Sunday morning, when I wrote my last post, I was waiting to call my sister so we could go on over to the hospital. Turns out when I called at 8:08, she’d just arrived, having left her home in New Mexico later than she’d anticipated. She said she’d go right over so I dawdled a bit to give her some alone time with Mother and left about 9:30 for the 10 am meeting with the Hospice Administrative nurse.
The hospitalist was at the nurses station when I arrived and told me pretty much what I knew from yesterday, but added that Mother now had renal failure to go with the rest of it. They still had her on morphine. I went in to find my sister absent and Mother sleeping. She woke up when I sat down next to her and asked me to hold her hand (which is WAY out of character for her), but didn’t seem to be all there, not really making eye contact now. Soon the Hospice nurse arrived to explain the hospice program and evaluate the situation. My sister came not long after that, and joined the discussion.
We were uneasy about moving Mother, knowing that transfers from beds to stretchers and bumpy rides would surely cause her pain, but the nurse said they’d have her drugged up enough it wouldn’t be too awful and that the hospice would be much more peaceful for her. It would be quiet and they would leave her alone, not constantly checking for vitals and such, confining their care to making her comfortable rather than well. Finally we decided that would indeed be the best choice.
They came for her at noon, and Deb rode with her while I picked up a Subway sandwich and drove over separately.
The hospice was amazing. Beautiful. A gorgeous, top notch facility and the staff were wonderful. Mother’s private room had a pair of french doors that opened onto a patio where they had a fountain going. It was quiet and peaceful as promised. Deb and I sat on the couch and talked for most of the afternoon. Mother’s hospice nurse said that it looked like she was in the last stages of the “dying process,” and that death was near. But “near” could mean hours or a couple days.
I prayed the Lord would not take her until Adam and Kim got here. They’d called that morning to say they were on their way and expected to arrive around 5) So mid afternoon I took Deb back to the hospital to get her car and we split up. I went home to get the art stuff off the office bed where the kids would sleep. They arrived about 5 or so and we all went over to see Mother at the hospice. We got there about 5:45pm, parked beside my sister’s car and went in to find Mother in the room alone and eerily still. When I came up to the bed and said “Hi Mother. Adam’s here. Kim’s here… Stu’s here…” she didn’t respond and I began to notice that she wasn’t just breathing slowly, with great pauses, she didn’t seem to be breathing at all. Only the muscles on her throat and jaw moved, but that was more like twitching than breathing. Alarmed, I called the nurse, the techs came in, they saw her, said she had passed, we cried, then the night shift nurse came in and said otherwise, so we pulled ourselves together while the night nurse examined her.
She was still breathing, said the nurse, just very shallowly and very, very slowly. She was now in the final stages of dying. Deb had stepped out of the room to talk to a social worker, and I kept asking people to go find her and get her in there. Finally they did.
Turns out that no more than 10 minutes before we arrived, Mother’d been as she’d been all day, still breathing, though loudly and with difficulty. Now she was breathing so softly it was discernible only to experts. The nurse held a stethoscope to her chest and at 6pm, with her entire family in attendance, the Lord took her. Thus God answered yet another prayer, amazing all of us with His timing.
For me, it confirmed my thought that the previous night would be my final chance to speak to her about the Lord. Not only last chance to speak to her, but last chance to have her understand me and respond, for she was never afterward as cognizant as she was then. I’m more convinced than ever, in retrospect, that she was saying yes to what I had told her about believing in Christ. And I’m claiming that verse about he who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.
And now she’s gone. I think of her going to a place of no more sorrow, no more pain, no more tears, no more death… a place where I’ll see her again.