I'm sure my day started out like any other in early December. I had to get working on my Christmas shopping and all the plans and hoopla for a family Christmas.
My daughter was in med school and one of my older sons was away at college, the other had graduated in the spring and had started a new job a few weeks earlier. My three year old son was at home. It would only be a week or so and the college invasion would occur. We would then have two more people living in our house for about a month. I loved having them home, but it was always a huge change of lifestyle for the time they were home.
I had just talked to a doctor and I needed to have gallbladder surgery very soon.
Then I received "the call". It was a call I had been dreading, but I wasn't sure if this was "the time". My mother's health had been failing for some time. To her dismay, she was living in a nursing home. My three year old and I had spent lots of time visiting her there. Usually if my older children got to go for a visit we would pick her up from the nursing home and take her somewhere to visit. My older sons had a hard time being in the nursing home. They all loved seeing Grandma, she was always fun. Although she was living in the nursing home, she hadn't lost her sense of humor.
This day was different though. When my sister called she seemed to have a sense of urgency in her voice. I lived about an hour and a half away, and she told me I should come soon. I told my husband that I needed to go right away. He told me to take off and keep him posted.
When I got to the hospital Mom was still talking, but she was weak. I decided to call and tell my children to come and see Grandma, we don't know how long she will be around. They weren't doing anything to fix her at this point, so we knew she wasn't going to really get better, she just might make it through this round.
I hated to call my son away from his job and with my other children at college getting ready for finals I hated to call them away. I just knew at this point that I couldn't wait. As I was calling my children, my siblings were calling their children. All my siblings were at the hospital, except for a brother that we were unable to track. He had a habit of just taking off and traveling around the country. There was no way to contact him. He had also been gone when Dad died. He didn't show up at home until a few weeks later. Now, here we were, Mom is dying and we can't find him.
The grandchildren all stood around and talked to Grandma and told her how much they loved her. I remember my daughter coming in and getting a brush and brushing her Grandma's hair and washing her face with a warm cloth. My daughter wanted to make her grandma feel and look as nice as possible. At least she could feel like she was doing something for her. As a medical school student she knew better than anyone what was happening. I would pull her aside and ask her what was going on. Her news wasn't good.
My husband brought my three year old to the hospital. He came to the bed and looked at her and talked to her for a few minutes. She did her best to talk and interact with him. She always loved having the little ones around her. My nieces brought their babies in with them. My sister had younger children and they all came in.
Thankfully, the hospital was wonderfully understanding. They told us that they would close off that hallway as much as possible. They really didn't think she had long and since she had such a huge family that wanted to be with her, they wanted to help out. I can't believe how sweet those nurses were. Some of them knew my mom. My sister had worked at the hospital for several years.
When my husband came down he brought clothes for me so I could stay a few days. I told him I could go and sleep and shower at the home of my first mother-in-law. (My first husband had died several years before and she was like a second Mom to me.) He and my son headed back home and the older kids took off back to school to try to finish up with finals. I told them I will let you know if there are any changes.
Well we spent a few days at that hospital. After the first day Mom went into a coma. All we could do was sit around and make sure she was as comfortable as possible. My kids came back when they had time even though it was a drive to get there from their respective colleges and work. My husband told me he wouldn't be back with our son because he wanted him to remember her as he had seen her last. (He remembers going to the hospital to see her and she was nice to him. After fifteen years at least he had the feeling of her love that he carries with him.)
As the days continued the crowd in the room grew and so did the noise. We all started talking and I thought, wow, I wish I had a tape recorder. The stories of our childhood were being passed around and everyone was laughing. We all talked about the times we got in trouble with Mom. It seems odd that we were sitting in our mother's room with her dying, and we were laughing so hard that at times we were in tears. We even picked up things and threw them at each other. Nothing that would hurt anyone just to get their attention. At one point, a nurse came into the room and caught us. She said, "It sounds like there is a party going on in here!" We all laughed and said, "Well there is, it's a going away party for our mother."
The nurse told us she was so happy to see that the death was bringing us all closer together. She said, "If your mother can wake up, she will. She won't want to miss out on this." She was sure our mother was lying there in a coma listening and smiling as her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren were remembering their lives together. She told us that any mother would feel so loved having her family surrounding her at this time. There were about twenty-five of us at the hospital most of the time. We rotated around from her room, the waiting area, the cafeteria. Everyone just wanted to be close by.
My mother was a very strong, Christian woman. We weren't concerned about her dying for her sake, we felt she would be with our family members who had gone before us. She would be going to a better place. A place she had spent her life preparing to go. We just weren't sure how we all would go on without her. She had been the rock in all our lives. Had she made us all strong enough to carry on without her? We would see.
We were up to five days in the hospital, most of us staying around the clock. We would run and get a bite to eat, grab a shower, and maybe a couple of hours sleep. We just didn't want to miss any of those last hours with her.
As the days went along we started singing gospel songs in the room. My mother sang in church and she always went around the house singing gospel songs, so it just felt right.
On the fifth night, my husband had called and told me my little boy was getting really upset about not seeing me. He had never been away from me overnight before.
As I talked about it to my family they all agreed that I needed to make a trip home. My younger sister's children were all feeling the same way. They said why don't you two girls go home and see the kids and come back in the morning. One of my sisters asked, "If she dies while you are gone, will you be okay with that?" I thought about it and told her that yes I would because I knew mom would want me to take care of my baby.
My younger sister and I talked to mom and told her we were going to go home and take care of our babies. We told her that we loved her and that if she needed to go while we were gone it was okay, but if not we would be back in the morning. It was so hard to leave. In my hour and a half car ride back home I sobbed thinking about leaving her and never seeing her alive again. I also laughed when I remembered some of the crazy stories that had been going around that room.
I got home that night and my son was so happy to see me. He asked, "Is Grandma all right?" I told me that Grandma was fine and she would be going home to live with Jesus and to see Grandpa really soon. I got a bite to eat and laid down in the bed thinking I wouldn't be able to sleep. I fell immediately to sleep. It seemed like a few seconds later, my husband was shaking me. He had the phone in his hand. He handed it to me. I think it was one of my older sisters on the other end. She said, "Mom is gone." They said she just sighed and stopped breathing. My older sisters told my younger sister and I that they didn't think Mom wanted to go with the two of us there. We were her babies and she didn't want us to see her die. I know when Dad was dying she convinced my younger sister and I to go to the cafeteria in the hospital for a while because she didn't want us there. I believe that she didn't want us there at the end. She always took care of her babies.
Well the story should end here, but the next day when we were getting plans for the funeral together, my brother who we didn't know how to get a hold of just comes walking in. We hated to tell him that Mom had died, and he was a day too late.
We had all sang to Mom in the hospital, so it was only fitting that he got to sing at her funeral. My brother sang his song to Mom as she lay in her casket. At the graveside we all sang together, and laid our beautiful mother to rest in the hands of God.