Finally, her ragged breathing slowed. Sleep couldn’t be long in coming now. Somehow sensing my thoughts of retreat, the grip of her frail hand tightened. Please, God, let her sleep; I’m so tired. Repositioning myself atop the bedspread next to her, I took care not to disturb my hand in hers. I longed to return to my own bed for the few remaining nighttime hours.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I’ll walk with Him always,” I sang in as low a volume as possible. I’d already run through the bits and pieces of verses I could remember of the many hymns Mom loved, moving on to Sunday School favorites. Soon, Mom’s breathing deepened, interrupted only by her gentle snore. I returned to the guestroom.
“Is she okay?” The sleepy voice asked, alerted regardless of my attempts not to disturb my nurse colleague.
“She’s asleep. Next time, you can read some Psalms.”
Gingerly, I turned from back to front, to side, and back again, trying to settle in. Was my mother dreaming of her youth? Arms pumping, short, little legs propelling her down the Australian beach and across yet another finish line on Christmas Day, adding one more piece of beautifully-crafted crystal to her growing winner’s collection?
Probably, that was closer to her subconscious thoughts than the present. I doubted that my mother, age ninety-one, gave a second thought to her failing body. The life-changing moment with the hospitalist echoed in my mind, “But, she’s never been sick in her whole life.”
“Then, she’s been fortunate. Tests this morning show a four-inch-wide blood clot in the aorta, where it comes off the heart. Additionally, that dormant, ten-year-old abdominal aortic aneurysm is now leaking. The former can explode at any minute and she’d suffer unbelievable pain for a few seconds before she bled-out, or the leaking of blood into her abdomen will take a bit longer and be moderately painful until the heart stops. I suggest you call Hospice immediately.”
Tears rolled down my cheeks as I lay between the sheets, thanking God for watching over us that Tuesday. Mom had lost strength in her legs momentarily, but refused to go to the hospital for what she assumed was fatigue. Had we not convinced her it’d be best to check, we’d never have known her sojourn on earth had only a couple of weeks remaining.
Eleven years ago, the caring folks at Hospice had walked beside us during the last days of Daddy’s cancer, but I’d never, in a million years, thought I’d be opening the condo door to them for my healthy, little Mom. Once again, as I did day and night, I thanked God for their tender intrusion into our lives.
Sound interrupted my musings. Tap, tap. “Are you there?” Tap, tap. I groaned.
“It’s okay; I’m going.” I felt the large bed shift as Anne left to attend to Mom.
Listening to the kind words offered as Anne helped Mom to the bedside commode, I knew her well enough to know that sweet tone now took a bit of effort. Caring for Mom day and night, had begun to drain us both.
The next morning, Easter Monday, heartbroken sobs exploded as I accepted Nurse Melissa’s counsel. Moments later, Mom was in an ambulance on her way to Hospice House-North, my younger sister at her side. Anne drove the car, while I choked back tears.
My sisters, who had just arrived, watched over Mom during the night. Each morning, sitting next to Mom’s bed, Anne read Scripture aloud, followed by singing a few of Mom’s favorite hymns, and concluding with prayer.
By Sunday, Mom no longer responded. We began the morning reading Scripture and singing, though we doubted she’d heard us. Still we laid our hands over her blanket-covered hand. I began to praise our Creator, who alone knew the number of our days. My strong voice faltered as I felt the warm, frail hand come to rest on mine. She’d heard us.
Hours later, the musical ring-tone blasted me into consciousness at 2:40 a.m. Jesus had come for Mom.
As we returned to the Hospice House, my mind filled with a forgotten Scripture chorus I’d learned in the eighties. Listening warmed my heart, but when I heard, “Draw me unto You and we will run together*,” I laughed. Mom now ran her beach race with Jesus by her side. She may have even been singing the rest of the chorus, “I will rejoice in You and be glad.”
*Song of Songs 1:4 (NASB)
This is a true story, Easter 2014.
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