Friday, August 31, 2012
When my mother passed away, I was teaching my Friday morning Yoga class. I knew she was fragile and may even had been sick. I was taking her to her pulmonary doctor later that morning. But as class began, I let go of all my external distractions, even my concern for her. Somewhere toward the end of class, my husband, Mike appeared in the doorway. His look was ominous. My first thought was something happened to his mother who was in the hospital, near death with pneumonia.
As I walked to the door, I turned to the class and said, "Go ahead and begin your meditation." When I turned back to Mike, his mouth gently curved into a painful smile and he hugged me. "Let's go into the office."
I waited for him to shut the office door to ask how his mom was. Very quietly, he told me it wasn't his mom, but mine that had died. She was on the way to the ER. In an ambulance with strangers, my mother drew her last breath. My heart felt as if a dagger had been thrust into it. I dropped to my knees and wailed like a baby. Mike gently held me in his arms with tenderness and compassion. He loved my mother, too, and I think maybe he knew I would be doing this for him soon as well.
When we arrived at the ER, we were led to one of rooms where she had been left. My sister was already there and recognizing each other's tears, we embraced in our shared grief. They let us stay for as long as we wanted. I was able to recite a prayer from the Tibetan Book of the Dead and say farewell to my mother. I could feel her presence still there, but her body was stiff and lifeless. Her face beheld a peace and ease I had not seen in her when she was alive.
As we began to consider all the things we needed to do, I volunteered to go back to the facility where she had been staying. The most difficult walk I've ever made was the one from the entrance to her room. As I stood looking at the now empty bed, it began to sink in ~ she's really gone.
One of the nurses (I think her name was Corrine) who had been so good with her came by and gave me a hug. She began to tell me what had happened that morning. Mom had asked if she could have breakfast in her room because she wasn't feeling very well. Corrine brought her a tray with food, including strawberries. When she returned, my mother told her they were the best strawberries she had ever eaten. Ten minutes later, she was gasping for her breath unable to talk.
They tried to reach both my sister & me, but we were not answering. So they called Mike and he said, "Yes, call the ambulance. I'll notify her daughters and meet them at the hospital." The paramedics said she had stopped breathing enroute and of course, at 88, with COPD, she had a "do not resuscitate" order in her file.
As it turned out, I was grateful I had gone back to her room so soon after her death. The nurse was able to tell me details I might not have received had I waited a day or more. Now I have a wonderful memory of my mother enjoying those last few moments of her life. I mean, really, how much more could you be in the present moment than when enjoying the best strawberries you ever had...