I lost my mother last week.
My sister-in-law called Tuesday night to give me the difficult news. After I processed the words for a few moments, I felt the tears welling up in my eyes.
But I also felt a sense of relief.
My wife and I had just visited Mom two days earlier at the Dallas-area assisted living center where she had spent the last 18 months. When we entered her room and saw her, we knew immediately that she wouldn’t have much time left. Even though it had only been a few months since our last visit, the change in her appearance and energy level was dramatic.
My mother was dying.
Over the course of the next two days, we talked about old times and shared our love of cats — as we had done on previous visits. But on this visit, things were different. Mom lost focus during our conversations, and on Sunday she even briefly forgot we had visited with her the previous day. She also seemed very weak.
On Sunday afternoon, my wife took me aside in the hall outside her room and told me, “If there’s anything you need to say to your Mom, you need to say it today. I don’t think she’ll be here much longer.”
In my heart, I knew my wife was right. When she excused herself to go visit some parakeets in the living center’s library area, I pulled my chair up close to Mom’s bed and we had a little talk.
She told me how she was ready to go, and that she wished she could go in her sleep. I told her she shouldn’t feel bad about wanting that, and that she had so much to look forward to in Heaven. She’d be with my Dad, who passed away in 2006, and also with her parents and two sisters. She looked at me wistfully and said, “Oh, I hope you’re right.”
As evening approached, I knew it was time to head back home. My wife and I hugged Mom’s frail frame and kissed her on the cheek. As we walked to the door, Mom blew me a kiss and told me she loved me — as she did every visit. I wondered if this would be the last time we’d share that moment.
On the way home, I kept thinking of how Mom’s world had shrunk over the past few years. When she first moved back to Texas after my Dad’s death, she was lively and outgoing. She’d have dinner with a small group of residents in the dining room and occasionally take shopping trips to the local grocery store.
But after she broke her hip and was hospitalized in 2010, she could no longer care for herself and had to move into a group care home. She later moved into her most recent facility, where she had her own room and a friendly, caring staff. Still, her willingness to leave her bed and interact with others slowly slipped away as her health declined.
It was heartbreaking to see, especially for my younger brother and his wife, who lived nearby and did so much to attend to her needs and make her as comfortable as possible.
Now she’s gone, and it’s a difficult reality to accept. For all of my 58 years, my mother had been with me on this earth — perhaps not close in terms of distance, but always in my thoughts and just a phone call away. Now that earthly bond is severed, but in losing her to Heaven, I find myself feeling comfort and peace, more than sadness — though that feeling definitely surfaces from time to time.
Mom’s passing was apparently a peaceful one. When the living center’s staff brought her dinner that evening, she was awake and smiling. Three hours later she was gone.
Did she go in her sleep, as she had wished? I’d like to think so.
She always did like to get her way.
Rest in peace, Mom. I love you.