"Just as hope rings through laughter, it can also shine through tears."
The day before mom's party, (Saturday, April 4th) mom grew less present with us. Sleeping more, eyes closed, working harder to just breathe in and out.
We simply decided to leave her in her room, resting in bed, during the party.
We had a steady stream of people for her party. They all so bravely came down to her room, and spoke to her, even though her eyes barely fluttered. There was much laughter, with tears sprinkled in. So many wonderful stories shared about our mom. She'd still raise her eyebrows, or smile at mention of someone's name on occasion. She was clearly taking it all in, as were we. I didn't even manage to reach for my camera.
All 3 of mom's sisters were there. So many of her nieces and nephews had come. Neighbors and friends from years back. Concordia College faculty and staff filled the unit. A card even arrived, from the President of the College.
Dr. Jalil, mom's liver specialist, arrived with this beautiful gerbera daisy. It was his first time visiting the Palliative Care Unit, and he was noticing the tranquility he felt. He had been so instrumental in getting mom into the unit, without even having been there. I only hope more doctors will visit the unit and get to know what a true gem it is.
He somewhat, apologetically said, "I thought she had longer, two maybe, three weeks." But I assured him, we treasured any time we had with her, and nobody really knows when. Its clearly not in our hands."
Sunday, I awoke to an early phone call from her nurse. Mom's breathing had grown more shallow, perhaps I would like to come in and sit with her?
Lee and I both spent Easter Day with mom. With lots of visits and support from our family, we watched over mom. She seemed to be less comfortable and worked to position her in ways that may help. More pain meds were delivered and yet all we could do was watch as she struggled to take in air.
It was hard to leave her that night. I longed to stay, as much as I needed to go.
I spent extra time, brushing her hair. Moisturizing her lips, her face. Holding her hand, and whispering to her how she was loved. Treasured. Cherished.
My phone was silent all night. My mind, prepared for the possibility of a call.
Yesterday, I arrived mid-morning.
Mom labored, so, with her breathing. Her chest, shoulders, and neck, askew, working so hard to bring in air. I noticed a new noise to her exhale. The pale enshrouding her face. The positioning, again, of her head and neck at awkward angles. And yet, the reassurance by nursing staff, that all was a natural part of the process.
So Lee and I, sat, watching, each breath, each sigh, each little thing.
She no longer responded to our words.
Sometime, yesterday morning, I felt an energy in my chest. Something shifted. The air changed. As I went out to get a drink of water, then returned, the sight of my mom stirred me.
It felt to me as though her spirit had already left. While we still had no idea if she had mere hours left, or days, I sensed her journey moving forward.
Her sister, Marlene came. We sat sharing stories about Mom. About Grandma, and Grandpa, and their passing. About her first husband Emery, and then our Dad, and so many others who had gone before us.
And ever so slowly, mom's breathing slowed. Our voices grew softer, as her breathing grew quieter.
We filled the in- between minutes with chatter,
It was Marny's voice that sing-songed through the air…
"Mary Ann, do you hear me?" You can leave. Time to go, Mary."
And we chuckled, at the sight and sound of the older sister, doing what she had done since childhood.
She got up and leaned over the bed, peering into mother's face. She kissed her cheek and told she was loved. Then sat down.
It felt like mere minutes, as Marny and Lee sat across from me talking.
But, I noticed the lapses between mom's breathing. Longer and longer till she breathed again.
I stood, noticing how still and quiet it had become. Marny and Lee were right there with me. We surround the bed, searching for signs, searching each other's faces, while stroking her hair, her cheeks, just her.
Each breath now, a mere sip of air.
We all three spoke our love to her, and then, it happened.
The slightest smile alighted on mom's lips, as Marny proclaimed,
"You see the pearly gates, don't you Mary?"
The smile lingered a second.
And then it was gone.
And so was she.
Shortly before 5 pm yesterday, our sweet mother, Mary Ann, went Home to be with Jesus.
We are both joyously celebrating her entry into her eternal life, and deeply saddened by our lives going on, without her lively spirit in our midst.
“Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation.” Rumi
Today, as I downloaded a couple of quick snaps from my phone- this vision caught my eye.
Do you see it? The reflection in the window?
I have to tell you, I believe. And I felt it, and now, I feel as though I see it too.