After a long night of sitting beside my mother’s bed, I was physically exhausted. I was trying to get my mind wrapped around how this was going to work. We knew that her time was short. Every time she would take a breath it was deep, strained, wheezing and it would be followed by a pause. 5-10 seconds is a long time when you’re talking about breathing. I would sit there with this anticipation, is that it, is she gone, and then whew. Another breath.
Our Angel/ Nurse Mary said that the actual dying process is the hardest part. The body fights it. Even internally the heart will do whatever it can to make sure it has enough oxygen to survive. It doesn’t want to die. Survival at all costs. Death is an enemy, and even physiologically, at our most primal state, our bodies understand this. It is Jesus who defeated death and ultimately our defeat of it will happen with our resurrection, not with our avoidance.
Mary said that this process could probably last throughout the day. She told us that the wheezing would get worse, the infamous “death rattle”. This would slowly turn to gurgling as her lungs would fill with fluid and would result in her sort of drowning. We were warned that even though Mom was drugged sufficiently that this would not be easy for us to watch.
I don’t remember much of my prayer, but it went something along the lines of “ God, throw me a freaking bone here. Just this one time in this process. Don’t let that be the way she goes out. “ I asked for this process to be quick (something He seemed to be granting) but I also asked for it to be peaceful. I could think of nothing less peaceful than watching my mother die in that way.
Around 7am I was completely delirious after having been awake for 25 hours. I sat on the futon couch in her room and sort of drifted between sleep and awake while my brothers wandered down to find breakfast. Mary seemed to think this was going to be a long day, so some breakfast was in order.
My Dad was holding her hand, and was praying for her. He didn’t know I was listening. He told my mom that it was OK to let go. He told her that he loved her. That he would be OK that the boys would be OK. He would miss her. He asked God to let her go peacefully.
My father is a good man. He’s kind. He’s gentle. But I had never seen him pray with my mom before. I hadn’t seen him be her “husband” in as long as I can remember. My parents are good Midwest parents. They were very functional in their relationship but not necessarily affectionate. This morning was different. He brushed her hair. He loved her.
At 7:50 my mom was still breathing heavy, still wheezing, but not gurgling or any sort of drowning. By that time I had dozed off to my own personal coma. I was awoken to my dad standing up and the room filling up with my family. Dad had sent a nurse to get my brothers and they were waking me up.
He just had a feeling that it was time.
I jumped up, tried to get my bearings, my family had filed back into the room as fast as possible. It was 7:53. 4 miles away at her home, our good friend, spiritual mentor Diane Covey had shot up in bed and texted me a simple message: “???” She had been with us earlier that night and said she woke straight up and felt like something was happening.
It was at 7:53 that my mom stopped breathing heavy through her mouth and started breathing through her nose. She was breathing very softly, very peacefully. We were all there because my dad “knew”. It’s so crazy to say it but he just “knew”. We were all standing there, All holding her. And she breathed her last breath. No drowning. No gurgling. No suffering.
I was flooded with emotion. My mom was there when I took my first breath. I was there when she took her last.
My Dad just kept saying, “I don’t know how, but I just knew”. He said “It’s hard to explain, but God was here. I felt the presence of the Lord. He showed me. It was like He came down and personally took her home”.
My Father who has been so broken, and so lost stood there and led us through this. He was calm and peaceful. My Father who has been playing a supporting role while He figured out how to live without His wife of 42 years moved to the central role today. He was my Father. He was my mother’s husband. He was Gods son.
I had been looking for God all along in this journey. Whether or not He was hiding or I just wasn’t looking hard enough is open to debate, but this morning it was different. This morning I saw Him. He was right there in my Father.
I asked God to throw me a bone.
He gave my mom peace. He gave me my Dad.