Need (not) to know

January 29, 2015

We got a lot of snow from the storm a couple of days ago.

The day of the storm, around midday, I shoveled the front steps and path, and when I got to the sidewalk, the snow was, I think, higher than my waist.  I shoveled a small path to the street and then went back in, to regroup.

Jordan went out next, and when I looked out a little while later to see how he was doing, I saw other people clearing our snow too.  Some I did not even recognize.  One had a snow blower and did much of the driveway.  Then the plow came and refilled our apertures.  Jordan and I worked on that and widened the opening at the mouth of the driveway, which is more necessary than people might realize, due to the misalignment of the garage with the driveway.

I got a call during this stint, during the late afternoon, from a nurse at the nursing center where my mother was, and she made me think she thought I needed to come.  I didn’t really think I could come.  On Monday, prior to the storm, I had spoken to my mother, during my visit, about the coming storm,  and I tried to say what I wanted to say to her and to let her know that whatever she needed to do was okay with me.  She was already in an unresponsive state.  The hospice social worker had discussed with me how I shouldn’t feel I needed to be present at my mother’s passing.  And, of course, there was the travel ban til midnight.

I set out in my car the next morning (Wednesday morning), took a different route to the nursing center, favoring major roads, like Mass. Ave., even though the route was longer.  I fishtailed significantly once, in Belmont, on Pleasant Street.

But I got there, to the nursing center, there was even a parking space I could pull into, and I did.  And I went in to see my mother and she had indeed declined further.  And I sat with her, read her a poem, sang to her a couple of songs she used to sing to me when I was sick as a child.  The aide who brought her the breakfast she could not eat brought me a cup of tea.  I read the newspapers I had brought and I prayed and meditated — or, the way I tend to think of it, I plugged in more actively.  The nursing center nurse came in with some liquid meds for my mom.

I mentioned to the nurse that I wished the hospice folks were available, to help me put into context what I was seeing with my mom.  When I had called them the night before, all they could say was that she was stable — no change, from their point of view.

The nursing center nurse came back to check my mother’s oxygen level.  She was already getting oxygen support.  My mother’s fingers were too cold for the machine to get a reading.

So I am thinking “Where is hospice?  Why am I doing this alone?” and then I turn that into, “I, apparently, am hospice.”  So I check in with my guidance to find out how I can help and I do, including letting my mother know that my spirit will stay with hers until there is a hand-off to what comes next, that I will be, as the line in TV dramas has it (she and I used to remark over this line), “with her every step of the way.”  I can remain anchored in the material world and connect to my spirit, and my spirit can be with hers, even after hers is leaving her body.  And something happens, not instantaneously, but it happens, and at some point my mother has grown noticeably quiet and I get the nursing center nurse and she looks for a heart beat and there is none and my mother has passed.

It was peaceful.

Had I known this was in the offing, I would have had a very difficult time getting through the storm and driving over to the nursing center the next day.  But I think I have an understanding with the forces greater than myself not to let me know when my knowing would impede.  Self-consciousness, anxiety, like anger and other things, can be a drag on sliding through those seams life seems to present us with sometimes.  If I follow my guidance, instead of figuring it out myself, including looking ahead, I do much better in such situations.

The other major theme I communicated to my mother as she was, as they say, “actively dying,” was my trust in the universe that we would get adequate help for my mother to have a safe transition.  She would be okay, I would be okay, it would be okay, it was okay.  I truly and deeply felt that, and I feel that about much of this journey I accompanied my mother on — there was help.

That being said, I did feel a huge responsibility myself, about doing my part in a way that helped.  The primary part of that responsibility — making sure my mother received the care she needed — has ended.  Now there are just secondary matters, like paperwork.

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7 Responses to “Need (not) to know”

  1. Matthew Brooks Says:

    It’s good that you were there for/with her. Maybe she was waiting for you.


  2. Your experience brought to mind my last hours with my wife who died of Alzheimer’s nearly four years ago. She too was at a hospice and my plan was to stay a few days with her in her room. The hospice was about an hour’s drive from my home in Maine. I arrived in early evening and she was quite unresponsive. The nurses had made up a couch for me in her room…. Well, it’s a long story but she died about 5am the next morning in my presence and that of the night nurse who kept giving her morphine and listening to her heart beat. I spoke to her continuously through this, telling her I loved her. A couple minutes before she passed her eyes opened wide and I told her how beautiful her eyes were. My hard nosed interpretation is that this was some kind of dying reflex and that she was basically out of it, never heard me, and was non functioning. But I hadn’t believed she would die until the pint of her passing. Perhaps, like you, if I’d known she was going to die I would have been more nervous about coming and jittery driving. We had been married almost 48 years. I’d love to believe her spirit is “alive” now but I can’t bring myself to believe in spirits, wish I could! Anyway, that’s my story.

    • Diana Moses Says:

      It’s a beautiful story, thank you for sharing it. They say hearing is the last sense to go, although I don’t know how Alzheimer’s would affect the processing of what is heard. But when the spirit is leaving the body, maybe there’s new lucidity, I don’t know. Hospice folks do say that in general there can be a brief period of renewed lucidity and activity shortly before death.


      • Yes, that would be wonderful if there were those moments of final lucidity. And yes, I’ve heard that hearing is the last to go. I had no way of knowing if she heard me because she did not, could not respond because of her Alzheimer’s. Her hippocampi had been largely destroyed and probably several other brain regions as well.

      • Diana Moses Says:

        Well, at the very least, I hope the sound of your voice was a comfort to your wife, in whatever way she could perceive it, I hope it could act as a conduit for your caring and love.


  3. Yes, yes, I agree with that, it may have been such a conduit, very possible.


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