posted by Rightdude at October 27, 2008 8:36 PM


Dear Ugh,
I wish something I could say would be of comfort to you, but I miss my mom, who passed away only a little while ago, and my dad, who passed away in January. Nothing about seeing the dying process is easy, and in the end, I can't recommend the Crossing the Creek book nearly enough. Google has some excerpts, but hopefully your hospice center or library has a full copy because it really helped me understand how people comprehend their time has come, and that as how disturbing it might be to see them die, it's actually the most natural of progressions of the end of life.
Good luck to you, and as much as the death rattle sucked for you, for your mom it was part of transition to a tomorrow.

Posted by: The Dude on the Right at December 2, 2008 8:10 PM

I googled "death rattle"+"mom"+"die" and came here. I watched my mom die about ten days ago in a hospice home. I can't stop thinking of the death rattle. It was so disturbing and painful to watch my mom in such a state.

I miss her.

Posted by: Ugh at November 26, 2008 9:42 PM

Nice cuz. Sure do and will miss my favorite aunt (and uncle). xo

Posted by: Judy at November 4, 2008 11:52 AM

Your Mom was a pretty lady and had a beautiful name too. You express your thoughts with true affection. God bless you. We are here for you.Your BFF's Mom

Posted by: Eleanor at October 29, 2008 10:14 AM

Dude, very sweet tribute to your mom. I am deeply sorry for your loss and pray that you will find comfort. Glad you could be with her.

Posted by: D.L. at October 27, 2008 10:07 PM

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