24 hours to heaven

Mom’s hospice nurse came by yesterday, and confirmed that Mom was very close to the end. She estimated that Mom would die within 24 hours, but then pointed out that Mom has surprised all of us before. After all, we’re now on Bonus Day 13. Today is the 1-week anniversary of Mom’s last food. Tomorrow is the 1-week anniversary of Mom’s last drink. Since then she’s been subsisting on ice chips and her internal considerable fortitude.

Mom’s lack of oxygen is taking its toll, but she remains remarkably lucid during those increasingly rare times when she’s awake. She is aware of her surroundings and visitors. She is aware that she is dying. She doesn’t know, and likely wouldn’t care, about our hospice nurse’s timeline. Mom’s got her own timeline.

Mom’s final articulations seem to be divided into 2 extremes. On the one hand, she continues to find it extremely difficult to require assistance for natural bodily functions. This difficulty has intensified with the need for her to undertake these bodily functions while laying in bed. (One long-time hospice worker told me that our psychological need to be on a toilet, rather than being comfortable on a bedpan or in diapers, may stem from too-early potty training. Something to think about. Given Mom’s lack of liquids, I also don’t know where it’s coming from.) So, a common vocalization is “I have to go to the toilet.”

More importantly, she’s transcending her own considerable physical challenges to seek reassurance that all will be okay with the people she loves when she leaves us. For example, my husband Don drove in from Canada on Sunday, arriving early Sunday evening with our 2 canines. I told him to expect little or no reaction from Mom. That evening, she awakened when I was tending to her. I told her that Don was here, and the first response was “Who?”. He then stood behind me, and I repeated “Don,” pointing to him. Her face lit up as it hadn’t in a couple of days, looked at Don, smiled broadly and said “Wonderful!” They chatted for a few moments, then Mom said “I’m so happy,” and shortly fell back to sleep. It was clear to both Don & me that Mom’s exclamations were not for herself, but rather for me. She knew that having Don here would give me the support on all levels that he couldn’t provide from 600 miles away.

Last night, we had another short interchange in which Mom indicated a need for reassurances about her family. Don & I again tried to assure her that all would be alright. I know, logically, that one could never prove with empirical evidence the fears and hopes of one so near to death. But I can’t help but wonder whether Mom’s considerable concerns about her family — concerns about problems that she could not fix during her lifetime of good health, resources, and energy — may somehow be troubling to her, and preventing her from leaving us now.

I wish I could find the words to make her stop worrying, and understand how loved she is, in these 24 hours we have left.

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