She is gone…

26 Jan

Friday December 27, 2013

They say each death is different. I would agree. Having been witness to just two prior passings certainly doesn’t make any one an expert on what to expect.

Overnight, while my sister and I sat in the ICU room’s stiff backed chairs, our butts going numb, fatigue and strain taking over in equal measures, I did my research. Google was my best friend and I needed to better understand “what to expect when you are expecting someone to die”.

The ICU nurses couldn’t really offer enough concrete facts so I spent the entire night, save one hour, reading other people’s accounts. I felt it was my responsibility to help my brother and sister understand what was about to happen. So I learned what to look for, both with the fact she would die from not being able to breathe, and the signs that it was imminent, with her color change, swelling, and mottled appearance.

Each hour, at the top of the hour, Mom’s blood pressure cuff would start and give us a new reading. Sandy and I would hold our breath as the new reading would display. I would then enter the BP into a note file so we could keep track of the changes. Just before 3am, exhaustion kicked in and I went to the ICU waiting room, where Rock was, to try to rest. There were two little couches in there so I brought a blanket and covered us both and closed my eyes. A couple minutes later, the all-too familiar text tone I have for Sandy startled me awake – the new reading was in… I couldn’t quite fall back to sleep after that. At 4am, the next text came and I wearily returned to Mom’s room. I held her hand as I scrolled through my research. The night skies began to lighten – a new day was near.

During the brief moments in previous days where Mom was lucid, I had put my nose to her nose, pressed my lips to hers, and then looked her straight in the eyes, staring deeply and lovingly. I told her she’d suffered strokes. I told her I was going to take care of everything. Not to worry. When things became clear that she wasn’t going to make it out of here and be normal again, I made sure she knew it was okay to stop fighting. When she was moaning in pain and in discomfort, I’d caress her brow and tell her “Soon, my sweet pea, soon… I’m taking care of it.”

Sure, we all knew what was going to happen, but not the mechanics. As often as we could, we each told Mom repeatedly how much we loved her and it was okay for her to not fight any more. That we were going to be okay, to not worry about us.

It’s said that the dying patient will hold onto life until they are ready to leave. They may not be ready for a variety of reasons, some of which are unresolved issues, others could be wanting (or not wanting) someone to be there.

Overnight, Mom’s blood pressure and heart rate dropped. A lot. Several times, her heart rate would spike unbelievably high and then settled again at a more normal (low) rate. Around 2am, her blood pressure stabilized. Go figure. She fought for over 20 years to have a 120/80 reading, and presto, now she had that. A couple hours later, her blood pressure climbed again. By 7am, it began its wicked descent. It’s now Friday morning, December 27.

Mom’s attending doctor came to see her (and Sandy and I) at 8:30am. He said it was now a matter of hours, not days. He said within 8 hours she would pass.

Recently, my brother was diagnosed with high blood pressure and diabetes. This illness has been a hard wake up call for him. And because he needs to keep his health in check, Rod took Greg back to Mom’s house for a couple hours of sleep around 2am, away from the stress of the ICU. When Greg arrived bleary eyed that morning at 8:45am, he said good morning to Mom and then I whisked him out of the room so I could prepare him for what to expect. I needed Greg to wrap his arms around the fact that just one week ago, he’d taken Mom to dinner, laughed over whatever jokes they shared, but now, she was lying in a bed, her body unable to keep her alive.

He swallowed hard. Just then, the text tone from my sister filled the tiny room. It was the top of the hour and the reading for Mom’s current blood pressure was in. 93/46. I calmly stood up, shared a sad look with Rock, and told Greg that we needed to go back in.

Once inside her room, her heart rate spiked to 174 and didn’t drop. She was in respiratory failure. Her heart was trying to fight, but she couldn’t breathe. This is what the body does.

Sandy was wrapped around the left side of Mom’s body, holding her hand, petting her brow, crying. Greg was holding Mom’s right hand, stroking her arm, crying. I moved between the two of them and Mom’s feet. I felt detached from the process of dying. I became very calm.

I told them both that the time was now to say anything to her that needed to be said. That we should tell Mom it’s okay to go, that we will be fine. We all did, through sobs and sorrow – unable to believe this was really happening.

Within 20 minutes of Greg and I walking back into her room, she was gone. It was then that I fell to my knees in her room, crying uncontrollably. I’d lost my mother.


That evening, as the sun set, an amazing hue of blues, pinks, and purples filled the sky. It was an absolutely gorgeous sight. My family and I talked about this at a family dinner a couple of days later. We knew what it meant. Mom, in all her spectacular vibrancy, was making her unique impact on the heavens.

There’d be many, many more opportunities to cry like I’ve never cried before since then. Each time feels like the first time. Each time I cry, I feel the loss of my mother so acutely, I want to come undone. She is gone…

Over oysters - Aug 2010

Over oysters – Aug 2010


6 Responses to “She is gone…”

  1. Kindred_Hearts January 26, 2014 at 11:34 am #

    I see her in your eyes.

    • Lisa January 26, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

      Thank you sweetie. 🙂

  2. themompreneur2013 January 26, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    Even do you can’t never prepare for death It was a good idea to read up as much as you can to help your brother and sister to better understand the situation.Sorry for lost

    • Lisa January 26, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

      Thanks dear, and even with all the research, I still wasn’t fully prepared for what we witnessed.

  3. Thats what she said... January 28, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

    This post is so painfully beautiful. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    • Lisa January 29, 2014 at 9:20 am #

      Thank you – I like that term “painfully beautiful” – it really does describe the experience.

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