August 9: A Month Ago


One month ago today (4 weeks ago on Saturday), my mother died.  I was there when she died, but I haven't written all that much about that day.  I want to try and preserve some of my memories from that day (is that weird?) so I'm going to ramble on here and just let the words fill the screen.

I stayed the night at the shore, sleeping in what was my mother's bed.  I got up, got coffee and tried to pick out more phone numbers that my mother might want to call.  I wanted to get to the hospital around 9 or so.  I talked to my dad and made sure he and the caregiver were okay and off I went.  I had no real plans.  I didn't know that this would be the last day.  (I thought for sure it would be Monday or Tuesday while I was back home and at work.)  It all depended on mom.  I thought I wouldn't stay that late in the afternoon and that perhaps I would take a detour to Walmart on my way back to the shore house.  I wanted to buy myself something cheap and stupid (perhaps a t-shirt that I didn't need); retail therapy for my inner child.

I checked in as I usually did at the front desk and made my way down the winding hallway to the elevator banks.  I went straight up to the 4th floor and was almost in your room, when I realized that it wasn't your room anymore!  I hadn't even checked the hospital pass that I held in my hand for the room number.  I just assumed you were in the same room that you'd been in since you'd been readmitted on June 28th (At least I think that was the date; memories are slipping and fading away so quickly now.)

A nurse was nice enough to show me to the new room.  It was done the hall; past the palliative care office where I am assuming the wonderful social worker (Tracy) who I had been dealing with since the beginning of June worked.  This hall was behind a closed door.  Is this the hall where they place terminal patients?  No one ever said that, but I had a feeling.

The hospice care nurse (Amy) came to see me.  I had brought a bag of stuff, not knowing how long I'd be staying.  I had my work laptop to work or write on.  I may have brought something to read. (I can't remember now and I wish I could).  I had brought a photo of your grandson and the nurse helped by taping it to your bedside.  There was another nurse on staff who came in that day; I can't remember her name, but she and Amy were so caring and sweet.  (The kind of care that you want whenever you are in the hospital.)

I sat there with you.  I read email.  I wrote some.  I talked to you.  I messed around on social media.  I ate the pretzel I got at Wawa around 11.  The nurses did come and check every once in a while.  You had made some sounds of discomfort while breathing in and out and so the nurse gave you something.  

I was on the phone with my son when you first stopped breathing.  I paused and thought was this it?  My son is talking to me and my mother has died?  But then you started again.  I guess that was a sign that the end was indeed near, but I didn't know how near.  

This became a pattern.  You'd stop breathing and I'd think "this is it," and then you'd start again.  These pauses in life.  I stood by your bedside and (sort of) held your hand.  The pauses were still happening and then around 2:20 there was a pause and you didn't come back.   I waited.  I wasn't sure.  You had surprised me before.  I expected something; I don't know what, that told me that it was over.  There was no more breathing and that was it; there were no other changes.

I waited a few minutes before I called for the nurse.  I wanted to be sure.  Was this really it?

The nurse that came in was a man I had not seen before.  I said, "I think she's died."  He went out to get the hospice nurse and the other nurse whose name I can't remember.  They were kind to me.  I didn't know what to do.  I didn't know who to call first and what to say.  They told me there was no rush, but I didn't want to stay long.

A doctor came in to pronounce you dead.  Then I made the calls.  I called my dad.  I called my husband (who would tell my son).  I had packed up all my things.  I called the funeral home.  Despite the fact that the director was exceedingly nice, I didn't know what to say.  I arranged for them to pick you up, but the funeral home needed a letter (email) from me saying that they had my permission to do so.  Fired up the laptop again and sat there trying to figure out how to phrase it.  Eventually composed:  "As the daughter of ***, I am authorizing you to handle the funeral arrangements for my mother, ***. As per our discussion, the deceased is currently at *** Medical Center in *** NJ.  I am entrusting you to all arrangements that need to be made to transport her from the hospital back to the funeral home in ***, NJ.

"I hope I have provided all the information you need in order to do this.  If you need anything further, please call me at 973-641-2296.

"Thank you."

I sent the email.  It bounced back.  I got the email wrong (had nowhere to write it down and my mind was pretty frazzled) and had to call back.  They were very gracious and I sent it again.  Then it was a matter of packing up again.  What did I need to take?  Did I need to leave clothes behind?  I went to find the Amy but she had left.  A very nice woman who was on the floor (not a nurse and I don't remember her position) said that I could take everything.  So I did.

I walked out of the room with her; leaving you behind. (Only it wasn't really you was it?)  I got on the elevator.  I returned the hospital pass.  I walked to the garage where my car was.  The funeral home called again needing one more piece of information.  I started the car and I drove back to the house.

And that was that.  

I've had a month to grieve, but I'm not sure I really have.  If you ask me, death is not hard.  That period of life right before death is hard and the aftermath for the family/friends is REALLY HARD.  It's a month later and I'm just beginning to deal with financial items.  (Bank of America is still holding funds and has frozen half of my dad's...I'm waiting.)  It's not getting easier.  Every day brings a new hurdle/challenge.  But I trust it will someday. (I have to or I’d never get through all this.)

I miss you.  I want to talk to you.  I love you.


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