My mom died in the middle of the night. She just stopped breathing around two-thirty.
My brother and I completely reclined the overstuffed chair she’d been tucked upright into in order to breathe and covered her up with an extra blanket until morning. There was nothing else we could do. As she laid there, head on a pillow, eyes closed, hair smoothed to the side…she looked very peaceful.
When I awoke a few hours later, her face was cold, but her body was still warm. I knelt down beside her and gave her the hug I hadn’t been able to while she was alive. She’d been so frail, so weak, so sick; I’d always handled her very gingerly. I’d touch shoulders with her and lightly circle my arms around her with a slight, lame squeeze. With her lung pain, I’d been afraid to do anything more.
That morning, while everyone was outside on the patio speaking in hushed tones about the business aspect of dying, I knelt beside her chair and I squeezed her as hard as I could. I rocked back and forth, holding on to her warm body, her ribs, her chest. I buried my face in her shoulder and I hugged the way I’d wanted to for all the times I hadn’t been able to.
And that’s how I said goodbye to her.
Ps. She wanted everyone to know this: Don’t smoke cigarettes. It’s a terribly painful way to go for both the smoker AND their loved ones. When you watch someone suffering like that…unable to eat because everything makes their tongue shred and bleed…hands and lips crack and bleed…skin tears at the slightest bump into something…then the infections and pneumonia set in.
The exhaustion, compromised immune system, the nausea, loss of hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, not being able to breathe or walk very far… and you as their child, spouse or parent can’t DO anything to fix it…it’s horrible. HORRIBLE. Gutting. The worse stress you’ll ever feel.
She wanted people to know this, so that if it registers with just ONE person, she has helped them.
So please. Really HEAR this.