My mother passed through the door into heaven Thursday morning December 12, 2013. She had been in the hospital this time for about a month. The doctors finished draining fluid from her left lung, the lung deflated, and there was nothing else they could do for her at her age and in her condition (after many physical issues over her 83 years).
Sometimes we are in the right place at the right time. On Wednesday, December 11, 2013, I drove the 3½ hours to my mother’s town to meet with a VA rep. on Thursday to continue the fight I have had with them for the past year and a half. I spoke with my sister, Anita, after I arrived in town. She told me the doctors couldn’t do anything else for Mom, and Mom wanted to go home from the hospital.
We took Mom home late that night to be in her own apartment with her friends, neighbors, nurses, and aides. When we went to the hospital to get her, I wasn’t sure we could get her dressed, in the car, and home—she looked so bad. But we managed with help from the aides.
About 15 minutes after she got home, she was up walking all over with her walker, tending her plants, and looking better than she had in over a month. She looked at a picture of my dad and said how much she missed him.
Then she said she really needed a Coke, chips, and queso (she had been on a restricted diet at the hospital). Anita and I went and got her some chips and queso and fixed her a Coke. The three of us talked and laughed for a couple of hours.
Anita went home, and I bedded down on the futon in Mom’s living room. Nurses and aides made their visits during the night to care for her.
A little before 7:00 the next morning, I heard a crash in her bedroom. I found that she had slumped to the floor while trying to get up to her walker. She had knocked things from her bedside table. She said she could take hold of my arm to pull herself upright and lean against her chair-bed. She did. I pulled the call light for the nurse just as the aide came in with her morning coffee.
The nurse came, checked her, and they lifted Mom into her chair-bed. She was trying to speak again, but she was incoherent. She could not support herself. As I was talking to her, the left side of her face began to sag and her eyes clouded.
I asked the nurse to call my sister to have her come. I sat with Mom, held her hand, and sang to her as she slipped away. I sang “How Great Thou Art” because it is one of her favorite songs. And then I sang “I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together” (Carol Burnett) because it seemed right after the party the three of us had together last night. Anita came quickly, and we shared time together.
What a special memory that last night will be for us. And what special expressions of love and caring we received afterward from residents of the apartment building, staff, nurses, aides, church friends, and others!
The funeral for my mother turned out very well! A very long and exhausting day. My nieces, Holly and Garalee, sang two beautiful songs to honor their grandmother. My sister and I sang a song our mother loved to hear us sing together when we were young. Many kind words and special memories were shared at the viewing and in the service by long-time and more recent friends. And then more kind words and special memories shared at the memorial we held for Mom at the retirement home (where she was known as the “plant lady”) for residents who couldn’t go to the funeral.
My niece, Holly, says she thinks Mom died on December 12th so she could be with my dad for his birthday on the 13th. I imagine he is playing his harmonica for her and they are laughing and celebrating together.
You were special to many people, Golda Lee Bailey Cawthon. You are no longer in pain, and you are rejoicing with your love of almost 63 years. And—if there are plants in heaven, I know you are tending them like you did here on earth.