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I Remember
Three years ago today was the beginning of the descent which marked the final three weeks of my mother's life. She was in poor health for years and there were many times when we didn't think she would make it. Somehow she maintained a tremulous hold on this world, though in the final months her mind had moved on to thoughts of the next.

That morning I dropped the kids off for co-op classes and made my weekly grocery run. I called my mother from the store and no one answered; I didn't think much about it because she took a long bath in the morning and wouldn't have gotten the phone. I dropped the kids off at home at lunch time and left for a hair appointment that I would not keep. My dad had left a message on my cell phone because he couldn't reach Mother. I called him, and he asked if I could drop by and check on her.

As I was driving the eight miles between our house and my parents', a fear came over me of what I would find there. I called my husband at work and explained the situation. I spoke to him again just before I reached the house and he told me that he and two of his co-workers were praying, and to call him as soon as I knew something.

I have a key to the front door and I let myself inside, while the dog barked upstairs behind the closed bedroom door. That must have been the longest flight of stairs I've ever climbed. When I opened the door, I saw my mother lying in the bed, eyes closed. At first I didn't think she was alive. She was breathing but totally unresponsive, although I spoke to her and shook her gently (she was so tiny and fragile).

I couldn't reach my dad on his cell phone. He is a piano technician and my mother kept his schedule. The appointment book was lying on the bed, so I called the school where he was tuning. Because of the distance, it took him about an hour to get there.

I didn't call an ambulance. We all knew my mother's feelings: she never wanted to go back in the hospital or into a nursing home. She weighed 80-something pounds. The last time I had called an ambulance for her, it had hurt her so much to be lifted and carried.

As a little girl, I called my mom Mommy; somewhere along the way, my sister and I began to call her Mother. A few years ago my mother remarked on the fact that my dad was still Daddy, but she was Mother. I know it bothered her. I sat by her bed and pleaded, "Mommy, I'm here, please wake up," over and over, while my heart broke and what I had feared and dreaded for so long became reality.

Amazingly, she awoke the awoke the next morning, surrounded by family and friends who had kept vigil all day and night. I think her spirit just couldn't handle the pain of her poor broken body anymore and had retreated, encasing itself, cocoon-like. We called hospice that day, enabling her to live her final three weeks with some dignity in the privacy of her own home, on her own terms.

Those three weeks were surreal; every day was different and ranged from extreme highs to extreme lows. My sister and I and my five-month-old baby moved in with my parents, while my two oldest sons handled things at home. My husband worked but spent nights with me, realizing that I needed the emotional support. Our homeschool group delivered meals to our house, while our church and the neighbors supplied my parents' home.

During those three weeks, my mother was able to say goodbye to friends and family. There were visitors almost every day. One friend dropped everything and drove 750 miles to spend a few days with us; a cousin did the same thing, from an even farther distance. There was such an outpouring of love. Everyone involved knew that this was the end. There was nothing left unspoken, no regret over sentiment unexpressed.

My mom passed on from this world almost three weeks to minute after I found her that day. It was my 38th birthday; she was only 57 years old. If I'm able, I hope to record more memories of her over the next few weeks.



Blogger Elle said...

Dawn, that is a precious post. My own mom has health problems that albeit currently controlled, cause me to think that one day I will face the same scene.

Truly precious memory.

Blogger No Cool Story said...

What an incredible legacy your mom left: supportive family, prayerful and faithful children. Your own friends are a testament of this also. You are very blessed, you have a wonderful family.

What a beautiful post, and what an amazing story.

Blogger Kitty said...

This story is so beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. It made me cry as I thought about the day I might have to face something like this with my own mother.

I am really glad I found this blog, although I can't remember the "chain of blogs" I clicked on that led me here. I've been enjoying your archives, from the hilarious stories, to the touching and profound ones.

This one moved me the most, though.

Blogger Crew Mom said...

I love reading what you have to say about Sister Judy, and I love that she is still in our very regular conversation...you keep her memory very much alive. One of the things I love most about you, Dawn, is that you love so deeply. Your love for your "Mother" as you call her, still, will always be inspiring to those who loved her, and who LOVE you!

Blogger Belle-ah said...

Thanks for sharing such a personal experience with us. I call my Mother, "Mother" as well and always have I think...my children call me Mommy (even my 15 year old) and I know I will be sad if it passes to something more "mature" sounding. (((hugs)))

Blogger Doris said...

What a sweet story about a very sweet lady.
Enjoy your memories, as I know you do.

Blogger Kitty said...

Thank you so much for the encouraging post you left on my blog!! It actually came at just the right time, as I just realized tonight that I will have a serious obstacle to overcome IF I am to realize the dream of homeschooling the kids. If it's meant to work out, I just have to believe God will make it possible somehow. I will definitely look into the homeschooling conferences coming up. Gaining more information can only help!!

Thanks too, for the encouragement about the delivery. I will remember your advice and make sure the doctors know I am determined to nurse the baby!!

Your memories of your Mother brought back memories of my Mother when she went to be with the Lord. They were such good memories because I knew I would see her agin in heaven one day. My Mother had congestive heart failure and she could not breath very well at all at times. She was on oxygen. She never lost her sweet spirit and she gave me a great example of how to leave this world. We owe much to our Mothers, Don't we? Connie from Texas

Blogger queen shenaynay said...

oh, dawn. oh my.

aunt judy was one in a bazillion. i will always a treasure one night in pigeon forge when we went to their hotel room and stayed up most of the night telling crazy family stories and laughing until we couldn't sit up straight because of our poor aching abs.

(if you're wondering how to parse that phrase -- as in did i mean "crazy family" or "crazy stories about our family" -- umm, well... YES.)

nobody could tell a story like aunt judy. nobody. especially when bill or david were egging her on.

Blogger Code Yellow Mom said...

This is a beautiful post. I would love to hear more about your mom.

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