*This post could be considered disturbing to some. This is my disclaimer.*
Last Wednesday afternoon, YS called me at the church where my office is. Older Brother the Younger had been to Pastures to see Mom, and while he was there, the doctor came to see her. He said that she was not doing well and that it was probably a "matter of days." YS wanted me to know so that I could plan accordingly. I decided that I would leave for Illinois the next morning to be with Mom and my family to walk together this journey before us.
The rest of the day was spent doing regular "intern pastor" type stuff. We did Wednesday night Lenten worship, and some of us were chatting afterward. The pastors and staff at the church were incredibly supportive of me, and wished me safe travels for the 800 mile trip back to my home communities.
When I got back to the parsonage that night, my phone rang again. Sis was on the other end of the phone. She needed my advice because one of the nurses at Pastures called and said that it was looking like Mom would not make it through the night. She wanted me to tell her if she should go to the home or not. I tried to be "pastoral" and let her make her own decision, but ultimately, Sis said, "What would you do?" I told her that I would go to the home, just so Mom wouldn't be alone. Sis then said she'd go. So, she and YS went to the home, and Jake and I hurriedly packed up and left for Illinois. YS said that while they were with Mom (til about 2:30 a.m.), she told her, "Trish is coming, Mom. Trish is coming."
Jake and I drove all night. The drive from the parsonage to Pastures takes approximately thirteen hours. But we kept going, and we got to Pastures around 11:30 a.m. A CNA took us to Mom's room, where she was on oxygen and largely unresponsive; lying on her bed and facing toward the window showing a beautiful sunny day. She looked to be awake, but aside from her breathing, she was not moving. I leaned over her, kissed her forehead, and told her, "We love you, Mom." Her eyes moved a tiny little bit as I said these words to her. As we remained with her,I held my hand on her shoulder and we watched her breathe. In. Out. In....Out...........In Out In Out. Again, "We love you, Mom." For twenty minutes, we watched her breathe. In...Out...
And then there was nothing.
I tried to feel for a pulse, and when I felt nothing, I pushed the nurse call button. The CNA came in, checked, and then called the nurse. Mom's struggle was over. We spent some time with Mom's body, listened as some of the Pastures staff came in and gave us condolences, and I traced the cross on her forehead, proclaiming the promises made to her in baptism, "You have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever." She waited for me; the last of her many wonderful gifts of which I was the recipient. She may not have cognitively known that I was her daughter, or maybe she did. But I think she waited. For me.
Needless to say, this past week has been incredibly painful for my family and me. I have been a little surprised by the intensity of grief I've been feeling. Don't get me wrong, I really, really loved Mom, but I thought I was "ready." She'd been so unwell for so long, I thought I'd be okay once her death came. But really, I'm realizing that we're never really ready to stop making memories with the ones we love. We're never ready to lose that last connection, no matter the circumstances around the death. It's hard. This grief work is hard work, and so I appreciate the prayers of many faithful people, near and far.