From the time I was very young I remember my mother occasionally saying that when it was her time to go, she didn’t want to die alone. It seemed to bother her because as a nurse, she had been present when many elderly patients had passed, or expired as the hospital staff members referred to it.
In her later years she mentioned it to me a few times to get my attention. Finally, I realized she was seeking an acknowledgment of her request and perhaps a promise that I would be there when her time came. I always found that talking about the death of a close family member was very difficult. In this case it was my mother and that was the most difficult of all.
At 78 she became partially incapacitated. Then it was necessary for me to take complete care of her business affairs. It is incredible how much paper work is involved in the daily life of an elderly person. That is especially true when doctor visits are on a weekly basis. In the course of satisfying the never ending requirement to make doctors appointments, file paperwork with the many different state and federal agencies and other apparently necessary duties, my mother would continue to harp at me about the possibility of her dying alone.
Mom began to have mini-strokes. That increased her anxiety and caused some temporary memory loss. Amazingly enough, she seemed to always bounce back. Her uneasiness during those times prompted me to make the promise that I would be there for her in her last moments. I always feared making that promise simply because I was afraid I couldn’t keep it.
Later she would live in a total care facility. That was a blessing for me because now I didn’t have to do so much paper work. The family brought her gifts of pictures and a musical bear. The bear doll would play a medley of high quality Christmas music when she squeezed the arm. That was her favorite.
As time went by she would continue to have mini-strokes. At 88 years she was obviously in the final stage of her life. She suffered from several different medical problems which reduced the quality of her life to nothing. In her last days the mini-strokes increased. The strokes didn’t affect her memory so much but she spent her remaining time in a nearly un wakeable sleep.
On the last day of her life I failed in my efforts to wake her up. I was confronted with the fact that she would never know that I had showed up for the last moment. In my desperation to restore some kind of consciousness, I put her hearing aid into her ear and turned it up all the way. I spoke to her. She didn’t respond. I thought for a minute then grabbed the musical bear doll and squeezed its arm. The Christmas music began to play. I held it close to the her hearing aid. She responded immediately. She never opened her eyes but she was totally aware of the music. I rubbed the top of her head with my hand. There was a moment of recognition on her face that demonstrated she was mindful of my presence, yes, Lynford is here. She passed away that night.
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