For Chip: He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion. —Unknown

Saturday, October 24, 2015

In A Moment

I was still grieving as I drove to work.   It was early morning and I was at work where I should be in work mode.  However, I had to pretend not to feel or show any emotion.  My coworker walked in and started talking about tasks for the day.  She quickly realized all was not right with me.  She glanced down and saw the crumpled Kleenex in my hand.  I tried to hide my pain, but my red puffy eyes and smeared makeup were a giveaway.  How could grief take such joy away from life?

It had only been a few months since my mom and I had driven down 34rd St. after leaving her favorite restaurant, Luby’s. This cafeteria is known for having square fish.   She turned to me and said it was time to get everything in order.  She said I could get more done if she were with me.  How true that was.  Her faith and strength were stronger than anyone I had every known.  I agreed to do what ever she wanted me to do.  I listened as she gave me instructions.  We discussed everything as if we were running a business.  I felt so inadequate in strength compared to this woman.  That day my mom and I made an alliance that I would follow her instructions.  I knew she had a premonition that the end was near.  We had a nice discussion and I was not sad or surprised.

At the time we were getting everything in order I did not know I would become obsessed with finding the perfect blue coffin. I also did not know that I would want to make sure she had the most beautiful blue dress to match the coffin. I did not know that I wanted the most beautiful songs and singers.  I did not know that my children would be contributing and supporting the entire event by speaking, singing, playing guitar and piano. I did not know that they would be so strong, and that they were all just like her in strength.  

Little did I know what was ahead of me.  Death was coming faster than I had imagined.  I thought it could be years. Death is always a surprise even when expected.  How do people handle an illness, death or catastrophic event without faith and religion?  What I really mean is how can someone survive grief without God?

The call came that today was the day.  The day of death? Surely they were wrong and it would take several days. I was already driving to see her.  My tears were similar to a bad thunderstorm.  I could see nothing and all I wanted was a chaplain, a pastor, or a rabbi. I needed someone that had more clout with God than I did.   In the midst of chaos I felt total calm and comfort as the church deacons arrived.  The church sent members who came to support and encourage me as I traveled into territory where I had never been. She was unresponsive they said.  The sounds of her breathing were rather loud, but consistent. Her purple feet were indications that the body was shutting down. I grabbed her hand as I always did and brushed her hair back over her ears.  I wanted to say all these wonderful things she had done for me, but I knew that if I did I would break down in tears.  She wasn’t too fond of weakness and crying so I just sat quietly as her weary breathing continued.

How could this be happening?  The day before she wanted me to go to lunch with my son and his wife, but I could not leave her.  There would be plenty of time for lunches.   She had also asked me, “Who will take care of you?”  I had left her the night before and when she looked at me it was as if she could not see.  I believe that was the veil before death that I had read about.  She was leaving us, but I did not think so soon.

I was all alone and waiting for my son to arrive. The middle son came into the room and I was hopeful when I saw him.  I was hopeful that things would be better.  He sweetly leaned over and said “Granny:  Jeff is here.  I’m here now”.  Within minutes her breathing changed.  I said out loud, “Her breathing is changing.”  She was given morphine under the tongue and within seconds her breaths stretched out.  I thought she stopped breathing and then there was one more breath.  My son and I both sat motionless and cried quietly.  I felt of her chest and arms to see if there was another breath or if she felt warm.  There was nothing.  The hospice nurse, Artis sat with his head down as we both cried.  He was a wonderful nurse.  He had put baby lotion all over his hands and arms.  The smell was wonderful.  He slowly and methodically went to his bag and pulled out a stethoscope.  He checked her and looked at us and said, “She’s passed”.