I've been thinking a lot about last hours this week almost to the point where I may, again, miss the deadline. I believe there is some serious avoidance happening here but the thing that keeps taking my attention is the last hour of life. I cannot get my mother and father off of my mind. I'm sure the holidays have a lot to do with it especially since they both are departed now.
I remember the last hour of my father's life and the lead-up of friendly family visits, friends visiting, music, games, quiet touches as we would walk passed dad's hospice bed. I remember especially mom always being near him and her grief that she felt she had lost him at least two days before he actually died due to the morphine he was given for the pain. I remember the slowing of his breath, it's quietness and then the unexpected gasp as his body struggle for those last breaths, a struggle that pushed beyond the pain-blocking morphine. I remember David on his right, mom on his left, Krista and Marcia across from each other on either side of his bed, that Quanah and Zachery pushed into any open space and Yolanda tucked in at David's side. I stood at his feet holding them though the blanket, aware even then of the coldness that had invaded him there 48 hours before his passing. Don stood a bit removed from the group standing like a guardian over us all. I remember the murmur of the Rosary as we lifted him up in those final moments. I remember 14 year old Krista's explosion of grief as she ran out the door at 12:15 a.m. on a freezing January morning and my rush after her, Don following, both of us surrounding her in our arms as her wild grief-stricken anguish rose up into the night-time sky.
And then I think of mom.
Mom's walk towards her last hour was so different from dad - I was so much more involved. Four months of fighting for her to recover her strength from a simple fall culminated in a week of sleep and bare moments of consciousness. Even today, I ask myself how this happened. But at some point the will to move on becomes stronger than the will to live and I believe this is what happened with my mother. She was exhausted from the struggle and in her last week I saw only tiny glimpses of a woman who had simply chosen to sleep her way to the other side. In the last hour she was, like dad, surrounded by family. We all seemed to instinctively take up the same position that we had taken in dad's last hour and last moments. We touched, we prayed, the music arrived 30 seconds after her passing. The last gasp never arrived but the discernible slowing of breath was our herald. Krista was 21 this time and her youthful anguish gave way to quiet tears.
I miss her so much.
I miss them both so much.
Tears do not yet come.