Goodbye Mama, I love you!
November 10, 2010
The phone rings and I am jarred awake. I look at the clock and reach for the phone. It's 1:10 AM. My God...is this it? Is Mama gone?
It's the nurse at the nursing home. She tells me that Mama is declining rapidly. I jump out of bed, hurriedly dress and get in my car. It's dark and cold. As I navigate the night, my body starts to shiver. Not from the cold. My heart is beating fast. Please let me make it there before she is gone!
I make it to the nursing home in 10 minutes and rush inside. The nurse meets me in the hallway and follows me to Mama's room. They have given her morphine. As I turn the corner into her room, I see her laying there. Her breathing is labored and she is staring blindly into space.
I have come to this same room, every day for nine months since she had her major stroke. I have watched her whither away a little each day. But, in just a few hours she seemed so different. She LOOKED different. If I didn't KNOW that this was my Mama, I wouldn't have recognized her.
Death changes everything.
I felt as if a great weight were sitting on my chest.
Another caregiver had been sitting with Mama all evening and she rose from the chair as I made my way to her side.
"I'm here Mama. It's okay. I love you." My voice catches in my throat.
No response. She just stares and gasps for every breath.
I sit down and take her hand. The nurse leaves and tells me to call her if I need anything.
"Mama, I'm here. Can you hear me? I'm right here. It's okay." I start to silently cry. Tears roll down my cheeks.
"Everybody loves you, Mama. It's okay, just relax."
The room is dark, except for the light by her bed. The smell of Lysol, stale air and death, hover around me. The minutes tick by, and slowly turn into hours. As I sit there, I keep repeating myself and tell her over and over how much I love her. Soon, I just sit there holding her hand in silence.
Two hours go by and the nurses come in to change and reposition her. I step out into the hall. My head is pounding. Someone comes by, a nurse or an aide and gives me a hug and I start to cry. They tell me how nice my Mama is and how much she was always talking about me.
Soon, I go back in and take up my post by her bed. I hold her hand and start to talk about all the things from my childhood.
"Mama, do you remember when I was 5 years old and I wanted to give you and Daddy Christmas presents? I didn't have any money, so I went and got the slippers that you always wore and did a pretty crappy job of wrapping them up for you. I remember thinking that you wore them all the time. So, you must really like them and that they would make a good gift for you! You looked for your slippers for a couple of weeks. And every time you would ask me if I had seen them, I would just smile. I remember you opening that "gift" on Christmas and you laughing your head off. Daddy was really surprised when he opened his "gift" and found his missing eye glasses!"
Silence. Just labored breathing. Her eyes don't move. Just her chest moving up and down.
Does she even know I'm here? Am I doing any good at all? Is she in pain? I don't know what to do. God, help me to know what to do!
In the next room, someone has their television on watching an infomercial for making a million dollars on Ebay.
Another 2 hours go by and the aides come in to change Mama again. I wander down the hall and lean against the wall. The medication nurse, Sophie is readying her cart for the day. She asks if I'm okay. I shake my head "no" and start to sob.
"Could you please give me some Tylenol. My head is splitting." Tears and more tears pour from my eyes. Sophie makes me sit down and gets me some water and hands me the pills. She takes my hands and does some accupressure to help relieve the pain. It helps.
I go back in. The vigil continues. The rest of the nursing home is starting to awaken. Through the windows, I can see the sky starting to lighten. I look at the clock...6:15 AM.
God, why does she have to suffer like this? Please take her to heaven and end this. Is there something else that needs to be done? Is there something else that needs to be said? Some unfinished business?
Suddenly, the lightbulb in my mind flickered on. Mama had always worried that she was a burden to me and my husband. She had lived with us for the last 10 years and had frequently voiced her concerns to me about this. I always tried to reassure her that she wasn't a burden and that we loved having her with us.
Is that what it is God?
"Mama, you were never a burden to us. Bill and I loved having you with us every moment. The kids were so happy to have you there. We all love you. You don't have to worry. Can you hear me? You were NOT a burden to us! We love you!"
Her breathing became very fast. She started to shake. I grasped her hand and leaned down to kiss her forehead.
"It's okay Mama. You can let go. God is calling you home. Tell Daddy I love him."
Her chest slowed down. Body relaxed. A gasp of breath.
"Goodbye Mama. I love you!"