It is the women of our families who keep the traditions, preserve the memories, and hold us close.
My last mindfulness blog post was nearly three weeks ago. The topic was This Person Could Die Tonight. At the time I said that this particular practice was resonating with me. It was hitting too close to home as I had three ill people in my immediate family.
Shortly after uploading that post I traveled out of town to be with two of those ill family members. Little did I know that for one family member, it would be my last visit.
On Wednesday, August 15, my Mom, Anne Butler, passed away peacefully after a short illness. It was the most heart-wrenching event I’ve experienced in some time. It was also the most spiritual.
Mom had been sick since the middle of July. Each episode that played out over those early weeks seemed to resolve and then something else would appear. In the end she developed pneumonia that her body could no longer fight.
During the final days I spent with her I kept reminding myself to be present to the situation. To be mindful in the face of death. I was constantly reminded of my last mindfulness post. How the hell could this be happening?
They say that being present with a loved one during their final days is one of great honor. I honestly couldn’t see the honor when the process began. It was gut wrenching.
You want to respect the wishes of your loved one. You want them to be free of any pain or fear. You don’t want them to struggle. You want to help them make the transition.
You realize that you can only take them so far on this journey. At some point, you understand that your loved one must make this journey on their own. The timing, the decision, is entirely up to them and nature.
We come into this world screaming. We hope to leave this world with peace and dignity. A few days before Mom passed, I remember saying to myself that “it” was getting closer. I could feel the inevitable around the perimeter of her room. Tendrils would touch her and then pull back. It wasn’t time. But it was coming.
Later Mom rested comfortably. Her breathing was less labored. She slept deeply. Her skin was warm to the touch. During a moment when I whispered into her ear, she snored into mine. It made me laugh.
My Mom was a very good swimmer. She taught me how to float and then how to swim. One morning before she passed, I had a vision. Mom and I were in a body of water and we both wore white. This time our roles were reversed. I stood in the water with my arms outstretched. Mom lay in my arms floating on the water. I was helping her to float. No words were said between us. We simply enjoyed the coolness of the water as I gently held her.
Mom passed a few days later at 9:30am in a lovely hospice facility. She did not leave this world alone as family was with her. Each of us took part in assisting her on this final journey.
My heart has been full of sadness. I’ve literally felt it break as the anguish flowed down my arms. Yet I’ve also had a sense of internal peace and calm. I know Mom passed as she wanted. In peace and with dignity.