The phone rang early one morning as I was getting ready to go to work. “Come quick, something is wrong with your mother!” came my dad’s voice from the other end of the line. We quickly got into the car and headed the eighth mile to my mom and dad’s house.
My mother had toxemia when I was born. Her blood pressure had gone sky high, and caused her to be blind for several months after I was born. Later, the doctors at Mayo Clinic could not believe I had lived when she told them I was two years old and the picture of health. Over the years, she had many health problems, and her blood pressure was at two hundred over one hundred most of her life. She was put on kidney dialysis at sixty years of age because her blood pressure had totally wrecked her kidneys. Ten years later, something catastrophic happened.
Once we got to Mom and Dad’s house, Dad told us he believed Mom had a stroke. She had a couple of strokes during the ten years she was on kidney dialysis, but she recovered almost 100% from them. This time, though, she could not speak or swallow. The doctors could not do anything for her. She had already signed a living will saying she did not want to be hooked up to machines that would keep her alive. We adhered to her wishes, and a hospital bed and hospice were brought in to help her with the remainder of her life.
It was especially hard on my dad and my wife, Cathy, to watch her lay there and starve to death. I had to go to work, and could only be there at night and my days off. Anytime Mom was asked if she wanted to go to the hospital, she would shake her head no. We did not have the ability to end her life legally, but I am almost certain she would not have wanted that to happen.
I still remember, some thirteen years after her death, when I told her I loved her, I could see the love in her eyes, even though she could not make her mouth form a smile. I knew she was in a loving place waiting for her death to come naturally. Her life was in order, and she was ready to meet her maker.
Cathy sat with her day and night, holding her hand most of the time, to give her comfort. My wife would occasionally be relieved by my mom’s sister, Kay. Dad was unable to stay close to Mom except for the first couple of days, as he knew the inevitable, and could not face her demise.
I will not lie, it was a hard time for my family knowing it was just a matter of time until she would be gone. We were glad for the extra time we had to say goodbye and to tell my mother we loved her and would miss her.
Fourteen days after that morning phone call, my mom passed away. The saddest part for me is the fact that it was on a Tuesday around midnight. I work late on Tuesdays, and was not home when she died. Because I had gotten to sit by her bed many times during that two weeks and tell her I loved her, it made the grief much less traumatic and it was easier to let her go.
I still love my mother very much. I am glad for those last fourteen days I was able to love my mother before she died. Luckily, my mother was not in much pain during those fourteen days. Had she been in extreme pain, I might have hoped her life would end sooner. That is a decision each person must make according to their situation. Personally, I believe death should be in God’s hands and not our own!