I watched my Mother die today. It was perhaps the most excruciating painful yet incredibly wonderful thing I have ever done. We had all gathered because we knew her time was coming. It was expected. Yet utterly unbelievable when it happened. Mom had been acutely sick for the past couple of months. The end of a long, over 18-year, struggle with pulmonary disease, heart disease, diabetes, and for good measure, breast cancer.
On Monday, it all came to a head. She had gone back into the hospital, was showing signs of improvement over the weekend, then Monday morning the phone calls and texts started flying. Back to CCU. The talk started going in the direction of advance directives and DNRs. I had spent the afternoon trying to tidy up my work week so I could be ready to go. Then my brother, Clint and I talked and decided I needed to get down to my parents. I was the closest, I could get there in a few hours.
So I blew out of work. Blasted through the house, throwing shit into a suitcase…hugged and kissed the family and hit the road. I got the hospital late in the evening. My Dad and my niece, Ginney, were there. Mom was sedated. Comfortable.
It was excruciating.
I’m 54 years old. I’ve never seen my Dad so broken up. Mom was just lying there; alive, but not really living. She was on morphine; and Atovan if she got anxious.
She never woke up.
I held her hand. I talked to her. I talked to Dad. To Ginney. About nothing. About everything. Later, Steve, my oldest brother, showed up. Clint was on his way up from Florida, arriving around noon today.
Mom kept breathing. Still alive. We took turns holding her hand. Talking to her. Letting her know we were there.
Then for a variety of reasons not worth going into, it was just Clint and me with Mom. I looked and was just thinking that her breathing was slowing down. Clint asked a question wondering about her oxygen when I commented on her breathing. I’ve never been with someone when they died before – I don’t think Clint had either – but we knew. Clint called Ginney to get her and Dad back. Then we sat with her. Holding her hands.
Her breath slowed. She tried a few breaths. She was gone.
It was horrible.
It was beautiful.
I drove about 5 hours on Monday to get to the hospital. I had a lot of time to think, and not surprisingly I mostly thought about Mom.
She was born in 1932.
It dawned on me that when Mom was born Herbert Hoover was president.
Herbert frickin’ Hoover.
She grew up during the depression and World War II. She raised 4 teenage boys during the 1960’s and 1970’s. I can’t imagine a greater generational difference than my Mom’s generation and my brother’s and my generation. Yet here we stand – the 3 of us still living – successful, happily married, fathers of great kids.
What a great Mom we had.
Mom’s been dealing with health issues for nearly 19 years. I know it’s been hard for her and hard for Dad. But I know it’s been worth it. Because she was so strong, so tough, she lived to see Zach, her youngest grandson, come into the world.
She lived to see all of her grandkids grow into wonderful men and women.
She lived to see grandkids get married and give her great-grandchildren.
She lived to see one of her grandsons honorably serve our country in Iraq.
She lived to celebrate 50 and then 60 (and ultimately 64) years of marriage to the love of her life.
She was a great Mom.
So many stories I could talk about, but one recent thing to show how great she was.
Eli came out as transgender a little over a year ago. It was hard for me, but ultimately I figured it out and came to embrace who my son is. But for months I agonized about telling my parents. I simply feared that they just would never be able to understand this and did not want this to cause any strain in our relationship.
But I finally realized I had to tell them. Mom, and Dad, seemed to take it OK. And I know I should have never doubted them. But what really got me. What really made me realize how awesome Mom was came a couple weeks later. She sent me an email…she was trying so hard to let me know how much supported us. She closed with this: “Please hug each other, all four of you, we love you so much. Love from both of us, Mom”
I love you Mom. Goodbye.