Picture: My mother, Peggi, at her first chemo treatment.
I could not do much with my broken leg. My mother had gotten weaker and weaker, and couldn’t stand by herself or get up out of bed without help. My sister had just unexpectedly died. The hospice did not offer at-home health aides. I was at a loss.
My mother only had Medicare. The hospice told me that Medicare covered 5 days of hospice house under ‘caregiver respite’. By the Monday after my sister died my mother and I both agreed that she would go to the hospice house while I arranged for home health aides.
The hospice staff came with a transport vehicle on Tuesday and loaded my mother up. I waved as she left, and then I closed the front door and cried. And cried. I was wracked with guilt, for not being able to take care of my mother like I wanted to. The grief over my sister was hiding just under the surface, waiting to be acknowledged, but I had no time for it. That day and the next I called and talked to several organizations. Wednesday midday I found someone who would provide the help I needed – assisting my mother with the bathroom – and at a reasonable price. I was ecstatic. My mother could come back home, she would be with me, and everything would be a little bit better.
I called my mother and let her know what was going on. She sounded tired but was happy about coming back. I napped, and then around 6 that evening I texted my mother a note to say I loved her and missed her. She didn’t respond, but I wrote it off as her perhaps already asleep. Not long after I went off to bed myself.
At 1-ish in the morning I got a call from the hospice. My mother was dying.
The hospice was on the same street that I lived on, about 8 blocks away. I couldn’t drive, not with the very big post-surgical cast on my leg. Through tears I called my friends, and got a ride to the hospice.
The nurse on duty told me that my mother had had some difficulty breathing earlier in the evening, and then had been unconscious when they had most recently checked on her. She had a DNR order, and had always wanted to die without pain or being hooked to machines. So, they called me.
In her room she lay on the bed, her eyes closed, her lips slightly parted. Her pulse was very weak, very faint. I told her that I would be ok, that her cat would be ok, that I loved her more than anything in the world, and that she could go if she wanted.
She always had been a tough person.
For the next four hours I sat at her bedside, holding her cold hand, playing classical music on my phone for her. The nurse kept checking my mother’s pulse, and my mother kept hanging in there. And then, around 5:30 in the morning, she was gone.
I sat with her for a while longer, and then the grand machinery of death took over. I kissed her forehead one last time and left her to the mortuary attendants. I was so very, very tired.
My mother was my best friend. She was my confidant, my supporter, my role model, my idol. She was the one person in the world with whom I could be my truest self. She was everything to me.
My god, I loved her. I miss her.