“You have to let me go sometime”, my mother said.
Raising my head from my arm where it lay on her hospital bed, I followed her voice to the head of the bed where she lay smiling at me. I had taken a nap, maybe fifteen minutes of rest, on the edge of her bed while still holding onto her hand, which lay so still on the white sheets.
“Oh, I do, do I?” I replied. “I don’t know why.”
“Well, you cannot hold me here forever.”
“I can try.” I thought at the time that mom was saying I could not hold her there in her hospital bed, when she wanted to come home. I had spent most of my waking hours there beside my mom’s bedside since she came into the hospital a week ago. I usually arrived about nine in the morning and went home around six. My sister who worked in the hospital would come up at lunch and give me a break then return at six or seven to stay until visiting hours were over. We knew Mom was getting excellent care but staying with her enabled us to take care of the small things a drink of water, a snack or adjusting the blinds making Mom more comfortable without the additional burden on the medical staff. In addition, we loved her. We wanted her to have everything to her liking.
Mom was not happy when they told her she would have to go to a rehab nursing facility for a few days. She would still require an IV and therefore had to be under medical care until her treatment was finished. I assured her I would be there every day until she could come home to my house.
Mom had cared for my dad who had been bedridden for six years, unable to speak or recognize anyone. Having had multiple mini strokes he was unable to care for himself and Mom sat patiently by his bed and fed him three times a day, minuscule bits of soft food, which she encouraged him to swallow. Often she would be there until ten or eleven at night still coaxing him to finish his dinner. The doctors were amazed. They confided to my sister and I that our father would have passed long ago, if placed in nursing home care. Our mother was totally devoted and determined to keep him with her for as long as possible. After six and one half years he finally passed. There was no drama. He just slipped away. After fifty-seven years of marriage, they were apart.
The irony of life ten days later mother came down with a terrible case of bronchitis, so much coughing she could not sleep and exhaustion. It was no wonder after all the care she had given Dad. Soon it was obvious she was not getting better so she came reluctantly to my home so I could take care of her. We learned she would never get better. Pulmonary Fibrosis was the diagnosis. They predicted one year of life.
Here we were four months later in her second hospitalization. Rehabilitation was scheduled to begin on Monday and I felt better, knowing that was only two days away and a step toward home for mom.
“I really do not want to, Mom. You will be going to rehab day after tomorrow, and then before you know it you will be home with me.”
“I told you I will not go to rehab. And, I will be home before you know it.” Mom was getting angry. She had told me this before, but I knew the doctors would never let her come straight to my house without the rehab.
“You know what the doctors said”, I began to straighten and smooth her sheets, busying myself in the hopes of dismissing the subject. I did not want to argue.
“I know.” , was all she said dropping the subject. “We will see. Why don’t you go on home and be with your family? Moreover, stay home tomorrow, you need to be with your family. That is where you belong, please. I feel bad keeping you here. Tomorrow is Father’s Day and you need to cook your husband a good meal and spend some time at home with him.”
“I do not mind coming up here. I like spending time with you.”
“I know, but just do as I say, this one time.”
“Okay, Mom. If that is what you want. I am sure you will have company anyway. Tomorrow is Sunday and there will be people stopping by. I could use a day at home before we start rehab.” I really did not want to argue and I was tired.
Sunday came and went. I spoke with Mom on the phone early in the day, but spent the rest of the day with my husband and children, a typical family day with a great meal and togetherness. We retired early. About midnight our phone rang.
Mom had passed. She would not be going to rehab. She had gone home.