Missing Mom One Year Later

 

My dad called me on Tuesday, February 16, 2016 and told me that I needed to come up to my parent’s house.  With my mother unconscious at that point, I didn’t expect her to make it through the night.  She not only pulled through, but fought for her life during the next EIGHT nights, before finally passing at 6:30 pm on February 24th. To some, it would seem that she was holding onto something- that she wasn’t ready to let go. I think that all of us who stayed with her during that time period thought the same thing at one point or another. We all felt so many emotions throughout those 8 days.  Confusion. Sadness. Frustration. Nervousness. Happiness. Grief.  But most of all, love.

Here are the things I remember most about that week:

Watching the way my mom consciously knew her time was near, and calling her friends on the East Coast to say goodbye.  It wasn’t so much that she merely told them, it was the way that she told them.  In fact, on more than one call, she proclaimed, “[Friend], I’m dying!” The tone in her voice and look on her face when she told them was almost jubilant.  There were tears when she said goodbye, but she seemed almost happy to let her friends know that she was passing away.

The hospice nurses.  We were fortunate enough to have some of the absolute best, most patient, loving, considerate hospice nurses.  All of them were amazing, but in different ways.  One of them was like a mother hen- always caring, staying on top of things.  One was very well versed in her profession and could communicate to us what was happening.  One was HYSTERICAL.  He sang songs, kept us all relaxed, and told us and my mom jokes in a way that only we would appreciate. All of the nurses said that they had never seen someone as strong and live as long through the process as my Mom, and they were incredibly helpful, professional and consoling.

The compassion and support from people on the outside. I have never seen so much food delivered to one place in my entire life! People were calling and texting, some on a daily check in, to make sure that we were okay.  It was amazing.  I had one friend literally text me at 5:00 every afternoon to just ask how things were going and if I needed to talk.  Our friends and family were incredibly supportive and they were a huge help to us for a multitude of reasons.  If you are reading this (and you know who you are), thank you again from the bottom of my heart.

Seeing my mother’s face when my sister made it back on Wednesday morning, despite none of us believing that she would make it through the night.  In hindsight, we had nothing to worry about because it wouldn’t be for another week before Mom would pass away.  My mom and Jenn are best friends, and I cannot imagine what she must have been feeling when she got the call in the middle of the night, or how it felt to be sleep deprived on the airplane, delirious and wondering whether she would make it in time to say goodbye.But the relief all of us felt was incredible and I am so grateful to my mom for allowing Jenn the time to spend all of those precious last minutes with her.

Being sent a text that I had been fired from my job- while sitting inches away from my unconscious mother- and not giving a shit.  At that moment, what I realized more than anything was that my mother was the only thing that was important.  Life isn’t about a job, or money, or any of the material things that make up this world.  It’s about relationships;  being with those you love and who love you.  I wouldn’t trade a single second of those 8 days for any job.  And although I believe it was a shitty thing to fire me, in a certain light I can’t thank them enough.  They not only showed me the type of company I don’t want to work for, but also let me focus 100% of my energy on my mom.

Thursday night.  It was this night that my mom had some visitors.  My twin boys came up to the house with their mom (Stacy), as did one of the hospice nurses (who was coincidentally a family friend) and a Pastor (Nick, also a family friend).  After some small talk, Nick asked Mom if he could talk to her for a few moments, and my mom said yes.  Those of you who knew Barb know that religion and spirituality were completely separate things to her, and although she believed in Jesus Christ, no one really knew how this conversation was going to go.  Nick asked her if she believed in Jesus, and my mom looked at him, incredulous that he would  dare ask her, and emphatically said “Well yeah!” It was hysterical! Nick read some passages from the Bible, talked with my mom about the next steps of her journey, and led what was possibly the funniest prayer.  It was great, and I’m sure Mom did it more for me than herself, but it was great that Nick was able to spend some time with her.

Next, my mom asked Stacy to go outside with her.  My mom was on supplemental oxygen, so we moved her into a wheelchair and brought the oxygen outside with her.  As we all stood around, we came to realize in no uncertain terms that my mom wanted to speak with Stacy- alone.  We all laughed and went inside, and my mom made sure to tell me to close the door.  For the next hour, she spoke with my ex-wife- who knows what was said! Without knowing the dynamics of that relationship it would be hard to understand, but to those who do, we found it to be amazing.

After speaking with Stacy, we moved my mom back inside to her chair, and she asked the boys to come sit with her for a few minutes.  My boys were always so good with her.  They always were so aware of how loud they spoke, how gentle they needed to be, and did so without anyone telling them.  The self-awareness it takes for even adults to conduct themselves a certain way around someone who is sick can be difficult, let alone for a child. They always carried themselves with incredible keenness, and that day was no exception.  As my mom, Chris and Andrew talked, she had three things she asked them to do: Do good in school, take care of one another, and go to church.  They talked about baseball, and Nana told them that she didn’t care what they did, good or bad, she would always be proud of them. They hugged, and said goodbye.  Then hugged and said goodbye again. The love that was felt in that room between those three was so present you could touch it.

Last dinners- we had several of these! Frantic trips to get a slice of my mom’s favorite pizza, Dad grilling food, every day my mom ate with us (which was a miracle in and of itself), we weren’t sure whether or not it was our last family meal.  There came a time when we all knew it would be the last time we ate together, which I’ll talk about later in this post, but it was both fun and painful at the same time.

My mom’s hysterical attitude.  Several times a day, my family held our collective breath  as my mom seemed to transition to passing away.  When this would happen, we would all huddle around her, consoling her, hold her hand, and quietly talk to her as she seemed to slip away.  I had done some research and read an article about what to do, and one of the things I read was to tell the person who is passing that it was alright, and it was okay if she wanted to let go.  So early in the 8 days, shortly after reading this article and during one of these episodes, my mom had her eyes closed and seemed to not be doing well.  We all thought that the moment had come. I was kneeling next to Mom and quietly whispering to her that it would be okay, and that it was okay to let go.  Suddenly, she opened her eyes.  “I KNOW IT’S OKAY.  AND IF YOU WOULD SHUT UP I COULD GET SOME SLEEP!” And with that, she closed her eyes and took a nap! It was one of the funniest moments of the week for me and although I felt extremely foolish, I couldn’t help but laugh at my mistake- thinking that my mom was going to go down without a fight.

Staying up late. As the days wore on, my sister and I made a nonverbal pact that we would alternate nights staying up with my mom.  Earlier in the week, my dad was staying up, but he needed to get sleep and had a very tough time keeping his wits on days following little rest, so Jenn and I took turns.  I can’t speak for my sister, but staying up with Mom was nice because it allowed me some one on one time with her.  Some of the nights she was awake, and others she was asleep, and we would spend time talking, listening to music and watching movies.  I’ll never forget after she fell asleep for the last time, I would play Bob Seger and we would listen to it together, and she would respond with facial expressions whether she wanted to hear a specific song or not.  At the time, I felt bad when she would grimace upon hearing a specific song, but I realize now that it was the only way she could tell me what she wanted to listen to.

Sunday afternoon. Saturday night, Mom’s pain increased as her body had built up a tolerance to the increased dosages of morphine that were being administered. Because of this, the hospice palliative care prescribed stronger pain medicine on a more frequent basis.  We were told that once she was given the medicine, she would most likely not wake up and eventually (although there was no telling when), her body would shut down.  It was also something we couldn’t turn back on because her body would suffer from extreme withdrawals if we did. We all sat with Mom, and discussed it with her.  At that point, all she wanted was to not be in pain, but she was not quite ready.

Knowing that our final dinner was now upon us, she told us she wanted Chinese food from her favorite restaurant, and their neighbor was kind enough to go and get it for us.  We ate like kings.  Even my mom ate.  We had an amazing time eating dinner the four of us, just as we had done so many thousands of times before.  I’ll never forget that meal, and although we were all sad, we still enjoyed spending that moment together as a family.

She asked us to put her in her wheelchair, as weak and in as much pain as she was in, she was still incredibly determined.  We wheeled her around the house as she told us where she had secretly stashed Dad’s money for us to go on a vacation.  She was divvying up as much stuff as she could, but you could tell she was getting tired.  As she was wheeled into her closet, she started to tell my sister what she wanted her to do with all of the clothes, and then paused.  In that moment, she knew that she wasn’t sure how much time she had left before her pain medicine started to wear off, so she looked at my sister, no longer caring about the tangible things in life, and said, “You know what? You’ll figure it out.” HA! With that, we moved her back to her chair.

One of the things I forgot about until this past weekend was the irony behind the day.  My mom loved NASCAR.  She was a huge Chevrolet fan, loved Dale Earnhardt, and even was an amateur racer herself.  She used to love to turn the surround sound up on Sundays and hear the sound of the engines roaring by the microphones set up on the track.  That Sunday happened to mark the start of the 2016 NASCAR season with the Daytona 500.  She told us she wanted to watch it, and we turned it on minutes before the ceremonial declaration of “Gentlemen start your engines!!” Mom asked us to turn it up, so we did.  Apparently it wasn’t loud enough, so we kept cranking up the volume.  Louder.  And louder.  And LOUDER until the whole house was full of the sound of pure American horsepower.  In this moment, the start of another NASCAR season began with the “Great American Race.” The irony is that, while my mother’s race to the finish line in this life neared, the start of her eternal life began.

The moment my mother passed away. Three days later, on Wednesday, February 24, 2016 at exactly 6:30 pm, my mother passed away beautifully and surrounded by family. We had been nearing that point for a few hours, and after spending that time around her, we walked into the other room to talk to the nurse about what was happening.  A few minutes went by, and my dad and I happened to look and noticed that she was very close. Apparently she needed those few moments for herself.  As we came back to her, she was calm, pain free, and at peace.  It wasn’t more than a few minutes later that she passed.  I’ll never forget that moment because I feel like I watched her spirit leave her physical body and transcend into Heaven. It was the single most beautiful and painful moment I have ever experienced, and the emotions were as wide ranging as I had ever felt.

Love. The thing I will remember most over those 8 days is the love we expressed for one another.  The hand holding.  The talks about life.  Reminiscing about the great memories we had.  Asking the questions that we never got to ask. Enjoying moments watching TV for the last times. Listening to her tell me the things she wanted me to accomplish in life, and how proud she was of me. Feeling the back of her hand rubbing my cheek like she used to do when I was a baby. Telling her how proud I was of everything she accomplished. Making sure she knew I felt so lucky and fortunate that she was my Mom. All of that love we shared was priceless.  But most priceless of all- telling one another “I love you.” It wasn’t just that we said the words, it was how we said it.  My mom made sure I knew exactly how much she loved me because of the tone of voice she had.  And with every ounce of my emotion and energy, I would tell her I loved her.  Maybe she had used that tone when I was a baby, but in my conscious life, I had never heard her express to me how much she loved me as in those days.  I felt it.  The smile she had on her face when she would tell me was priceless, and without question was the thing I will remember most.

Mom- I love you, miss you and though I can’t see you, I know you are with me and the rest of the family.  Thank you for all of the wonderful memories and lessons about living life to the fullest.  I love you Mom.

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Grief One Year Later- Pt. 2

Note: There is so much more detail I would like to add to this post, but my fear is that it would take away from the last days of my mom’s life.  

I wish I could say that when I got off the phone with my Dad, I ran around the house packing stuff up and drove 200 miles per hour up the road to get to my mom’s bedside.  But that isn’t the way it happened on that Tuesday.  I had gone to the gym earlier in the morning and went to work.  As someone in outside sales, we were assigned team days to be out “cold calling”- i.e. talking with businesses in the community.  On this particular day, I had gotten ready at the gym and started making my rounds in the North Phoenix area, and had knocked on a handful of businesses’ doors before making my way home just before lunch. Fortunately, Dad called me shortly after I got home.  I gathered a few things, just in case I would be spending the night, called my boss and left him a voicemail, letting him know that something was wrong with my mom, and made my way up to my parent’s house.

As I approached the front door, I wasn’t truly aware, nor was I prepared for what was on the other side.  As I opened the door, I saw my mother laying in her chair in what looked like a sleeping state.  My dad was with her, as was one of the hospice nurses. Connie was a woman of Haitian descent, her accent so thick that initially I had a difficult time understanding her. Connie stood over Barb with a washcloth on her head, quietly, yet firmly, saying her name in her ear.

“Barbara.”

“Barbara.”

“Barb. Can you hear me?”

She was trying to wake her up.

Immediately, what little calm I had left my body.  The situation was grave and in that moment, it felt like there was really nothing that I could do. When the nurse would go to get pain medicine, or my dad needed a break, I would sit next to her and try talking in her ear, hoping that the sound of my voice would wake her up.

I asked my dad what had happened, and he said that in the middle of the night, my Mom woke up with intense pain in her leg.  What wasn’t made clear was whether that pain was from phantom pains or something else, as my mom was a double amputee.  He said that her pain became so intense, and then, suddenly, she passed out.

I remember where I was the day that my Mom told me that the doctors had figured out the root cause of her health complications.  It was a beautiful Saturday morning in June, 2003, and I was living in Brighton, Massachussetts.  As a 22 year old boy, my life was in the midst of dramatic change.  The woman I was living with was actually my ex-girlfriend and, after spending nearly 8 months broken up, one night of attempted reconciliation in early 2003 resulted in her becoming pregnant with twins.   After three years of working road construction during the day and going to community college 3-4 nights per week, the new priorities I was facing immediately became my number one concern. On top of that, I had recently found out that the elderly man who I had lived above and who had rented me his upstairs attic apartment, had passed away. With the sale of his house, I was forced to move, and my pregnant girlfriend was happy to have me move in with her. So here I am, a 22 year old, scared-shitless, soon to be a dad of twins, practically married to a woman I didn’t want to be with, living out of boxes, working a dead-end construction job and desperately trying to get my sea legs under me to figure out when I’m going to get my college degree. On that Saturday morning, I was cleaning up the kitchen when my phone rang.

It was my weekly phone call with my parents.  Normally we had our calls on Sunday morning, but for some reason, this week we were able to connect on Saturday.  The call was pretty typical, catching up on the weather, how everyone was doing, normal parent and son stuff. I don’t remember much of the details of talking to my mom or dad that day, except for the brief silence on the line towards the end of the conversation, and what immediately followed.  My mom started:

“Joey, I have to talk to you about something, but you need to promise me you won’t get upset, okay?”

Those of you who know my Mom know that the words that could follow would either be earth-shattering, or completely inconsequential, and sometimes I could figure out which if I listened to Mom’s voice closely.  On that day, I had no idea- but nevertheless agreed.

“Okay, do you want the good news or the bad news?” My mom would always ask that- and I normally would always pick the good news first.  Today I went with the bad.  My mom explained that the doctors had been doing various tests, and after looking at not just the results, but the current symptoms she was experiencing- the heart attacks, the broken bones, the ulcerative colitis, the sensitivity to cold on her extremities- those were all actually correlated.  The doctors told her she had a very rare disease called scleroderma, and I’ll never forget this next part:

“In latin, scleroderma literally means leather skin, and the doctors told me that my skin will become tight as I age. So the good news is that I won’t have wrinkles!”

I forced out a laugh, and she must have sensed my lack of authenticity. She went on to tell me that the heart attacks would get worse, the amputations would be continue, that the disease would eventually spread to her esophagus, and finally her lungs and heart.  The prognosis was 5-7 years.

At the time my mom told me that, I literally didn’t know what a prognosis was. My thought process revolved around the fact that since the doctors knew what her disease was, that they would be able to treat it and she would get better.  I was in complete denial, and the strength and patience my mom showed in that conversation must have been monumental. She repeated what she mentioned before- that her condition would get worse, and she told me there was no medicine to cure her.  There were things that they could do to treat the symptoms, but those would only go so far.  I started to conceptualize what she was saying to me, and I tried to offer words of encouragement and be positive. She didn’t cry, and told me that she wasn’t going to feel sorry for herself, and that I shouldn’t either.  She was going to love her horses, spend time with Dad, and live her life as long as she could.

She asked me how I was feeling (always worried about everyone else!), and I told her I was fine.  I’m sure she didn’t believe me- she knew me better than I knew myself.  We talked for a little bit and she reassured me that nothing had changed, and that she wasn’t letting anything stop her. I heard what she said, but was having a tough time processing.  Shortly after, we said our goodbyes and hung up the phone.

On the surface, I tried to act fine and rationalized the situation by telling myself that the only difference is that the doctors had put a name onto what her health issues were.  But after I got off the phone and thought about it for a while, it started to eat at me.  I cried like a baby- why did it have to be my mother who got sick? One of the other things that I used to think was “…and my mom isn’t sick with just any old disease or some common cancer that is curable- she got stuck with this ridiculous rare disease that no one has ever even heard of!” I felt that there was an injustice- 99% of that injustice was to my mother, but also to my dad, as well as my sister and me. Mom never looked at having scleroderma as being an injustice. It was just the cards she was dealt.  She just handled every day as a blessing and tried to live life to the fullest.

At the same time, I would be lying if I said my mom never expressed her frustration with scleroderma.  It was extremely rare, but it happened.  She called them her “poor me syndrome”.  She would say how upset it made her that she couldn’t do something, or that she wished she would just “feel better.” We would all encourage her in our own ways, and then she would snap out of it.  I can still hear her saying “you’re right” and can see the smile she would get when she would hear us encouraging her. On that June day in 2003 though, she didn’t need our encouragement.  She was determined to fight and enjoy what life had in store for her.

As I looked at my unconscious mother nearly 13 years later, that conversation never entered into my mind.  In that moment, I was just desperately hoping that she would wake up.  I refused to think that God would take her from all of us without us saying goodbye.

Around 3:30 pm, with Connie, my Dad and I all huddled around her, using a facecloth on her forehead, my mother opened her eyes and looked around, then quizzically said hi, wondering what all the fuss was about.  Her pain medication, combined with the physical issues she had been through over the course of the past 14 hours had left her fairly confused.  She was able to slowly come around and asked us to call two friends to come to the house.  Naturally, they came over as soon as they could and spent time talking with my mom, who by now was acting as if nothing had happened before.  They had some great laughs, and my mom told them that she was starting to get tired.  Shortly after, my mom had fallen back to sleep, but not before saying goodbye to her friends.

As afternoon turned into evening, then to night, Mom laid asleep in her chair.  We again were unable to wake her, and the fear returned that she would  not be be coming back.  As the night got later, my dad and I discussed the need to tell my sister.  Earlier in the day, he mentioned that it may do more harm than good to let Jenn know, and I reminded him that the later we waited, the smaller the chance we would have to make sure Jenn got here in time. I had promised my sister that I would be honest and tell her when it was time, and in my opinion, we had come to that point.  My dad, always deliberate and thoughtful in his problem solving, now had second thoughts, and told me to give my sister a call.

I’m sorry I need to run I’ll write more later.

 

 

 

Grief One Year Later

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As my family nears the one year mark of my mother Barbara’s passing, I have been looking back and remembering the long journey that took us to the moment of her transition to the afterlife. In reality, it began much earlier than the ten days I’m writing about here. For me, February 14th will always have significance because that was the day my mom acknowledged to me that she was dying.   My hope is that these posts will help others who are grieving the loss of a loved one and provide some anecdotes to prepare those who still have those loved ones with them for the road that lies ahead.

I should back up for a moment and describe who I’m talking about.  Those who know Barbara know how special she was- a prideful Italian-American from the suburbs of Boston transplanted to the desert of Arizona, a  survivor of an entire childhood of child abuse who never let that abuse define her, a nurse-turned cop who loved the Constitution and victims advocacy.  Barb lived nearly 40 years of her life with a condition misdiagnosed as Crohn’s disease and Raynaud’s phenomenon before finding she had an extremely rare and fatal condition called systemic scleroderma, outliving her initial prognosis by 8 years. She was a horse lover who lived every day as if it were her last.  So many times in life, we are told about special individuals- Barb truly was a special woman with strong opinions and a personality that was as fiery and diverse as you could get- and I was lucky enough to call her Mom.

Back to the story…

Valentine’s Day fell on a Sunday in 2016.  I will always remember it because my sons had just finished playing in a baseball tournament, and that Sunday they had played in three games. I had texted my Mom to wish her a happy Valentines Day, and on the way home from the tournament, she asked me if I would like to come up to her house.  Looking back, I am so happy that we were able to spend some time together that day.

With my boys going to my ex-wife’s for the night, it afforded me some time to spend some time, just my mom and I. Over the preceding weeks, we had spent a fairly good amount of time together.  She had started in-home hospice a little over a month earlier, and with my dad needing to focus on work, I tried to alleviate some of the pressures on him by helping with logistics. My parents live off the beaten path, and there were some issues making sure nurses could get up to the house initially, as well as some final doctors appointments.  Still, there was something about that Valentine’s Day that was different.  For one afternoon, there were no distractions.  No rushing, or coordinating with people to make sure nurses were coming up to help her. It was just her and I spending time together.

When I got to the house, my dad was busy doing his normal weekend work around the yard (anyone who has been there knows the work seems endless!)  While he was outside, my mom and I sat in their living room, catching up about the boys weekend, school- the usual stuff moms are worried about. Looking back, it was nice to get her caught up on everything that had been going on. Then, the tone of the conversation changed:

“Joey, honey, do you think you could take me for a walk?”

I was a little hesitant because, although it was sunny, it wasn’t exactly warm and my mom would normally have to be bundled up just for a trip to the car.  But it seemed like she really wanted to do it, so I agreed.  We got her hands and body all bundled up, moved her into her wheelchair, and started a slow walk out the door and down the driveway.

I have a few memories that really stuck out from that walk.  She spent much of it telling me how to navigate the sand/dirt road- she was a horrible backseat driver. 🙂 But I remember her needing it- she kept saying how great it felt to feel the sun and the fresh air.  We got to the end of the driveway, and I asked her if I should turn around.  Incredulously, Mom told me that she was fine, and that we should keep going. I made a slow, wide left turn onto Old Paint Trail, and we started making our way up the slow grade towards Barb’s Trail.

She brought up baseball again- and how she wished she could go to one of the boys games.  I told her that there would be other tournaments and we would make sure that we got her to their next game.  This would be especially hard.  Between the temperature outside, the condition of her heart, her fingers, pain management and the logistics of needing to be catheterized throughout the day, I realized that the chances of her making it were slim, but we remained hopeful.

At this point, we were a good ways up the road, and admittedly, my pace had increased; it was actually difficult to walk at the pace we were walking.  My mind was focused on our conversation, and I found myself having to remind myself to slow down.  I asked her if we should turn around- but again, she said no.

She talked to me about going back to school, and asked me to promise her again that I would go back to get my degree.  Typical Mom conversation- but her tone was different.  I understood how important it was to her (and me, for that matter), and I ensured her that it was on my radar.  Mom was always my number one fan- no one believed in me more than she did. She reminded me that she got her degree when I was the boys age, and it would be a good example to the boys to show them the importance of going to college.

About halfway up Old Paint Trail, I was beginning to get nervous.  Sure, she had the energy to get this far, but I suddenly realized that the farther our trip up the road went meant that we extended our halfway point on our walk. We still had to walk back!  When I explained this to Mom, she agreed, and said she was starting to get tired.  I turned around and started the gradual decent back down the hill.

The next part of our conversation is what I’ll remember most vividly:

“Joey, I have to tell you something.  I don’t have much time left, honey.”

While the Boston accent was still there and the loving way that she spoke was still present, the tone in her voice was different. Normally, the way she spoke would tell me that she was looking for encouragement.   This time, I couldn’t give her my normal response- that she would be okay and push through it just like she always does. I would normally joke with her or say something to lighten the mood. This time, she spoke with absolute certainty. This was not a time for jokes.

Just six weeks earlier, we had talked about her passing away- about going into hospice and what that meant. Mom was so concerned that we would view it as her giving up, and agreed to hospice only on the condition that they would leave once she got better.  She was always fighting! All of us- my dad, sister and I, assured her that she had been through so much, and that we would never look at it as giving up- ever. It took us a while to convince her that we were all on the same page.  Reluctantly, she accepted what we told her, but you could tell that the stubborn, strong willed survivor she was wasn’t willing to give in yet.

I reminded her of the conversation we had about going out on her terms, that I would have stopped fighting years ago and the bravery she showed everyone was an inspiration to those who knew her.  For the first time, we spoke about her passing away in very real, sobering terms. She was worried- about my Dad, my sister Jenn, me and my boys.  I assured her that we loved her and while we would miss her terribly, everyone would be okay and she would never be forgotten.

Mom needed to hear that.  She needed to know that we were going to take care of one another- that we would not just be okay, but continue to live our lives to the fullest.  Thankfully, she was sitting in a wheelchair in front of me as my eyes welled with tears.  She needed those around her to assure her that the journey she was about to take was okay- now was not the time for crying. We shared how much we loved one another, and I told her how proud I was of her.  As we made our way to the driveway, the conversation turned to a peaceful silence for a few moments.  Then the backseat driver came back- instructing me which route to take back to the house. 🙂

The most beautiful thing about my Mom is the level of consciousness with which she always lived her life.  She not only knew her life was coming to an end, but she was conscious enough to communicate with her friends and family that the time was near. For reasons they may or may not be able to control, some people aren’t fortunate enough to say goodbye, and spend time embracing the painful, yet beautiful moments when one passes away. Yet my Mom afforded us the privilege of those moments- and although at times they were incredibly difficult, I wouldn’t trade the ensuing days for anything.

Two days later, on Tuesday, February 16th, my dad called me and told me that Mom had asked me to come to the house.  When I arrived, my mother was unconscious, and we were certain she would not wake up.  However, she was a survivor, and her transition to passing away was just beginning.