I knew yesterday morning when I woke up that it would be the day. Mom's breathing had slowed and it just felt like the end was near.
The prior night (the 27th), around 11:30 pm (just after I finished the blog), I called out a false alarm in the house. I had gone in to see my mother and give her medication. As I entered the room...her breathing seemed to just slow. She made a few choking/coughing noises and groaned a bit, and I thought she was going. Dad and DH came running, and I quickly gave her medication and repositioned her. After a few minutes, Mom's breathing seemed to slow back down again and her groaning stopped. I stayed with Mom for another 30 minutes, and decided to let her rest.
I continued to check on Mom on and off. Around 3:00 am, I headed in to the room to go to sleep. When I got to the room, Mom's breathing was labored again. I gave her more medication, and she groaned a bit. I cleaned her face, I lotioned her body, and I sat with her and talked to her for the next hour and a half. Around 4:30, she seemed to be calm and breathing steadily. I climbed into the twin bed in her room, and probably woke up every 20-30 minutes to listen to her breathing and determine if she needed any more medication.
Somewhere between 7 and 8 am, I noticed that her breathing had slowed way down...only 6-8 breaths per minute. Normal is 10-20 breaths per minute, and above 24 shows signs of distress. We were told that we could not give any more pain medication once her breathing fell below 14 breaths per minute, but I was able to give Mom more medication to prevent anxiety and to dry up her congestion. I also gave Mom more Tylenol because she had been running a fever.
Dad came in around 8:30, and we talked about how her breathing had slowed. The hospice nurse called to say she would be by in a few hours. We spent the morning as we always do...with the kids, eating breakfast, and I continually went in to check on Mom. The hospice nurse arrived around 11, and she also noted the change in Mom. We repositioned her again, and we waited.
We had several friends pop by...my friend N stopped in to drop off some pasta salad for us (she had suggested a play date, but I was worried that Mom would die while the kids were over), and my friends H and B came by to bring us lunch from Panera. The Rabbi stopped in, and then S and G and G and S, and H came by, too. Business as usual, as we waited.
I kept popping in and out to see Mom. I just felt her...slipping away. She was very calm, her breathing seemed to be slowing, and she just seemed to be getting colder. I took some time to lotion up her body and wash her face. I kept her mouth swabbed so it wouldn't be dry. I noticed that her jaw had slackened...over the past few days, she would clench it tight when I tried to swab her mouth, but yesterday, it just hung loose. A few times, I thought her breathing had stopped...it was as if time was frozen as I waited and watched. After 20-30 seconds, her breathing would again resume the slow and rhythmic labored pattern, and I didn't know if I should feel relieved or sad that she was still going.
I kept stroking her head and giving her kisses, and telling her that I loved her. My mother loved to have her back and head "tickled" - just a very soft touch. We would take turns tickling each other's backs (and we would negotiate deals...if you tickle my back for 10 minutes now while we watch tv, I'll do yours next for 10 minutes before I fall asleep). I joked that she would just have to owe me one as I tickled her back and head, and in my mind, I heard her say she'd tack it on to the others she owed me for all the times I tickled her back and head in the hospital. I told her I would miss her terribly, but I told her it was time for her to let go. I promised her we would be okay, that we would stay a family, and we would take good care of each other.
I left her room around 5:45 to go prepare dinner. Not that there was much to prepare...we had N's pasta salad, we pulled out the leftover tuna and egg salad, and DH ate leftover Thanksgiving food. Micah mostly just threw food on the floor. Every 5 minutes or so, I kept running back to check on Mom. I told her we were all eating dinner in the other room, and I told her I'd be back soon. I remember leaving the room as we sat down to eat, and I noticed that her color had...faded. She was looking quite ashen, and I kept thinking that her breathing had slowed again. It was quite shallow, and it almost seemed like more of a reflex. I laid my hand on her chest, but I could not feel her heart beating. Her pulse had been so faint all day today, so it did not surprise me, but she continued to breathe. I gave her another kiss and told her I would be back in a few.
I returned one more time to the room. I entered slowly, and waited to see if her breath was still coming. When I saw her chest rise, I moved closer to the bed. I noticed that the skin on her head looked...ashen, and little purple veins seemed to be visible, forming a geometric pattern across her forehead and skull. I kept thinking it meant something, but had no idea what. I kissed her again, and said I'd be back when dinner was finished.
About 10 minutes later, I returned to the room. I again stood in the doorway...and realized that her breathing had stopped. I moved forward to double check, and I started to cry. I kissed her goodbye, and with tears going down my face and a sob escaping, I walked back to the dining room to tell my Dad and DH. They came running....I know that I removed Mom's oxygen mask and arranged her arms, but I don't exactly know when I did that.
We called my brother. He knew when he answered the phone...I think he just picked up and asked "It's over?" I think I simply just said "yes" and we didn't say much more to each other. What was there to say? My dad called the funeral home and the hospice nurse. While we waited, I started making some phone calls...to family, to friends, to everyone. I didn't know what to say...just to say "it's over." Everyone asked if we needed anything, or if they should come. I told everyone not to come. The hospice nurse arrived shortly before 7 and pronounced Mom. She stayed for a while and took care of a few administrative things.
Naturally, several people started showing up...S and L and G and S. They helped clean and organize and just kept us company while we waited. I think it was around 8:30 or 9:00 before the funeral home arrived to take away my Mom. That was the hardest part. I was worrying about her being cold and alone. I hated to send her away. We said our goodbyes, and even the funeral home attendants were crying. I can't believe my mother was in the room alone when she died. I hope that she wasn't scared or in pain, and I hope that she knew we were here with her and that we all love her so much.
We've been working on arrangements since last night. Today my father and I went to the funeral home, and here I sit...waiting and waiting. We are having trouble thinking of logistics, and I keep wanting to ask my mother for her input. Silly, right?
I cannot believe we are going through this. Thank you all for your kind words and support.
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