My mother died three weeks ago. My sister and I held her in our arms and said good-bye.
We were by her bedside for six days and nights and we experienced many tears and much laughter because we opened our hearts to the moment.
During the first day she was deemed “palliative” when the staff suggested that they tape a “Do Not Disturb” sign on her room’s door, my sister and I decided that we wanted to fully experience each day – we did not want to be alone; we asked that the staff and the residents of her long-term care home be allowed to visit us and say good-bye to our mother (who was not conscious). And so they did…one by one, sometimes in pairs, the staff and residents shared their stories and their love and respect for our mother, with our family. And some stories were hilarious. One personal support worker shared a story of our mother initiating a food fight in the dining room. Another staff member had us in stitches relating the time they found mom in another resident’s bed…fast asleep. The resident had kindly allowed mom to sleep and she, herself, went into the bathroom to sleep. Well, that story was too funny – we all chuckled for days after just thinking about it. Each of the staff and the other residents spoke of mom’s feisty character and her spunk. At 91, she was an inspiration to my whole family.
I speak of gifts that we share many times…I wrote an ebook about my thoughts on gifts! But never was I more sure of how grateful I am to have been on this journey with both my father and my mother…I have been transformed by the experience.
I learned that even while grieving by my mother’s bedside, that love was all around me. I felt Grace. The love and laughter shared with us was a true gift; that gift sustained us throughout the six days and nights that we kept vigil.
My sister and I vowed to each other early the first night that we would embrace each moment…no matter how sad or sorrowful. We learned that even through the tears, that a kind word made us laugh and smile. We learned that we were not afraid of death. That even in grief, we could pay attention to each moment and fully embrace it.
Because we were open, we learned that in the dark of the night, there is a stillness that envelops one with true peace; we learned that at day break, the sky changes from blackened navy blue to streaky grey to streaky pink that take one’s breath away in its beauty. And we learned that other ordinary human beings want to support us and they do…with their simple and true words that make you feel extraordinary and connected to All. We learned that joy and peace (and yes, laughter) wells up within us, side by side along grief and sorrow.
And we learned to trust in the Universe.
I had looked for a sign that all would be well early in the week. Each day I searched for a cardinal (my sign that my father is close by). On the day our mother died there was a tapping at the window in her room. The tapping was loud and broke the silence of the room so both my sister and I turned to the window to see what was the noise. It was a bird. And then we looked at the pine tree outside of the window…a male cardinal in all its red glory lit on a branch. And then another, a female cardinal. My sister and I could barely believe our eyes! We knew then that all is well. A few hours later our beloved mother died.
Sweet journey, mom. You will be sorely missed. But we are forever grateful that you lived such a rich life. Thank you for all the gifts.
Our care and love for you was our gift to you…