Writing about my mother’s last weeks for all the world to see is terrifying. It’s quite personal, quite private, and yet, I know someone out there can relate to my story. Someone is going through the same experiences, or some very similar…or about to. There’s something comforting in knowing someone else has been there, done that. The names and details may vary slightly, but losing a loved one is, unfortunately, something we all experience.
Walking through the door, it was as if nothing had happened. My mother did not seem too terribly concerned with the fact that she had, for the first time in two and a half months, driven the car without really knowing where she was or where she was going. In fact, I don’t recall that she and I even discussed it. In her mind, I guess, it had never happened.
My sister and talked about it. We even, sort of, laughed about it, after the fact. Because, after the fact, we could.
But, needless to say, the keys were immediately removed from my mother’s access.
My mother’s rebellious drive into town for Chinese food reminded me of when my grandmother died.
When my grandmother passed away, she had lived a long, full life. She was 90 and while I mourned her death, it was time. She was ready to go home. My mother, sister and I all sat bedside for 3 days as her body let go of this life and passed to the next.
A few days before my grandmother became bed-ridden, she ate a huge meal. Cleaned her plate. The nursing home said she hadn’t eaten like that in months, if not years. She normally just picked at her food.
But, this meal was different. So different the nurses took notice. It was odd and unusual.
It was her last meal.
Her body knew instinctively, I believe, that it needed to store up calories and fat for the pending death.
If you remove yourself emotionally from the process of death, it is a very fascinating process to witness. It’s surreal to watch how the extremities are the first to go; they begin to die off as the body redirects the oxygen to the core; the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs and brain.
Then, as the final day, final hours approach, you see how the heart, lungs and brain are the last to let go. The breathing becomes rattle-y and slower. Finally, the body takes its last breath, sometimes after numerous moments of what you think is “the last breath.”
Only someone who has sat bedside to a dying loved one can appreciate how funny some things would be. We would think our grandmother had taken her last breath, we’d hold ours, we’d say that was it, lean in, say good-bye, then BOOM! she’d gasp for another breath after 20-30 seconds of silence. We’d break out in laughter, saying, “Nope. She’s still going!”
It was never out of disrespect. It was more of a release of emotions.
But, after many hours of that type of waiting and listening for the final breath, you are, possibly, better prepared for when the last breath is taken. You are relieved for their sake. They are done fighting, done suffering…they are hopefully heaven bound.
Once you add back in the emotions, you understand how beautiful the process is. Being beside a human being that you love, watching them move from this earth to Jesus’ presence, leaving a shell. And an empty spot in your heart.
I look at my mother’s little “joy ride” as her last meal. Her last hurrah.
I think she knew, instinctively, whether she was able to verbalize it or not, this was her last chance at freedom before the process of dying took hold.
And, boy did it take hold.
2 Corinthians 5:6-8 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
“Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.” ~ C.S. Lewis