My mom passed away peacefully in the hospice early this morning, at 5:30am PST. She lost her fight against cancer and I hope she is in a happier place now.
I know this isn’t the right place to talk about this, but I need to mourn in my own way.
My mom has been a school teacher for over 30 years before she retired. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she presents herself as the stern authority figure in our family. When we were growing up, mom was always the bad cop to dad’s good cop. But that was all just an act to teach us discipline and morality – as she grew older she mellowed out greatly, revealing her true loving, caring personality underneath that strict exterior. It is perhaps ironic that we only truly knew mom after we matured into adulthood.
Watching someone you love and respect physically deteriorate over a period of months is a sobering experience. Watching them go from strong and independent to weak and begging for help is heartbreaking. Knowing the cancer is terminal but not knowing how long didn’t make things easier either; it’s a constant struggle to want to spend as much time with her as possible, while trying to keep our normal daily lives going. I will forever be grateful that I took a whole week off work and spent it with mom last week, but at the same time I feel immensely guilty that I didn’t do the same this week.
We knew this day is coming, and coming soon, and I kept telling people we are mentally prepared for it. But when the time came, I am truly surprised how much of a shock it still was. When my brother called me just after midnight that we need to head for the hospice right away, I just got dressed and went; in the car my SO pointed out that I was shaking and I didn’t even realize it. Seeing mom on her deathbed was just as much a shock — she was unconscious when we arrived and she looked physically different. Her breathing was labored, loud and unnatural; we could tell that she didn’t have long. For the rest of the night we stayed by her side, holding her hand, patting her, and whispering to reassure her; even though she was unconscious, mom could hear us because at times tears would well up in her eyes.
Her breathing suddenly slowed down around 5:30 in the morning, and those of us in the room immediately attended to her. I went to get the hospice nurses and the rest of the family waiting in the lobby, and by the time I got back mom’s breathing had slowed to once every twenty to thirty seconds. It was a surreal thing as we watched mom take her last breath. The nurse checked her, asked us whether she could take the oxygen off, then declared mom has passed.
She left us in the room to spend some last moments with mom. Dad was stoic; I know for him mom’s passing is probably a great relief as he is stretched to the limit trying to look after her in the past few months. I knew I was mentally prepared but as soon as I walked up to mom and looked down at her on the bed, this immense sadness and grief welled up in me, and I broke down sobbing. What happened to being prepared? I was in shock. I was on my knees and I was sobbing against mom’s arm. Is she going to be lonely? Is she going to be okay? The thoughts that crossed my mind weren’t logical, so I don’t even know where they came from.
All I know is mom is gone. And I am going to miss her desperately.
In the next little while we will be adjusting our lives in a world without mom. We are going to make funeral arrangements. Now that he is alone, Dad may be moving in with us. Life goes on, but I already know I will never forget mom.
Mom, I love you. Wherever you are now, I pray that you are happy and know that you will always be in my heart.