Last November my mother suffered a stroke and was hospitalized for a month before being moved to a rehabilitation/nursing home. She spent more than two months there before coming home.
For those long months, she was gone to us. Her mind turned against her, she could speak only gibberish, she didn't know her family or herself. She seemed to only know fear and pain.
Gradually she came back. She recognized her husband, even if she could not say his name. The light in her eyes changed and she knew her daughters and even if the words weren't always right, we knew she was back.
She came home to a life changed. She needed more help than before, physically, but the torment that her mind had put her through, even before the stroke, was gone. She didn't have an easy time of it and there were setbacks, but she was calm and seemed more at peace than any time I can remember, especially in these last few years.
A year later, on Thanksgiving, she got out of bed and fell to her knees. Her blood pressure had dropped precipitously and she was taken to the emergency room. Her breathing was labored and they had to put her on a ventilator, the emphysema that was manageable up until then, had caught up with her. She could not breathe on her own. She never left the hospital.
My mother was a planner. Years ago, she made out a living will defining under what circumstances she wished to live. She and I discussed it many times over the years and I know, without a doubt, that we did what she would have wanted. That we didn't make the decision, we only decided not to block her decision.
Still, nothing prepares you. All the planning in the world goes out the window when faced with the end of a life that you love.
We were with her until the end. She died on November 30.
Mama was not perfect. She didn't have a perfect husband and she didn't have perfect daughters. But she knew, she knows we love her. Knew it all along, even in the difficult times.
I am happy for her that she is no longer struggling, no longer suffering. I'm also comforted, perhaps selfishly, in feeling absolutely certain that she knew she was loved.
What else could matter so much? If you love someone, make them know it.