Sunday, April 11, 2010
The Day Mom Died
Mom died at 7:20 Eastern Daylight Time this morning. Last night, I wound up sleeping for hours on a couch in one of the family lounges; Liz catnapped in the recliner next to Mom's bed, and was with her all night. If anything, she seemed better first thing this morning than she had last night: her extremities were warmer, and she looked like she was sleeping peacefully. We consulted with the nurses, who thought Mom still had more time left and said it would be fine for us to go down to the cafeteria for breakfast; they'd call us if her condition changed.
We went downstairs and pigged out on lukewarm steamtable eggs and sausage. As we were coming back upstairs at 7:20, Liz's cell rang. I heard her say, "Yes, we're coming back upstairs now," and then -- her eyes widened, her voice disbelieving -- "she passed?" Mom's nurse had gone in to check on her at the end of the shift; she was still the same. For some reason, just a few minutes later the nurse decided to look in on her again before going home, and in that brief interval, she'd died.
One of the last times I visited Philly -- I don't remember if it was at Christmas or during the previous summer -- Mom and I were talking about death, and I asked her if she felt like she was dying. She said she didn't. I asked her to let me know if she ever thought she was, and she said she would.
Yesterday, when she could barely speak at all and when we were never sure we'd heard her correctly, both Liz and I thought we heard her say, "Susan, I'm going to die." A few minutes later, she said, much more distinctly, "Tomorrow!" At the time, I interpreted this as her meaning that she was going to die today; Liz wasn't sure.
Now I think I was right, and I think she was keeping the promise she made all those months ago. And if she died without anyone in the room, not even a nurse, well, I have to believe that's how she wanted it.
So, anyway, Liz and I cried, and all the nurses hugged us, and the doctor who'd treated Mom on the medical floor, before she was admitted to hospice, stopped by and hugged us and told us he'd phoned her primary-care doc, who'd been taking care of her for years. Then the funeral home came to get her and we said goodbye, since she'll be cremated, and we watched them wheel Mummy Mommy out of the room.
We came home to the house, sobbed some more, had lunch, and went to the funeral home, where I used too much of the estate's money (although I did offer to pay for it myself) to purchase a memorial pendant containing a smidgen of her ashes. Morbid, I know, but my sister and BIL were very kind about it. Now I'm kicking myself, since I'll have a lot of Mom's own jewelry, pieces intensely meaningful to both of us and prettier than this thing. Maybe I'll put it on a keyring or something.
Anyway, everybody's been really nice all day, although I find myself equally impatient with long-winded condolences and perfunctory ones. The nurses, last night and this morning, sang our praises as supportive and accepting family members. One of them said she told Mom, "You're lucky to have such great daughters." I've gotten some lovely e-mail notes from friends, which are about all I can handle right now. I'm not fit to be in human company.
So now we're going back and forth about the service. There's a family plot up in Englewood NJ, where Mom grew up and lived for years after Dad divorced her. We want to bury her cremains there. Nobody wants a memorial service in a church or funeral home, so we want to do something simple at the graveside. I suggested that everyone just say a few words, but Liz's husband said that Mom had liked a very brief, simple, non-religious Episcopal service we had for her father ("BCP lite for atheists," as I call it), so I need to call the Episcopal Church in Englewood and see if they have someone willing to do a funeral without mentioning God, since I'm the only religious person in the family at this point. I told Liz I could do BCP lite myself, if we could find a prayer book, but she said someone else should do it so I can concentrate on being the daughter, which makes sense.
So we'll do graveside BCP lite followed by a meal somewhere. I don't know if any of my friends would come from NYC or not; I'd like them to if they want to, but Liz kind of wants just family. We still have to hash that out. And I want Gary there, but feel guilty asking him to fly out for BCP lite in a graveyard, even though we've had a long-standing understanding that he'd travel for my mother's funeral, as I did for his father's.
So I'm all muddled right now, and generally snappish. Oh, and my BlackBerry's power outlet is loose, or something, so it won't recharge reliably, but it's no longer under warranty and the upgrade phones aren't equipped for an extended battery. I probably shouldn't have tried to deal with that annoyance today, but Liz and Lloyd had to pick up their taxes and the Verizon place was right there.
One of L&L's cats is dying; in fact, they expected him to predecease Mom by a good bit. He's lying on my lap now, raggedy and a bit smelly, but warm and purring. I think he's trying to comfort me, or else he misses Mom and wants me to comfort him. Or else he's just the same slut for affection he's always been.
Anyway, I trust I'll be more coherent tomorrow. Oh, the photo at the top of the page is my favorite picture of Mom when she was young -- before I was born -- and it's how I'd like to imagine her wherever she ended up. And here's a photo of her back in 2007, the last time she came out to visit us in Reno.
I miss you, Mom. I hope you know how much I love you. I hope you know how much you mean to me.
The one grace is that it's a gorgeous spring day here, warm and sunny with abundant blossoms. Mom would be delighted.