The Last Goodbye


The Last Goodbye

When the end came, it came quickly and unexpectedly.

My brother had finally talked Mom into letting him move her to Houston to be near his family. She was excited about the move and was telling everyone about it. I suspect she was still quite anxious about this change, how much so, we'll never know. She didn't make it to Houston.

I was just about to walk out the door to go to the dentist when the first phone call came. It seems my name was still listed as the first one to call in an emergency. It was a social worker from the hospital calling to tell me Mom had been brought in to the emergency department. They hadn't completed their evaluation yet, but from what the facility told them, it sounded like Mom had had a stroke or a brain bleed. They would call back when they had more information, but in the meantime, did Mom have advanced directives? She did, of course, the facility required all residents to fill out these forms. There hadn't been time to grab the papers before the ambulance came, so they were calling me.

I had just about enough time to call all my siblings before the phone rang again. It was the doctor. He asked what I knew of Mom's condition and I told him. He said Mom might be having a stroke or brain bleed, but the labs didn't really indicate this. However, her breathing wasn't normal and her blood pressure was very low. He said it looked as though she was starting the dying process. What did I want him to do?

After taking a deep breath, I told him if the dying process had started, we needed to respect that.

I wanted to scream and run away. I didn't want to be the one to have to answer this. My brothers got along with her much better than I did, why hadn't the hospital called them? I wanted to go to the hospital, but I was grateful I couldn't. The memory of my dad's passing was still painful. I didn't want to be the one to make these decisions again.

The doctor gave me time to stumble over my words and say things twice, three times. He told me it would probably be just a matter of hours. It was possible she might rally for awhile, but it wouldn't be long. He said she looked as though she was having some pain. Did he have my permission to give her pain medication? Of course.

The social worker talked to me as well, then I called my siblings again. This call was harder. My brother in Houston was already arranging to fly to Denver to be at the hospital with her. Then I could relax as he would take over.

Ten minutes later, the social worker called to let me know Mom had passed.

More phone calls. The tough ones.

Then I got a call from the facility to fill in the details. It seems Mom had gotten up, gotten dressed, put on her make-up, and combed her hair. Then she walked down to the clinic office and was chatting with the staff when suddenly her left side collapsed. The staff caught her and lowered her to the floor and called for an ambulance. It seems the facility had planned quite an event. One wing of the building was going to be demolished to make way for something newer and nicer. She was dressed up for a demolition party.

I'm glad she left quickly. I'm glad she didn't have to go to a nursing home. I'm relieved we had six months of pleasant phone calls before she passed. I'm relieved her suffering is over. She had seemed truly happy over the last week or so.

In a week, we'll be flying back to Colorado for her funeral. We'll also go through her apartment and clean it out... a daunting task. Friends are calling and writing. Often they tell me to hold on to my memories of Mom, my memories will comfort me.

I only wish I had some good memories of her.