Watching My Mom Pass Away

We are neck deep in the CoVid-19 epidemic with social isolation, mask wearing, activity limits, and online lives that we could never have imagined a mere six months ago. Some people are fighting over masks and social distancing. Some of those individuals don’t even believe the virus is real. It is not a relaxed time in anyone’s life.

It’s also when my mother, one month shy of her 93 birthday, passed away, the result of a bad fall and possibly a small stroke.

My Mom and Me in 1952

My mother, a resident of an assisted living community that has — so far — managed to keep the coronavirus at bay, isolated with community members for nearly four months. She did not die of CoVid-19, because she was so well cocooned away from the illness. During those months we connected via phone calls and twice-weekly FaceTime iPad calls.

The first indication that the end might be upon us came in a telephone call reporting mom’s fall in her apartment (she hated her walker to her last day). It was clear that her hips and bones were OK, but she seemed more confused than usual. We agreed that the staff would watch her carefully. Mother had all her end-of-life documents in place and they were in my hands and in the health files of her community, and she made her wishes crystal clear. She was not to be taken to the hospital. and did not want to be connected to any medical machines (her words, not mine).

Two days later, I was told that mom was comfortable but declining and a day after that more confusion appeared to set in. It looked like she might be edging toward the end of her life, so I drove over (200 miles round trip) to have a conversation with the staff and caregivers.

When hospice was suggested, I agreed, thinking that we might have a couple of more months together (I’ve been through hospice several times with friends and family members). As we worked out the admission details, I learned that, because of her condition, I would be allowed to visit with my mother after so many months of separation. So we drove back and forth for ten days in a row since we did not want to stay in a hotel because of Co-Vid-19.

Unfortunately, a couple of more months were not in my mother’s cards, and within days it was clear she was dying. My job was to make sure she was comfortable and to ensure that her end-of-life wishes were carried out. She died in her own apartment, about 12 days after that fall, with my dad, age 97, me, and my husband nearby and after a short FaceTime conversation with her granddaughter and great-grand children, one of whom is her namesake.

What can I say about the final days? On one hand they were poignant as we held hands, sang her favorite hymns, read her favorite Paslms, and talked about our lives together. She responded occasionally to our words and especially to our singing, but mostly with her eyes closed. Hospice nurses dropped by to check on my mother every few days, agreeing that it was likely a small neurological event had occurred, and the extraordary assistants in their assisted living community checked on my mother regularly, giving her sponge baths and making her comfortable.

On the other hand it is difficult to describe my grief as the days — eight or nine of them — passed ever so slowly, while we watched and waited, often tearfully, by her side. She died peacefully as my dad and I each held a hand.

My mother led an amazing life for 91 of her almost 93 years. There is much to celebrate and much to mourn.

7 thoughts on “Watching My Mom Pass Away

  1. I read this with tears in my eyes. There has not yet been a word created to express the loss of a mother. It goes so deep. Take care of yourself in these coming days. When I look back, I remember them only as a fog. I shouldn’t even have been driving, I realize now. My heart goes out to you and your dad, too. 91 years of a good life is a lot to both celebrate and to mourn, just as you say.

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    • Thank you, Andrea, for your comment, and for the reminder that each of us needs during times of loss to care for ourselves.

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  2. “Much to celebrate, much to mourn”: what appropriate words after the death of a 93 year old mother. Take time to do both those things and also I hope you can take comfort that you and your dad did all you could to care for her in her last days.

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  3. Beautiful memories, Marti! I was choked by tears while reading, and I felt your pain. You also confirmed my thought: whatever age your mom is, you feel like a little child, loosing your mama.
    Your mom left a great legacy behind. I was always surprised how her courage pared with her humbleness. She was always very tactful and cautious in giving advice or asking questions. To support me,as aRussian, coming from theSoviet Union, she even mentioned once at the meeting, that there were some good things in that country. She read a lot, and she found some of the good things in the soviet life. Amazing !
    She supported my project with Russian orphans, giving money for their clothes. She trusted the people, as she was an honest person herself.
    She was curious to learn new things and she was respectful to people.
    She was a beautiful lady and always neat and smiling. I missed her so much, and I am sending my prayers to you, asking the Lord to help you through this sad time.
    Love you, Ludmila.

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  4. What a beautiful post and a painful time for you and your family. However, also a gift to be with your Mom as she moved on to her heavenly home. I too was with my mother when she died and even though it was 21 years ago, the memory of her finally days is still very much with me. This blog is a testimony to how attuned you are to the stages of aging and what wonderful care you have given to your parents on their ‘aging journey’!

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  5. Pingback: When the Parent With the Better Memory Dies First | As Our Parents Age

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