Today is my mom’s birthday. She would have been 84.
From my journal June 25, 2005:
I got a call on June 17th from my sister, saying that Mom was in intensive care. Mom had apparently gotten up, managed to push the call button for help and then fell. She was transported to the hospital and put in ICU, diagnosed with a mild heart attack. Because she had been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis 10 years ago (with a “typical” life span of 3 years), the concern was not her heart; rather, it was the total scarring of her lungs from the disease. The doctors had no idea how she continued to live with such major damage to her lungs.
We had an absolutely wonderful day with my mom yesterday. When we all got there, Mom was sitting up in bed. She was alert, coherent (because of lack of oxygen, sometimes she didn’t have the cognitive ability to think or speak clearly), smiling, joking, happy. She asked questions about different family members. We talked and gave her a foot massage.
In the late afternoon, the nurse fed her dinner – chicken, rice, steamed vegetables, ice tea, Boost. We had taken some fresh strawberries with us and she absolutely loved them. Her appetite was small, but she ate her dinner and kept saying how wonderful it tasted.
Someone had brought a hymn book. After dinner, we sang some songs for her. She even tried to sing along on “Oh, How I Love Jesus.” One of the nurses came in and told us that was the sweetest sound she had ever heard coming from the rooms.
We decided we should go get some dinner and then come back. Mom kept trying to tell my nephew he would have to carry her…she wanted to go with us. We promised her we would be right back, bringing guitars so we could have an old-fashioned family “sing.” That made her so happy!
We went back to my brother’s house to regroup and decide what to eat. About 10 minutes later, the phone rang. A nurse called to tell us that mom had passed away. She was taking a nap, her heart rate decreased, and she was gone.
We were in absolute shock after the day we had just had with her! We – and the doctor – had been talking about (if she continued to improve as much as it appeared she was doing) that she may have turned a corner and rallied one more time…as she was apt to do. It seemed incomprehensible when the nurse called to tell us she was gone.
We went back to the hospital to say goodbye. All of the tubes and machines were disconnected. She looked so pale, so much smaller than when we had just seen her. It’s just so clear when a person’s life has left. We thanked her for being such a good mom to us.
I feel bad saying this, but I don’t think I felt as sad as everyone else. I’m still having such a hard time believing Jason is gone. He was just starting his life as an adult – healthy, happy, full of potential and promise. Mom’s health had declined and declined; she had lived a long, full life. It’s crazy – it’s not that I wanted her to die – or that I didn’t love her so much or wouldn’t miss her – it’s just that in my mind it made more “sense.” I know she is with my dad, Jason, the baby we lost, and all the others that have gone ahead. She’s having her own old-fashioned “sing” now before the throne of God – in perfect health, singing at the top of her lungs!
Because she had bought a burial site beside my dad in Golden, Colorado, we had to work out transportation details as well as funeral arrangements.
The graveside service was absolutely amazing – it turned out better than we ever could have imagined. We had decided to plan mom’s service and handle it all ourselves as a tribute to her. We were her kids; she was our mother. No one else had the right to an overriding voice in Mom’s order of service. We came up with an order of service that gave everyone in the family (including extended family who attended) an opportunity a chance to say or do something. We sang songs together. Some gave tributes; some sang special songs; some read Scriptures.
Part way through the service, the funeral director (who had been standing in the background after arranging for the casket delivery) started to sob. We found out later that we were singing a song that they had sung at his own mother’s funeral. He told us he had never heard a more beautiful, personal service. It was a thoughtful, loving tribute to a wonderful woman – our mother.