Yesterday was the anniversary date of Norm’s mom’s death—it’s been six years. It doesn’t seem that long and yet it seems a lot longer too.
Six years ago on New Years eve, Norm and I walked out of the emergency room after they finally admitted Maurine. A few weeks later we were told she had lymphoma. The doctor gave her two weeks to live. Hospice was mentioned. When we left the hospital that night, Norm and I talked about bringing her home (to our house). I volunteered to take care of her.
And so I did… take care of Maurine. I cooked whatever she wanted to eat; sometimes I’d feed her. I borrowed my sister’s baby intercoms and set them up so that I would hear Maurine through the night. I slept in spurts. Anytime Maurine moved or moaned, I jolted awake, just like I did as a new mother when my babies fussed. I slept better as a new mother.
As Maurine’s condition worsened, I would squeeze morphine into the sides of her cheeks. She’d crumple up her face saying, “Yuck, that’s awful.” But we both knew it’d make her comfortable.
A friend who’s also a paramedic helped with bathing her, which was a Godsend for me. I did remove her dentures and brushed her false teeth which probably grossed me out more than anything I’ve yet to experience. But I really didn’t mind. I wasn’t the one helpless in bed… dying.
One morning Maurine told me of the lovely, beautiful places she had traveled in her dreams. How happy it made her feel. By the smile on her face and the dreamy look in her eyes, I had no doubt she’d experienced the “other side” and that she’d be in God’s hands soon.
Maurine hadn’t been conscious for days and on the day of her passing her breathing was much more labored. I watched closely and when I felt it wasn’t going to be much longer, I phoned Norm at work and told him to come home.
I whispered in Maurine’s ear, “Hang on, Norm’s on his way.” He was there within minutes. Once he stepped into the bedroom he held her hand and she breathed in her last breath.
Maurine hung on until her youngest son’s birthday (Norm’s only brother—Dale). Through teary eyes Dale quipped, “You always did have to have the last say.” The two of them always butted heads—usually in a fun way, but they definitely loved one another.
I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to care for my mother-in-law in her final weeks, days, hours—up until her last breath. I was better for it and honored she allowed me to.
Mom, if I had been able to care for you, I hope you know…