The first phone call came at 6:11 am. Mother was having great difficulty breathing but the nurse said that she had been given some medication to help. She did not think I needed to come, but she would call me back if anything changed. The feeling of dread hatched a huge egg in my chest and everything seemed suddenly to be in black and white. The color drained out of the bedspread, the clothes hanging over the door, the morning light coming into the bedroom. I struggled to get back to sleep for another hour or so.
The second call came as Kent and I were having a late breakfast in our favorite little diner. The smell of bacon and sausage was in the air, and the biscuits on my plate were just perfect. We were discussing what we needed to do and trying to sequence the errands by geography and closing times. The voice on the phone said I hate to tell you but your mother just expired. Expired? Like a coupon? Did she deflate? Oh. You mean she died. “I beg your pardon” came out of my mouth. Your mother … she expired about ten minutes ago. I could see my husband’s hand coming across the table taking mine. We are waiting on the Hospice Nurse to call the time. Do you want us to delay so you can see her or go ahead and contact the funeral home?
For a moment I could not breathe. The call I had prayed for, dreaded, knew was inevitable had come – just a few seconds and it was over. The decisions were now mine to make alone. The struggle was done. Mother was already in her eternal home, seeing all of the glory of God that she has believed and taught me to trust. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Kent knew by the look on my face what had happened and he took all the errands off the table, even though most were his and were important. His calmness and matter-of-fact attitude steadied me. We finished our breakfast, greeted some friends who were leaving the diner and headed to Mother’s house, making the necessary phone calls in route.
Several times during the ride, I reminded myself to breathe as I was not sure that I had done so. The running phrase in my head – my mother is dying – became my mother is dead. The word “dead” sounded artificial and jagged. My tongue found it heavy and hard to say. Dead. A blessing and a grief. The end here and the beginning of joy there. Nothing more to be done – could be done.