My mother died last Tuesday morning.
Even as I write those words, none of it seems real. It's fiction. It must have happened in a horrible nightmare or to someone else. My mother is still alive and will walk down the stairs of our home any minute now and hug and kiss and love her grandchildren.
She died in intensive care after days of dialysis and heavy life support. She was, according to the doctors and nurses, in a coma the last few days of her life and she didn't suffer, which is one of the few reassurances you can give someone as they watch a loved one die before their very eyes. Another reassurance is that they can still hear the words we whisper into their ears, even if they outwardly don't seem to be registering them.
My mother came to visit us on a Thursday. She came down with flu-like symptoms the next day. And by Saturday morning she was being shuttled by ambulance to intensive care. The following day she was on dialysis as her kidneys had shut down. Sunday night was rough and a tight rope. Monday night showed promise and a glimmer of hope. We all really started believing she was going to pull out of this sudden calamity.
But Tuesday morning at 8am my precious mother left this world. My father and I were there to hold her hand and stroke her forehead and kiss her cheeks. I have never seen my father more broken and I have never cried as intensely for anyone or anything as I did watching my mother having the monitors turned off and her vitals fading forever.
She died with my 8-month-old baby girl's security blanket (a sweet tiger that she would never generally part with) on her chest. She loved all her grandkids, but the joy she experienced with that baby girl was enough to take your breath away.
Our lives were, needless to say, sent into a spiral of confusion, denial, and anger.
How on earth could this happen?? She was FINE one day and sick the next. Then she was taken from us.
The most unnerving part, I think, is when the best medical crews and doctors scratch their own heads and offer little in terms of definite answers. Her body was attacked and ultimately destroyed by a catastrophic infection. It happens, they said. And sometimes there is nothing that our advanced medical technologies can do to stop the wheels from turning down their inevitable end.
What I found the most remarkable about those days and final moments in the hospital was the lack of the sense of urgency and chaos that we have come to know from Hollywood's version of the inside of a hospital.
Even as my beloved mother began to slip away, the doctors and crew spoke calmly and walked about her bed with soft steps.
How could you be so CALM, I remember screaming inside my head as I felt the tears and the horror and the angst coming over me. MY MOTHER IS DYING...HOW CAN YOU WALK SO LIGHTLY??
Maybe it was her age (77) or the fact that they knew ultimately they had done everything they could for her. Maybe they knew it was simply but sadly her time to go.
My mother was a great woman and I wish that you could have known her. Those of you who did know how enriched your lives were just by virtue of knowing her.
She was the most selfless person I ever knew. Nothing was about her. She was always more concerned with the comfort and happiness of others before her own. Such a person is rare, especially in today's world. In this GIMME, GIMME, GIMME world, it's getting harder and harder to find someone who will make sure you are being treated well.
She leaves behind my father, to whom she was married for almost 48 years, myself (her only son), an adoring daughter-in-law, and 6 grandchildren (there was no such thing as STEP grandchildren to her...she loved them all the same and her obituary made no distinction between them...that was how deep her love was), not to mention countless others who will miss her dearly.
I am currently being comforted by my faith and by the words of scholars and experts who continue to remind us that our loved ones never really GO somewhere far away. They are with us even now. We may not be able to hear them or see them or touch them. They are our gentle and unseen companions that never leave our sides as we continue to take our steps through this life.
Forever hoping that we never lose sight of the fact that they are never more than a whisper or a thought or a prayer away.
We bury my mother on Wednesday in a ceremony ultimately designed for the living, not the deceased. We will all look down at the grave as if she is IN it. But she is not. Her earthly body perhaps, yes. But the essence and beauty that was my mother still IS my mother and always will be.
We are better served looking next to us than below us at the ground.
I love you, my sweet mother. You were the most amazing woman I ever knew. I wish I could have had you for more time than I did, but I thank God for the years I was fortunate enough to have. You will always be with me.