The Day Before Her Last


*Originally Posted on 11/19/2013

My mother’s yellow roses are wilted now.  Edges of curled brown buds barely cling to their coffee-colored vines.  They bend ever so slightly to the left or to the right from evening temperatures turning oh-so-cold.  Within a day or two, they’ll have to be cut down in final preparation for next spring.  Yes, gentle spring when life begins anew.

Early this morning, I opened my patio door to breathe in a gust of fresh fall air.  It slammed me hard and quick.  High in the sky was a still bright moon, spectacular in sight. Then, clouds moved in to shadow it with a thin veil of grey, giving it an almost ghostly appearance.

Three years ago today was the day before my mother’s last.  It was the most painful one for her living on this earth.  The worst for her loved ones to bear.  The hospice nurse told me to gather my siblings and so I had.  After they arrived, I anticipated scenes from a movie, I guess.  The ones where sisters and brothers take turns having private time with their dying mother.  It was not to be.  In the same manner that a new parent recognizes the cry of their newborn, caretakers know the difference in their patient’s signals and signs.

It was too difficult for my mother to speak near the end, and so she did not try.  We had our own way of communicating without saying a word.  She lay on her side, trying to lessen the pain, I suspect.  There, her slender hands were open to me.  A slight inward movement meant, “Come closer, I need something.”  Perhaps it was an extra bed sheet or slight sip of water?  An outward turn meant, “No more, I’ve had enough.”  Occasionally, she moved her hands back and forth.  “Please don’t touch me,” they silently said.  “My body hurts me so.”  A hand rising abruptly meant, “NO!  Do not let anyone come near me.”

My mother’s cooling touch guided me towards granting her last wishes.  As arduous as it was for loved ones to understand, she couldn’t bear to be seen in such a deplorable condition.  She wanted peace, to be left alone.  Without time for explanation, I became the designated gate-keeper, of sorts.  It was a role I did not choose.  Rather, it was chosen for me.

I don’t remember how I became my mother’s caretaker.  My father was of course her, “Number One,” leaving my middle sister with other roles to play.  I was simply there to keep charts, dispense medicine and give the proper answers to intuitive questions.  I had done it for many years while raising chronically ill children.  I was good in a crisis and could pocket away emotions if only for a minute…..much like a doctor or a nurse must do.

The time spent with my mother as a caretaker was a privilege, allowing me to discover a lifetime through wordless gestures.  It was the very last thing I was able to do for her.

The very last thing……

Clouds Across the Moon

26 thoughts on “The Day Before Her Last

  1. Sweet Kim, what a hard job you had to do while you were tearing up inside. It’s terrible to have to play intermediary between someone in your mother’s position and those who are anxious to see her but you have to ask not too.
    It’s hard to sit with someone and to feel lost because you don’t know what to do for the best yet be afraid to leave and not be there at that last moment when the final breath is taken..
    I remember moments where I’d say I Love You and be holding a frail hand hoping my words would get through and times when my tear would flow and even now I don’t know whether it was from self pity or not. I found letting go the hardest thing in the world yet I knew it was time for the suffering to end. For a short time I felt a profound sense of relief when it happened followed by a huge sense of loss.
    Sweet Kim, you did a hard job but it was wonderful..You made the passing so much easier for your Mom no matter how hard for yourself. You are a wonderful daughter as you are in your other roles in life, no less than that of friend.
    xxx Hugs Galore xxx

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    • Yes, David, so hard to ‘let go.’ Like you, I often felt selfish for wanting her pain to end (and mine as well). But, in the end, no one wants to suffer on this earth in that way. My very dear great-aunt, who was a nurse for many, many years once told me that she believed people often suffer near the end in order to be ready to go on to to Heaven, for often there is the fear of the unknown. I think that may be true. Thank you, David, for being the sweet, kind and generous person you are. A gift to me to be sure. Many blessings to you.

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  2. I felt for you as I read your beautiful post. It is 16 months since mum passed but what struck me was the similarity.
    Your description of pocketing away emotions is apt. Though when her time ended the dam broke and still does at times along with questions of “did I do it well enough.”
    I was lately reminded by a friend that it is now afterwards that we should be kind to ourselves and I hope you are being very kind to yourself.

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    • Oh, I am so very sorry for your loss. Yes, your friend is right. Do be “kind” to yourself. I am sure you did more than enough for your sweet mum. Time does help, although the “anniversaries’ are always fresh in my mind like they are in the ‘hear and now.’ Thank you sweet one for your lovely words, especially coming after such a tragedy. They mean more than I could ever say. Bless you always with love and support.

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  3. It is sometimes difficult to be the calm one in a crisis or the strong one that others depend upon. I am sure that your mother appreciated and loved you for this role you played in her final hours.
    Blessings to you dear. ❤

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    • Sweet Suzi, my thanks for your kindness. I believe long ago, I told you my mother’s name was, Susan. Many used terms of endearments to her of “Suzi,” or “Little Sue.” Whenever we comment back and forth this comes to my mind. Thanksgiving Blessings to You.

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      • Today is just another Thursday here in Australia. (Well not really another Thursday as the Tween becomes a Teen today) but I thank you for your thoughts and blessings. 🙂
        Blessings to you also.

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  4. Reading these posts as I catch up with you in a backwards fashion.. You were meant to be in that role of caretaker.. And help her prepare for her next adventure.. A roll you did with so much love ..
    Bless you Kim.. as you remember your Mother with love and thankfulness. xxx ❤

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