I stare at her face, trying to memorize the shape of her eyes, the color of her hair, the trace of her smile. I remember staring at the face of my newborn daughter the very same way. Etching her features into my brain, my soul.
Two days ago she slipped in and out of consciousness, disoriented when she woke, lucid at times. Today she is unable to speak, her breath ragged and shallow. Morphine and Ativan increased to every two hours. The pastors have visited, prayed with us. ALC staff drift in and out. Text messages from friends and calls from family keep my spirits buoyed. My husband, ever attentive, runs errands, walks the dogs, fusses at me for not eating. I will never be able to fully express my gratitude for the care we are receiving from hospice. The social worker visits with me often. The nurses are here around the clock, urging me to sleep when I can, run home to take a shower, push me to stay hydrated. They tend to Mom’s every need, bathing her, rubbing lotion on her skin, pampering and soothing as one would a newborn, tender and gentle.
When my first child was born I was totally unprepared for the amount of laundry one tiny infant produced. So too, Mamma’s laundry basket overflows. Blankets, towels, nightgowns. I drag another load down to the laundry room and just shake my head and smile. Who knew?
Mamma requested that music be played while she slipped away from this earth, and so the music plays on. Bach, Beethoven, Mozart. My girls call occasionally to tell her again how much she is loved. I kiss her forehead and tell her that we are ok. We are loved and cared for. She has nothing to worry about. It is ok for her to go, when she is ready.
We have lived a good life together, she and I. She can be proud of her many accomplishments, especially the family she is leaving behind. Yesterday was my birthday. What a privilege to spend the day with her as she prepares to leave me. Again, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the time I have had with her these past few months.
This is the cycle of life, the celebration of the past and the hope for things to come, the joy of being.