6 February 1943 – 8 June 2019
It’s a strange thing to watch someone die. Stranger still to watch the person that carried you under her heart for 9 months and gave you life struggle and fight to gasp a last rattling, choking breath as you stand stoically at the foot of her bed watching her die – watching as her face turns red then blueish white and her drooling mouth screams silently while it goes from white to blue to purple to … gone … all as she stares at you with one tiny eye opened in fear and accusation. Still, you know it was the right thing to honor a choice she made so long ago that if she were ever to be in that situation … again … to let her go and respect that it is her time. She bargained for more life then; but now it is time to go.
My mother was a strong and infinitely stubborn woman. A military wife who hated moving but loved adventures, she raised two daughters – oft times by herself, while my dad was at sea or away on assignment. She survived cancer. She not only taught herself to read and write again after a staph infection that resulted in a previous time on life support that left her brain damaged, but she went on to become an award-winning president of the Professional Secretaries Association. A fiery redhead with Boudica’s spirit, my mom was a fighter to the very end.
My girls are so amazingly strong. My daughters and my granddaughter stood beside my father and myself, along with my husband, our arms around each other for support as we watched the medical staff remove the ventilator that was breathing for my mother and turn off the machines that were monitoring her vitals. We were told that she was heavily sedated and would feel no pain or panic. We were told that her passing would take 3-5 minutes. So, we held each other up, and watched. We watched her breathing slow. We watched her chest rise and fall. We watched her struggle for air, as drool ran out the corners of her mouth. We watched her fight against the restraints under her covers that were holding her hands at the side of the bed so she wouldn’t fight. We watched. We watched her body quiet and believed she was gone several times only to watch her struggle again to get breath and fight against the inevitable. We watched for over 10 minutes, ever the attentive morbid audience, as she fought to breathe but couldn’t.
And then she was gone.
She was surrounded by family who loved her. Her death was not peaceful. She did not pass quietly. She died fighting a losing battle. But she fought to the very end.