It was eerie to be in the room when my mother passed away this year. I’d never been in the presence of death before, especially with someone I’d had such an intimate relationship with. It might even seem eerie to have kept a photo of her in death. I had the same thought each time I came across these types of pictures during the routine comings and goings of my life. I’d even witnessed a framed post death photo displayed for all to see, and didn’t inquire about the purpose. It wasn’t for me to figure out, and seemed disrespectful to ask. When my mom passed, I finally understood why. I completed home hospice with my mother, so witnessed the disintegration of her body that took place over the course of the three weeks it took for her to depart. I simply didn’t want to remember how she looked as she went through the stages of death. I wanted to remember her as the beauty she really was for the majority of her life. To take a photo of her for the last time I would ever lay eyes on her again seemed appropriate.
I flew home to be with my mother expecting only a weekend trip. She’d survived several strokes over the last few years, but part of her always came back to join the living. This time it was different. I knew immediately when I saw her, even before the physician shared the news of the multitude of strokes detected on both sides of the brain, that it was time to let her go. She’d suffered strokes we were not even aware of, and would continue to suffer silent strokes until she finally died. Because she could not communicate with us, we would have no idea when they occurred. I couldn’t let my girl go out like that. I wanted her demise to be as pain-free as humanly possible.
After we carefully researched, interviewed, and finally settled on a hospice location close by that easily accessible for all family members, it was brought to my attention that her request had been to die in her own home. While I was uncomfortable with this decision (it might seem weird but I didn’t want to accelerate death and kill her prematurely due to my lack of medical knowledge), I knew it was imperative to follow her wishes. I’d already learned from my brother how self-centered it is to keep our loved ones here on earth when those are not their wishes. I remember asking him to agree to yet another surgery suggested to remove another part of his body that the cancer had ravished, simply because I wasn’t ready for him to go. He responded that no man would want to live like that, and it was definitely not what he wanted. I immediately realized my selfishness. I had not endured the excruciating pain of the prior several surgeries, waking up with additional limbs missing and suffering through the mental adjustment required to try to accept another loss of a limb.
Thankfully my mother was blessed with a wonderful hospice nurse (towards the end of her journey) that was able to notify me of her passing within an upcoming twenty-four hour period. I had scheduled a quick trip home, and thanks to her awareness and compassion, I was able to be there with my mother when she moved on. It seemed fitting that since we were together when she gave birth to me, that we were also together at the time of her death. Eerie or not, I loved my mother and to be with her at the time of her passing was the exact place I needed to be, in that exact moment. Nothing in my life was nearly as important as that.