Leaving Room 15

July 23rd.
This is the last morning mama and I spent in Room 15.
The night’s sleep prior had been solid.
God and I had a long talk about what was to come.
I told him that I’d often read obituaries that said something like this:
“So and so drifted off peacefully to sleep, surrounded by family and friends”.
I sort of always pictured a circle of people standing around a dying family member when I read this.
I was so afraid of missing mama’s passing from this world into the next.
I was so afraid of not being able to be her voice, if it was needed.
I was afraid of waking up, and mama being gone.
I was mama’s circle of family and friends.
So I asked God, as carefully as I could, “Please don’t let me miss mama’s leaving.  Please, Lord.”
And just like that, my sleep came.
It was more peaceful a rest than I ever remembered before.
ShortStop slept beside me on the daybed.
Curled up.
I believe mom and I both rested well, knowing Shorty didn’t show any sign of anxiety.
And of course, because I had asked for a specific thing from God, and just knew He would provide.
At 6am, Shorty got off of the daybed.
She stretched.
And then promptly went to mama’s bedside and lay down.
Except this time, she laid on mama’s left side.
Beneath the tangle of cords and tubes connecting mama to stuff.
This is the side mama was tilted toward.
This is the side mama usually rested on.
ShortStop put her head down, but didn’t close her eyes.
She was a working dog now.
Back on the job.
Somehow, she knew.
And because she knew, I knew.
Nurse Sharon said “It will be soon”.
That was a phrase I’d been told for the last two nights.
Today, the statement, though familiar, seemed to be more meaningful.
Mama looked peaceful.
Her breathing was not labored, and her respirations were still between 15 – 20.
Pulse was good.
Hands and feet were warm and beautifully colored.
But her blood pressure was lower than it had been the day before.
I can remember mama laughing and sarcastically saying,
“Yeah, I have a great heart. Nothing’s wrong with my heart. It’s everything else!”
Isn’t that something?
Just 4 days prior, mama had called me over to her bedside and whispered, with tears,
“I may take a long time.”
I knew what she was talking about.
Without any tears of my own, I leaned in and told her,
“Mama, take as much time as you need. I’m not going anywhere!”
I reassured mama then that I was right where I wanted to be, with her.
She was so worried about me. About my work. About my marriage.
About my staying with her in the Hospice House.
As she would tearfully bring up each of those things,
I would reassure her that everything was fine, and would continue to be fine.
I reminded her of all the times she rushed to my bedside over the course of 40 some years…
and told her I would be no where else right now.
I think mama’s “I might take a long time” statement came from the fact that at rest, in this bed,
her physical body was not failing quickly.
Her heart was good.
Her lungs were behaving.
And that broken hip?
The pain meds had finally begun taking away the sting.
It was being well-managed.
We were simply waiting for her body to retire.
And now, in this early morning, I felt the retirement was near.
Mama could not open her eyes nor communicate with me in any manner, yet I still held her hand, talked to her as I walked about her room, and made sure she knew her cell phone was in her hand if I had to leave the room for any reason.
I called my husband from mama’s bedside, because I wanted her to hear me tell him, “We’re okay, honey, just having a quiet morning.  Why don’t you and the boys just wait until later this afternoon to come visit.  I think mama and I are just going to rest a while.”  This was my way of letting mama know that it was going to be just me and her.  Alone.  I had a feeling leaving this place would be more difficult for her if we were all gathered together.  If the boys were here.
Our morning was like any other, in that I read from the hand-made flip devotional, and sang a few hymns.
I opened mama’s patio doors wide, and let the cool breeze blow through the room, across her toe tips.
Like being at the beach, I’d uncover mama’s feet so that the breeze could gently caress her toes as it passed by.
The bird feeders were busy this morning.
Holding mama’s left hand in my right, I took photos of the birds with my left hand.
Just around 9am, my friends Renea and Matt stopped in to bring me a fresh coffee.
Their stay was brief, followed by my dad’s arrival.
Despite my encouraging him to “not have to stay with me, that I was okay, and we were fine”, dad stayed.
And then my friend Pattie came into Room 15.
I told God in the still of my heart, “Okay, Lord, you know what you’re doing.  If it’s your will, we’ll all be here for mama.”
Mama’s circle of friends and family.
The three of us.
And the Trinity.
The morning rolled by without any alarms.
Nurses came and went, checking on mama.
Her breathing never became labored.
Respirations were good.
Her color remained nice.
Her feet and hands, warm.
I never left mama’s bedside.
I held her hand the entire time, even while carrying on lackadaisical conversation with my dad & friend.
At about 10:55am, we were engrossed in conversation about the Florence Museum, and a recent tour I’d taken with my boys and cousins Audrey and William Francis.  Specifically in that moment, we were discussing the art work of William Johnson, who’s pieces were currently on display at the museum.  I was saying exactly this sentence:

“I had a friend named William Johnson who I worked with at Kroger – he was involved in the Florence Little Theater.  I bet Sharon Hutch…”

Then it happened.  What exactly, I’m not sure.

Maybe a sound.

Something in my soul whispered, “Look at your mama”.

So I did, without a break in my sentence.  I turned my face toward my mama’s as I continued:

“…inson Green might know him.”

Then I stood, swiftly, as I realized mama had opened her eyes.  She hadn’t done that in 2 days.  I leaned my face down in front of hers and said, “Mama, Hi!  I see you.  Are you in any pain?”

Mama’s gaze was beyond me, unfocused.  She made no sounds.  Immediately I looked at her neck for the visible heartbeat I’d seen all week.  It was there.  But it was slow.  Her chest rose and fell.  After a couple of seconds, it rose and fell again.  Without removing my gaze from mama, I waved my hand at Pattie to come close.  I told her, calmly, “Will you go get Maria for us?”

Then I leaned in to mama even more so and said, “I love you, mama.  It’s okay, we’re all fine, just fine.  And we’re going to be.  It’s okay to go, mama.”

And just like that, mama took a last breath.  Her chest rose and fell.  The heartbeat was no longer visible in her neck.

Nurse Maria was instantly by mama’s side.  She picked up her right hand.  Both of us, with tears in our eyes, encouraging mama to go.  Maria said, “Mrs. Barbara – Go into the arms of Jesus!  He’s right there waiting for you!”

At that, mama’s body shuddered two times, rapidly, and I knew I had just watched mama go into Glory.  Into the arms of her Savior.

She had never been more radiant.  Stunning.  A beautiful bride, who had just met her groom.  Mama’s struggle was over.

Pattie and my dad were standing at the foot of mama’s bed.
Shortstop was now directly beneath my mama, laying under her bed.
Mama’s circle of family and friends.
Maria and I stood in amazement over the beautiful thing that had just happened in front of us.
It was so unexpected, even though it was an expected thing!
And it was beautiful.
The most beautiful thing I had ever witnessed.
God answered my prayer from the night before.
And the adrenaline kicked in.
“Great is Thy Faithfulness,
Great is Thy Faithfulness,
Morning by Morning
New mercies I see…”
Worship has never flooded from me so freely before.
My mama is home.
She is finally home!
Praise the Lord, she is healed!

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