On the third day of her hospital stay, we finally insisted my Mom have an MRI. She had gotten some of her memory back, but she was far from her normal self. The MRI showed a mass on her brain. A few weeks later she had surgery to remove a tumor.
Over the next few months, Mom underwent chemo and radiation treatments. She gained weight, lost her hair, and all energy. She got sick with some kind of bug that was going around and never seemed to get over it. I tried to encourage her to get up and walk around, that she couldn't get the congestion out of her chest if she just laid around all day. But because of the treatments she just didn't have the energy. By March she was barely able to get off the couch.
She was back in the hospital again, this time here in town. It was a Monday. I went up to see her that day and she was having lunch. She was so weak she couldn't bring the fork to her mouth, so I fed her.
Mom looked exhausted, worn out, but mostly she was worried. She commented on what her husband was going to do if she died. She was concerned about his health and didn't know if he could take care of himself. I said, "Mom, you've trusted God for everything in your life! You have to trust Him in this too." That was the last real conversation I had with my Mom.
By Wednesday night she was unable to speak at all. All her children and some of her family came to see her and we were having a prayer meeting right there around her hospital bed. There was about 15 of us crammed in that little room. We prayed and sang hymns.
I was sitting on the edge of her bed, holding her hand and singing to her, when suddenly Mom raised up, looked me in the eye, and very sternly said, "I have to go!!" I tried to calm her down and told her she needed to lie down. She fought to remove the oxygen mask, but I made her keep it on. She was so mad, "I have to go now!!" They said it was just the morphine, but I wasn't so sure. I felt her spirit was struggling with her physical body.
The next morning, my step-dad allowed them to take her off the oxygen. He decided that the next time she tried to remove the mask, he wouldn't stop her. When she woke up the next time, she immediately reached for the mask. Noticing no one was going to prevent her from doing so, she took off the mask and threw it across the room.
RL and I were going to meet at the hospital at lunch time. But around 11:00 he called me to tell me they had taken her off the oxygen and I'd better get over there. At some point, she woke up, sat up in bed, and looked towards the end of the bed at no one. My Aunt said she had a look on her face as though someone was there that she suddenly recognized.
I arrived about 11:30. When I walked into her room at the hospital, RL was standing on the other side of her bed, next to my step-dad and my Mom's younger sister. On the left side of the bed sat my two older brothers. I went over to her and took her hand. Her eyes were closed and her breathing was shallow. We all just watched as she would inhale and exhale. Inhale and exhale. Inhale and exhale. Within about 20 minutes she stopped breathing. I leaned over, kissed her cheek. "Good-bye, Momma."
That was six years ago today. I think this is the first time I've been able to think through the whole ordeal without completely breaking down. My Mom and I were close, though we had our problems too. But in those last months of her life, when she lost her memory and much of the side of her personality that always clashed with mine, I was able to see her in a completely different light. I was able to let go of all the things I had held against her for so many years. I was able to forgive her and to love her and then she was gone.