"She certainly was an Amazing Grace"
Article from Tribune Newspapers, February, 1996
We produced a living will at my Mother’s request and provided it to the hospital, thinking, “There, it’s OK. She will go with no artificial means or extreme measures or invasions of her body. She will go in peace and in dignity”. However, extreme measures were taken when she had coded, and she was brought back. In her usual style, mom had a story to tell.
She had died, she told us. She had never felt as warm and as comforted, and it was as if she were flying and free – unencumbered and happy. She was approaching a door. She knew that there was a light beyond it, and dad was standing on the other side. Just as she turned the handle, she was brought back. She told me she would never feel sorry for anyone who had died again because she knew it was peaceful. She reassured me that all was OK, people were waiting, and that was where she belonged.
I marveled at what happened and couldn’t help but think that the living will was ignored so mom could come back and let us, her weeping children know that she was going to be fine after death. There would be happiness for her. In the end, we thanked God for this miracle.
I continued to watch my mother’s body be racked with pain as the doctor dodged our pointed questions. When we finally told him that it was time for mom to come home to die in peace, he agreed.
As we waited for the hospice to make arrangements for mom’s return home, she and I reflected on her life. We talked about dying. I told her I didn’t want to be an orphan. I’m “only” 45 years old, too young to be without both parents. Mom said, “Oh, that’s OK. You’ll not only be an orphan, now you’ll be the oldest generation’! Thanks for the bite of reality, Mom. Our demented humor continued through the day. We talked about bills that needed to be paid, people who needed to be called, songs to be sung at her funeral and of our love of each other.
We were comfortable with her death because it had become a part of our life. She asked if I thought she’d go soon. I reassured her that time was running out. She smiled.
She took the time to reassure me as I wept. “Don’t cry. Oh, poor Janet. It will be alright”. I confessed to her, as she well knew, that she was my best friend and I couldn’t let her go freely. Who would I call a hundred times a week? Who would be my lifeline? This meant that I would have to move on and find a way to fill the time we spent together.
In horror, Mom looked at me and said, “Oh, dear. What if I get better? I’d feel like such a moron. I’d have to move out of state.” I wished we could see this happen, for my selfish reasons, and I assured her I’d pack her up to avoid the embarrassment of this near miss in dying, knowing that the packing we would be doing for her wouldn’t be to go to another state, just to another place I’ve heard about.
It was hard for the nurses at the hospital to say goodbye to mom. Cathy, her night nurse, kissed her and cried before she went off shift assuring us that this was not the “nursey” thing to do. We thanked her for her humanity. The doctor left the room, turned at the door, came back to his patient of ten years, kissed her when she smiled said this was what he needed to see.
Home is where heart is; now Mom could go in peace. We moved up the baptism of her first great-grandchild, and Bryan Thomas John Nesbit was welcomed into the Catholic Faith Community at Mom’s bedside. Mom heaved a sigh of relief and said she was glad she didn’t have to nag about the three month old’s baptism anymore.
As we continued the watch, we realized why Mom had such a hard time going. At the beginning, we were all begging her to stay. But watching her suffer the last few days, we told her it was time to go. Her son, Phil, who died 10 years ago, stood on the other side of the door with Dad, both anxious for her. Mom listened to us, moved her head, and she was gone.
I my mind, as I let my dear, loving, compassionate mother go, I saw her opening the door she had talked about. It opened freely and in the bright background, I saw Mom, unable to walk for most of her life, sauntering toward the light with Dad and Phil on either side.
She certainly was an Amazing Grace.