My mother passed away on August 4th and I wish I could do it all over again.
When I received the call at the hotel in the middle of the night, I rushed over to the nursing home. I sat down by her bed and didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t sure how long it would be.
I googled ‘what to do when someone is dying’ and read people’s suggestions: open all the windows so the person’s spirit can exit. Tell the person it’s OK to ‘let go.’ Read poems.
I loved opening the windows, but reading the poem felt weird. I sang a song or two on my guitar but wasn’t really in the mood for singing either.
I was feeling sleepy and tired of sitting, so what I ultimately decided to do was crawl into her bed next to her. About four minutes later, I heard my mother take her last breath.
While I waited for the funeral home to arrive, I heard her speaking to me.
All the different phases of the dying process were new to me. I found the terminal restlessness phase disturbing, but I absolutely loved the day she spent talking nonsense. Her voice was so light, happy, and free. Almost childlike. I couldn’t understand anything she said all day, but I always agreed with her. Actually there’s one exception to my not understanding her. At one point when my face was close to hers, she gave me an earnest look and said, “You’re not going back to college? I think you should.”
I assured her that I would go back to college.
When she stopped speaking, I bought a cheap guitar and my sister and I sang songs in her room. When we sang, I felt her attention with us and her breathing quieted. I wish I could relive that moment: the three of us singing together.
I feel blessed I had those nine days with her. Nine days immersed in a space of pure love. There were no words.
At one point early on, knowing I wouldn’t get another chance to have a conversation with her, I searched my mind for something to say. Did I need to ask her something? Get answers? Apologize for anything? Have a forgiveness ritual? What would I regret not saying or doing? But there wasn’t anything there.
We just quietly looked at each other.
Whatever I said would have been manufactured. In fact, even trying to find something to say took me out of my heart… and into my head.
Because the truth was obvious: there was nothing but love between us. A month later, I’m still filled with that love.
I’d spent my life carrying around the story that she didn’t love me. I was so wrong.
I also spent my life believing she didn’t respect me and viewed me as irresponsible because I walked away from a well-paid career in my twenties to follow my creativity.
Of her three very smart and capable children, I discovered after her death that she’d designated me to be executor of her estate. Even though I lived in another part of the country, far away from her and the sibling that we all expected would be in charge. She picked me.
It’s uncanny how our minds can lead us so astray. They jump to conclusions, make up stories, and stick to assumptions that just aren’t true.
And we can spend our lifetime believing those stories. I did.
I’m so grateful for her quiet room… down at the end of a long hall at the nursing home. It was so far away from activity. No one bothered us. No one could hear us sing or talk or cry. No one walked outside or peered in. It was totally private and serene. Two sides of the room were windows–one side faced a brick wall at the back of the property. The adjacent side held a large set of windows that looked out on a green lawn. Quiet, peaceful and beautiful. I brought in bouquets of flowers from mom’s garden and hung out on the sofa that I’d grown up with in our house.
I remember thinking how much I was simply enjoying being there with her. I still feel filled with love. Her love, our love.
I took a journey with her and wish I could do it all over again.