I spent the night with Mom in the hospice facility, and I knew that no matter what, I needed to go home the next day. This was my third time to be there in the last two weeks. I needed to hug my children and my husband. I needed to be home for just a little while. That morning, Mom was tired when she woke up. She was still thinking of me first, and I went to get her coffee. She fell asleep holding the cup three times. About 10am, I was telling her goodbye and hugging her, and she said, “Well, if I don’t see you again, I’ll see you in heaven. Oh, but first, I need to go to the bathroom! Haha!” My sisters and I laughed and choked a little. “Okay, well, I’ll help you.” “Hey, at least you won’t have to pull my pants down for me anymore!” she was still laughing. “Yes, Mom I appreciate that. But, it’s really okay. I’m sure you had your fair share of pulling my pants down when I was a baby.” “Yes, I did,” she said her tired eyes sparkling. I was too weary to cry when I left.
The five hour drive home brought some tears, a hurting chest, and a numb feeling. I rolled into town in time to pick up the girls from school. We were all happy to see each other. We had a nice family night at home, and I was glad to even get some laundry done. It was so normal. That night, I heard from my sister that Mom was declining rapidly. I wondered if I had made the right decision. I called her in the morning, and she was so sleepy. My sister-in-law Terri was with her, and she said she could talk a little bit. Mom asked me how the girls were and if everything was okay. I told her everyone was fine, and that we were praying for her. I told her I was praying for her. She said she was in pain. I told her, “God is still present with you even in the pain.” She fell asleep. I said, “Okay, Mom, I’ll let you rest. I love you.” She said, “It’s a journey, isn’t it?” “Yes, yes it is. Love you!” I said goodbye, but she was already asleep again.
Later that afternoon, I was in the grocery store and I heard from my sister that Mom wasn’t really waking up much anymore. That evening, Mom aspirated on some medicine and wasn’t conscious after that. I decided that night that I needed to be with her again, so I began the five hour drive at about 10pm. As I drove through the night, all I could think of was the journey comment. I felt the intense love of all of my family closing in on it all. At about 2am, as I drove on a two-lane short-cut, a train came across the road so I was forced to stop. Here I found myself…in the dark, in the night, stuck by a train with a car slowly pulling up behind me. I actually thought, Huh, this has the makings of a scary movie. I yelled loudly in my empty van to the dark night, “If anyone is coming to get me, then come on! My mom is dying, and I’m doing the best I can! And I don’t have time for this!” No one came. The train moved on. So did I.
I arrived in the hospice building, and my steps quickened. I was shaking a little from the caffeine intake. I noticed the name next door had changed. I swung open the door to her room to find all my brothers and sisters and their spouses sprawled all over the room. Some were half-asleep, but most just smiled and exclaimed relief that I had made it and I was alive.
Then I turned to Mom. She looked different, and her breathing sounded very labored. “Katie’s here, Mom!” my sister exclaimed. I saw her eyebrows move, and I sat on the bed with her. I grabbed both of those veiny hands that I loved so well, and I said, “Hi Mom! I made the drive again!” I was shaking now. “It’s okay to let go Mom! I’m so glad you are my Mom. I’m so grateful God chose you to be my Mama. I love you so much. You can let go, now. You are safe with God. You always wanted to be safe. You are so safe now in the arms of God.” She squeezed my hands, and her eyelids fluttered. “She heard me,” I said satisfied. I sat a little longer until my oldest brother gently led me to a fold-out chair. I was worn out. I lay down gladly, but I kept listening to her breathing until I dozed off.