Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Color of Passing

I spent the following day by her bed. Carlton returned from an early morning trip to the gym, showered, and joined me. Josh came, too. Then, Aunt Jackie around noon and a Uncle Charlie an hour or two later. We took turns holding her hand, reassuring her she wasn't alone, though she didn't respond. She said nothing else, having said all she needed or wanted to say the day before.

I sat looking at her, waiting, not believing it was possible to be there the moment she passed. Watching as her breathing quickened and the moans came and went with every exhalation. Wondering, for hours, if this would be her last breath. Then, she would take another, then wondering all over again if that was the last breath, only to have another come, over and over again for hours, the countless wondering.

Around 3:00, the nurse arrived. She lifted the sheet and looked at her toes. She took her hand, a skeleton, a prop, and squinted at the tips of her fingers. "Have they always been this color?" She asked me.

"What color?"

"This blueish."

I shrugged my shoulders. I hadn't been paying attention to the color of her fingertips.

The nurse put her stethoscope to her ears and the end on my mom's chest. She grasped her wrist with one hand and looked at her wristwatch on the other, then reached across her body to feel her other wrist. She told me she couldn't feel her pulse. "It's very weak." she said.

I found that hard to believe. Just the day before, when I hugged my mom, I could feel her heart pounding in her chest and recall thinking she was never going to die with a heart this strong. I didn't know if her heart were really as strong as I thought it was or if there just wasn't anything between me and her heart to muffle the beating.

The nurse left the room, and Carlton and Josh came in. I moved over on the edge of the bed upon which I was perched to make room for him. Josh took watch on the other side, standing.

Her breathing slowed. Slower. To not more than a whisper. I kept looking at her eyes. Her eyebrows would occasionally twitch imperceptibly as though she were perceiving, thinking, or even seeing something, and I wanted to see if in the moment before she passed she saw something....I don't know what...a light....something. But her eyes never changed, and if she saw something, her eyes didn't show it.

Her face twisted up. Three times.

And she was gone.

I sat a long time, holding her hand. In the background, I heard one of the nurses say, "3:20." June 4.

I turned to Carlton. I looked at him and gave him a hug. He hugged me back. Hard. And in that moment maybe...just maybe...in her passing my mother achieved something she had never been able to do living...make us reconcile, make us see each other for the men we were now and not as the children we were a long time ago.

1 comment:

Jennifer Gunnoe said...

I'm very sorry for your loss.