The last days my mom had here on Earth were very hard to watch. I chose that I wanted to be there to see it all up until the last moment, if I was able to. That means the good, the bad and the ugly. My mom started in her bed on Sunday. That was the last time she got into it and she wouldn’t be getting back out of it. It was a long drawn out week. Sunday to Sunday to be exact. Sunday was the last day she ate, drank, and really did anything.
Monday came and we went to visit because I knew she wasn’t doing well. She was in a deep sleep, or so it seemed. She’d pop her eyes open every now and then but she looked really drowsy when she did, like it was hard for her to keep them open. She had what they refer to as “terminal restlessness”. That lasted a few days. She was doing some kind of movement every couple of minutes. Moving her arms, her legs, grabbing a hold of her head. She never stopped moving. When I went to visit her this day, I had the kids with me. When we left I told her we were leaving to go get groceries and I loved her and she responded to me and said something about us going shopping and told us she loved us too.
Tuesday she wasn’t verbal at all when I talked to her. She was still somewhat restless but getting more calm as the day went by. I still told her I loved her before I left but didn’t get anything back as a sign she’d heard me.
Wednesday the restlessness was still happening but not as bad as it was when it all first started. When I went to see her that day, as soon as I got there my grandmother told me she responded to her, so I went in and talked to her and got close to her ear. I told her “I love you”. She said, “I love you too”. I told her, “Morgan said she loves you too”. She responded, “I love her too”. I then asked, “Are you hurting?”. She said “Yes”. I said, “We don’t want to see you hurting, you don’t have to keep holding on for us”. She didn’t say anything after that. That’s when they decided to give her a different medicine to help with that restlessness so she could really get comfortable. She started to calm down more once they got that figured out.
Thursday she had gotten much more calm, almost not even moving really. With her eyes closed still, she was able to respond to me when I said, “I love you , sleep tight!”. She said, “I love you too.” This day she started to have some gurgling sounds. It sounded like what people had warned me about, which is called the “death rattle”. This usually means the person with it will only have about 4-72 hrs left.
Friday the gurgling sound was much, much worse. My grandmother had called me early in the morning asking if I wanted to come because they didn’t think it would be much longer. By the time I had gotten there, they had moved her around with the hospice nurse to a different position and it didn’t sound as bad. I knew though that the sound I heard the day before was the real deal and if the time they said was true, it wouldn’t be much longer. Her breaths got very spaced out. When I would go in to see her and listen to her chest, I’d stop and check to see if she would take another breath before I walked out. It was a longgggg day. When I left for the night, I told her I loved her and kissed her forehead and she moved her face like she was trying to make a kiss face but she didn’t say anything. She was still in there, I knew it, she just couldn’t tell us she was.
Saturday was rough. The gurgling sound was much worse and secretions had started coming out. This was a mucus-like substance that was just pooling in her throat. Just seeing all of this traumatized me. I felt so helpless and didn’t know what to do. I had wished she’d just passed already so she didn’t have to go through all of this, but the nurses assured us this wasn’t bothering her, it just bothered us seeing her and hearing her like this. At this point, I had to really step back on being here for all of this. I wanted to be here for it all, but this was the hardest part on me. I wanted to be helpful and help move her into a different position, but today when the secretions came out of her nose and mouth and I had to wipe them away. I lost it. She moaned “owww”, like it was all hurting her when we moved her around. This is the sight I won’t get out of my head. I knew that seeing my mom dying would be hard, but I didn’t really take into account what it might actually look like. It was killing me watching her like this. I decided after that that I couldn’t see that happen again, and I chose to wait those “moving” sessions out until someone else did it and I would go see her afterwards when she was calmer and cleaned up. My husband brought the kids before I left and they went in to see her. I was hesitant on if they should even see her the way she was, but they had seen her in the same position earlier in the week on Monday. We just told them she was sleeping really hard and to tell her they loved her. They both did but they were very curious, you could just tell they didn’t know what to think about what was going on with her. She was resting calmly and peacefully when we left that night.
Sunday, the day I just knew this whole week would be the last day if she made it this far. I just felt it in my bones. She really wanted to make it to see her husband’s birthday, and I don’t know if it was because she just wanted to be here to celebrate it, or to make sure he never forgot about her and wouldn’t every year to come. When I got there that morning, I went into her room and whispered in her ear, “Today’s his birthday. You did it. You made it to his birthday. You don’t have to keep hanging on anymore. I brought him a cake and donuts to celebrate him for you”. She didn’t say anything though. Her breathing was so spaced out and the gurgling was still there but the secretions weren’t as bad. That morning when the nurse came to get her vitals she said she couldn’t get her bp. She said it wouldn’t be much longer. We all just took it in and waited. Looking back on it, it all seemed like a blur. I remember when I heard from her room that she was gone, I took off down the hall and just rubbed her back and lost it. I really didn’t know what to do. The only way to explain seeing her in that moment was that she was just empty. I knew she was gone just by looking at her. She had it all planned out and her husband asked her parents and I to leave the room so he could do the things the way she wanted them. When I walked back to the kitchen to be with everyone else I heard the song “Scars in Heaven” play by Casting Crowns. I don’t really remember being able to hear the radio playing most of the day from her room, but in that moment it was so clear and loud that I could hear every word. The craziest part is that I hadn’t heard that song before until about a week before then on the radio. When I heard it, I sent it to my mom and told her I thought it was meant for her, so hearing it play in that moment was like she was speaking to me. That’s when I really lost it. It was such a God thing that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced another moment like it. It was like hearing her say, “I made it to heaven, I’m completely healed, don’t worry about me anymore, I’m better”. She had it all planned out that she wanted to be sitting up, dressed, bed made, room cleaned up and a candle lit. When my husband and I went into see her one last final time, I immediately hugged her. I knew it’d be my last time to ever do it. I just buried my face in her pillow and it’s like I knew she wasn’t there. I don’t know how to really explain it other than I think I just knew I was just hugging my moms body, her spirit was no longer there. Then the words played, “He is Good, Good, Ohhhhhhh”. The music that day was just so amazing, it seemed like the right song played at the right time. It was just what I needed to hear too. I wanted to cry but I also felt like I couldn’t because I somewhat felt relief. Not relief that she was gone but relief that she was somewhere far better than I could ever imagine. Because I knew where she was, peace fell over me. In that moment, I knew it was okay to let go. I obviously was upset, but the peace I had was just unexplainable.
Fast forward to the funeral days. The first day of visitation, the family was able to go in and see her first. When I saw her, she looked just like herself. You know how people say, “they look so good”, well she did. She was so pretty in her hot pink dress. She looked like the bubbly little fun spirited woman that she’s always been. I held it together when I saw her body somehow. I honestly didn’t cry until I watched the slideshow and looked at pictures of her with me as a baby and thought about not getting to have pictures made with her anymore. It was like I really thought about the memories we made together were gonna be over now. The rest of the night, I held it together way better than I expected. I feel like the best way to explain the way I was feeling is numb. I think I was in shock basically for those two days of the visitation and funeral. I only broke down a few times and expected to be a blubbery mess the whole day. I felt like I couldn’t make myself cry most of the day, the tears just wouldn’t come out. I think the feeling of shock may be somewhat to blame but I also feel like the biggest reason of all is I just had peace. I knew she was where she needed to be and I couldn’t be sad about that. I couldn’t be sad that she was living the life I hope to be able to live one day with our creator. I couldn’t be sad that she didn’t have cancer anymore. I couldn’t be sad that she was with all our passed loved ones now and they were all in Heaven. I just couldn’t be sad about any of that, and I say that’s what knowing God and having peace feels like. I haven’t felt that feeling ever before like I did those two days. It got me through two of the days I thought might be the hardest. I thought I’d be a mess and people wouldn’t be able to look at me without making me sob but I actually felt like I needed to console others more than myself and I was completely okay with that.
I feel like preparing for her death helped me grieve along the way. I know it wasn’t really grieving because she technically was still here, but it’s like I was slowly letting go day by day, especially the whole week of watching her lay in bed until she finally passed. I don’t regret being there for every moment that last week up until she finally made her way to heaven. I may have those images in my head, but I also don’t think I would have gotten the peace I needed if I didn’t see her go through all that she did that week. Everyone is different and some may want to remember her in the happier, not as sick state, and that’s completely okay. My sister had a talk with my mom before she passed about not wanting to see her get to this point and my mom was okay with it. Morgan knew what she could and couldn’t handle. She had her boundaries and knew she wouldn’t regret missing this part. I admitted already just seeing her the day the secretions started was too hard on me. I couldn’t imagine if she had seen that. I wish I could’ve taken that moment back and missed that but again, maybe I needed to, to have peace. I am completely behind her in her decision for staying away from that. She’s able to remember our mom in the happier state she was when they last talked and when she came to see her right before she got so sick. She will remember her in the best way now, and that is all that matters.
As much as we think this is the end of my Mom’s journey, it’s not. It’s just the beginning of eternity in Heaven and that is the story I can’t wait to listen to her tell me one day. She fought her fight and even though she didn’t win her battle on Earth with cancer, she won the real battle that I hope we all are striving to win at the end of our lives. I can only imagine…. I can hear Him now welcoming her with open arms, saying, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”. She deserves those words more than anyone I know and I hope I’m able to hear those same words from Him one day.
I love you Mama. Can’t wait to see you again. I hope you are one of the first ones greeting me at those gates of Heaven one day.
XOXO- Your Kaydoodle
I wanted to say thank you to all the people who’ve been reading my blogs. So many of you told me how much you loved them and how much they meant to you at the visitation. I’m glad her story has touched and encouraged so many people. It’s been an honor to be able to tell thousands of people about her all across the world! This isn’t the end of my blogs, so keep following along with me if you’d like to. This has been the best way to have an outlet for all I’ve had going on in my life after finding out my mom’s diagnosis. Most of the time, I’m writing these while crying my eyes out in the bath tub, but it’s been a way of healing for me. I’m glad her story has touched so many hearts the way she’s touched mine.
Edited by: Morgan Marynissen