My mother, Margaret Barbara Brettun Lucas Page, universally known as Peggy, died Sunday, July 13th, at 7:30 AM. It was a good death and my sister Catherine and I were there with her, laying our hands on her to commend her Spirit to the next world as she quietly took her last breath.
She was a strong and lucky woman. She decided Tuesday morning that she did not want a feeding tube or a machine breathing for her, and all around her could see that she was lucid, understanding exactly whet the consequences of her decision would be, and ready to move from this life to the next. Hospice was called, and all their paperwork filled out, and Goddess Bless them for their help. During the next five days she was able to visit once with my Dad, who is in a rehab center, and a lot with her three children, three of her five grandchildren and her great grandchild (Meg's daughter, Myla, now two). We all got chances to visit with her alone, to say how much we loved her, to say our good-byes.
She was actually really happy- no more blood draws or intrusive medical procedures, just family hanging out, laughing with her, listening to her stories, with plenty of morphine to take away the pain, and she could eat anything she wanted, including chocolate milkshakes, corn candy, and custard. She even got to have one last Bloody Mary. Though she only took a few sips of it, she was pleased as Punch. Each day she ate less and less, still feeling joyfully rebellious because she had been a diabetic for so long.
By Sunday she was completely ready to have her life end. She was slowly lowered from 100% oxygen to about 10%, and slipped into unconsciousness. Her morphine was raised to some astronomical amount, and she began getting regular large doses of Atavan. Her breathing became labored for a while, then settled into the kind of loud snoring I have heard from her a hundred times, not labored or odd sounding at all.
My sister Catherine and I spent the night in her room, waking in time to lay our hands on her as she quietly took one last breath, quietly breathing it out, then became still. Each of us sent her on her way silently, Catherine to a Christian heaven, and I to the arms of the Great Mother, where she can feel unconditional love for the first time. We stood together holding her hand and Shorty (her stump, she only had one arm) for a long time, crying quietly. I suggested we say the 23rd Psalm, and we did, then we called the nurse, and out brother Luke, who could not stay the night, or even in her room for more than a few minutes as she was weaned off oxygen.
Nurses and chaplains and PA's turned up in short order to confirm her death, and Luke and his wonderful wife Mary arrived 30 minutes later (I cannot imagine how many speeding violations the committed to arrive so quickly.) Luke was able to stay in the room with her cooling body about 15 minutes before he had to leave to become busy with the inevitable paperwork-his way of coping is to be as busy as possible. Catherine and I hung out with Mom for another two hours, holding her and each other, knowing that she had passed on to the Great Unknown, her next adventure. Each of us knew that when we left the room she would be much more concretely gone.
Finally we gathered together her stuff, and our own, and left the room, telling the nurses that they could clean her body up for transport. She has donated her body to the local Medical School, for dissection, her last gift to this world.
We gathered for pizza that evening at Luke and Mary's, a real trial for me, for we are a disconnected family which has been held together by Mom, who loved each of us so dearly. I felt especially disconnected because Luke has Mary, Catherine has Bob, and I will go through the mourning period essentially alone.
This afternoon we had a Memorial Service at Dad's Rehab Center (he had been in the hospital for a month, and will need several weeks of physical therapy before he returns home to their apartment, where I am staying). He was optimistic and pleased with working hard when I saw him on Wednesday, then he spiked a fever, and fell into depression. He has been sleeping a lot, and declined to come to the Service.
Led by a wonderful Pastor named Jordana from the hospital, the Service was wonderfully non-denominational, with time for people to share reminisces, laughter and stories about Mom. Catherine read a Psalm, then I was blessed to give a prayer I had written to the Great Mother, praying (among other things) that as we revisit and reabsorb our relationship with Mother, we may work through our pain and loss to find a thoughtful, healthy healing, as a way of honoring her life and Spirit.
Then we said The Lord's Prayer, and it was over. We had lemonade and cookies as a kind of ending reception, visited Dad very briefly, then split into go our separate ways, Luke and Mary back to Lakewood, Catherine and Bob back to Michigan, her sons back to their summer jobs in Michigan and Connecticut. I will probably return home over the weekend, knowing that leaving their apartment will be one more step in letting go. We all know that the glue that held the family together is gone.
Family relations have been extremely difficult, each of us returning to our childish selves, even as we struggled to be polite and fair and sustain the illusion of family unity, but that is for another post, and will take me a long time to work through.
Thank you all for your prayers and thoughts. They mean a great deal to me, making me feel less alone in my life.
Many Blessings, Margo