September 26, 2009 would be the start of the longest, most difficult five and half days of my life. These were the last days of my mother’s life, when all I could do was wait. Like her, like everyone I suppose I’d been waiting since that afternoon in April when she returned home with the news that the cancer had returned. I guess it’d been waiting too for its chance.
Saturday several friends stopped by as well as my cousin and aunt. I could see she was tired and in pain but my mom didn’t complain. She entertained, shared stories like it was any other day in her life, not like a person waiting for that inevitable moment. Her strength, she’d tell you, came from Jehovah and his son Jesus. She’d tell you that in a heartbeat, along with her own mother of course, who in her own right was a very strong woman.
After everyone had left she seemed to deflate, she’d been waiting for them to leave. In pain and exhausted she didn’t move but to reach over to me and say ‘hold my hand Jon’. I held her hand waiting. That Sunday she watched a football game with my sister and nephew full of energy and life. Try as I might enjoy this, I found myself waiting quietly.
Though I brought her food (breakfast, lunch, etc) Saturday and Sunday she ate very little. I was told by the hospice nurse to expect this, among other things. The nurse had actually given me a pamphlet that described some things that might occur toward the end of life. I was waiting for all of these things. Some things never came but most did. More waiting.
Monday she didn’t eat at all; it would be days later before I would realize that this was the day she and I said our goodbyes. More waiting still, though for not much longer. Early Tuesday about 3am or so she began to cry out in her sleep. I didn’t realize she was asleep initially, unfortunately waking her wasn’t any better. After a visit with the nurse and case manager (she was incredibly supportive) mom decided it was time to manage the pain.
Mom had waited for as long as she could bear the pain before making that decision. How long she’d been in that sort of pain I don’t know, she didn’t complain but I’ll always remember that she waited for as long as she could, for us. So for the next day and a half we followed her wishes and we waited. Two elders from our congregation came to comfort and encourage us, I’ll always hold those brothers dear for that. My cousin Rory came, it was very hard for him but he did.
She died Thursday afternoon surrounded by her children, sisters and friends. The waiting was, sadly over.