My older daughter Julie was able to take leave from school to be with me, and one of us was always with Mom. We were able to keep her away from the hospital and the depressing oncology department by the fact that she had no pain. This sometimes occurs with older lung cancer patients. (She was 88.)
Our family doctor was also a help, ordering oxygen for her when it became difficult for her to breathe and cough medicine when she began to cough.
Both my brothers were able to come visit. With Grady we had many laughs, listening to his stories, and with Floyd and his family, we shared Easter baskets and singing and blowing bubbles from her balcony. Mom always loved to blow bubbles.
Two of her sisters were also able to visit, so Mom was surrounded by the love of her family.
For the final ten days or so, it seemed that she was sometimes talking with friends who had died long ago, particularly Sallie Sackett from Lynchburg. I was alarmed by this because I wasn’t ready to let her go. However, late on Saturday, April 13th, Mom woke up and began coughing, and I could hear it was a drowning cough. Instantly, I knew that it was time to let go. I told her so, and Julie and Mom and I talked for awhile together about how the day had gone.
Mom went back to sleep, and Julie and I talked late into the night.
When I heard Mom’s bedside bell ring about 7:25 a.m. Sunday morning the 14th, it was hard to move, Then, I heard it again and went straightway into her room. She was sitting on the side of her bed as if she needed to go to the bathroom, but when I put my arms around her to help, she went rigid and began to spasm. I lay with her in my arms, telling her I loved her until the spasms stopped and she began breathing in a heavy, laborious way, as if she were working hard to move on to the next phase. I didn’t feel she was in pain, just concentrating hard on the task. Then, her work was over. Her next breath didn’t come.
Sometimes it seems that dying people want to slip away quietly to join those who have gone before, but Mom rang that bell twice. She wanted me with her. I think that is her greatest gift to me.