The Final Parade
~a daughter’s journal
January 17, 2023
When the Self takes on a body, he seems to assume the body's frailties and limitations; but when he sheds the body at the time of death, the Self leaves all these behind. ~ The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4:8
She died peacefully in her sleep on Thursday, January 26, 2023 at 10 am, a grey day. There was no struggle, no evidence of terminal agitation. Although, in the wee hours of the morning while we were keeping vigil by her bedside, her whole body tensed several times as we held her hands.
I had pulled a sofa next to the hospital bed in which she lay so that I could be near her and she would feel my presence. I noticed her breathing change around 5:30 AM. So I awoke my sons, Zack and Josh, as they had asked me to do, and together we surrounded her with love. In the final moments, I climbed in bed with her, kissing her face and stroking her head. It was reminiscent of four and half months earlier when I had done the same to be near my husband, Aaron’s, lifeless body in a cold, white hospital emergency room. The tragic nature of his death had prevented me from being with him as he relaxed into eternity.
"Through selfless service, you will always be fruitful and find the fulfillment of your desires": this is the promise of the Creator. ~The Bhagavad Gita 3:10
Wednesday, January 11, 2023
Mom, “Who is Aaron?”
Caregiver D., “He was your son-in-law, married to Ani.”
Mom, “Who is Ani?”
Caregiver D., “She is your daughter.”
Mom, “My mama?”
Caregiver D., “No, your daughter.”
Group text Mom sent to our Scott family cousins
One example of Aaron's kind care
Thursday, January 12, 2023
Mom’s lift chair is in the living room where she has a wall of windows looking out on the countryside of our Louisiana flatland of oaks and pines. At different times, mom has asked me and the caregivers whether we see a man outside. There is no one there. Mom used to enjoy watching my husband work in her yard and in the field. I can’t help but believe that Aaron is letting her know that he is here and preparing her for the time she will be with him.
As often happens with people at the end of life, my mom does not have regular bowel movements. So this morning she told her caregiver K., “One of your tasks today is to say, ‘Sh*t, get out!’” It made my heart smile. She still has her kick.
To you, Oh Lord, I lift up my soul . . . Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. ~Psalm 25:1, 16-18
Saturday, January 14, 2023
This is the first time that we put oxygen on mama at night to proactively decrease agitation. Pointless. The nasal cannula is off of her when I peek into her room, and I don’t know how long it has been off. I don’t want to adjust it and wake her up. Pointless and loud. Having the oxygen machine on makes it hard to hear her breathing (or not).
She slept through the night anyway.
Mama is very confused and lethargic this morning and answers, “I don’t know,” when I ask if she wants to rest in bed awhile longer or get up and have her coffee. Not to give a flip about the morning coffee ritual she loves is significant. Since she is awake, I figure I will tidy her and wheel her to the living room; but when I go to the kitchen to fill her water tumbler and come back, she has fallen asleep again. So I tell her to just call me if she needs anything.
Now she is snoring every once in awhile and staring into space at other times. She is comfortable and not agitated at all. That is the most important thing. She appears to know me.
Mama eventually asks for coffee, but only takes a sip, then loses interest. I bring a glider rocker into her room, put on Alan Jackson and Willie Nelson gospel songs (two artists she loves), and sit quietly. She dozes then wakes herself up with a snoring gasp. Every once in awhile she asks for water.
I walk outside for a moment. When I come back in and touch her, my hands are cold. She says, “You don’t have any sleeves you could put on?”
Sunday, January 15, 2023
At her 3:20 am diaper change, mom says, “Thank you for taking care of me,” and “What time of day is it?”
I answer, “It’s 3:30 in the morning.”
Snug and warm now, she states, “I’m frightened. I don’t want to be alone.”
I reassure her, “I’m right here.”
She asks, “Who’s here?”
I respond, “Me and Josh.”
She’s curious, “Where’s Josh?”
I inform, “He’s in the bedroom sleeping. Zack will be here tomorrow.”
She wants to know, “The whole family will be here together?”
I’m happy to say, “Yes, we’ll all be together.”
4:25 am the same day
Mama declares, “I’m restless.”
I tell her, “Okay, I’ll get some medicine (lorazepam).”
She replies with words that go right to my heart, “I want to be by you.”
And I assure her, “I’m right here.”
A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones. ~Proverbs 17:22
Monday, January 16, 2023
Mom, “Are we going anywhere today?”
Caregiver D., “Well I thought we were going bar-hoping.”
Mom, “Maybe they looked at you and said, ‘We’re not opening for you.’”
Caregiver D. and mom are great buddies.
Tuesday, January 17, 2023
Caregiver D., “Good morning.”
Mom, “Good morning. How are you?”
Caregiver D., “I’m good. How are you?”
Mom, “I’m still here.”
Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Mama enjoys the music of Harry Connick, Jr. So, this morning I play his album Your Songs for her. She is wondering aloud what the music is supposed to teach her and who will be with her to teach her today. I am considering if these thoughts are remnants of her own 20+ years as an elementary school teacher and school board employee.
Josh is feeding her the steak he cooked last night. She says, “Popsy would have been sorry to find out that I had this.” Popsy is the grandfather name we call my dad, even though he died almost 34 years ago and never met his grandsons. “This” is the COPD that has made her lungs unable to efficiently expel carbon dioxide, causing a build-up in her system. Over 50 years ago, mama quit smoking. She used to say that when she was old, she would start again, but she never did.
Mama is Catholic and wishes to receive the anointing of the sick. I want her to be as alert as possible when she receives the sacrament. So because her parish priest is not available today, with help from a friend, I find a priest who is able to visit. He comes over in the afternoon and gives her the blessing. I don my minister’s stole and anoint her, too, reading comforting scripture passages, among which are:
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in me. In my father’s house there are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back to take you to be with me where I am. . . Peace I leave with you. My own peace I give to you. Not as the world gives, do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled. Neither let it be afraid. ~excerpted from John 14
Mine is the farewell anointing of a daughter to her mother, no less spiritually significant.
January 18, 2023
We have moved mom’s hospital bed to her living room. Josh tells me that mom remarked that she saw a man in a leather jacket outside her window. I believe it is another Aaron sighting. On motorcycle-riding days, he could be found looking handsome in his worn, brown leather jacket.
Mama looks childlike and keeps falling in and out of sleep. She is hallucinating, but still asks about Zack and Josh. It’s a chilly and partly cloudy morning. We had a rough night.
Always polite, when I feed her a sandwich, she remarks, “Those sandwiches are very good. Thank you.”
Most mornings, after eating her solo scrambled egg, she asserts, “Those eggs are very good. Thank you.”
Tuesday, January 24, 2023
I tell mom that I am drinking coffee with honey in it this morning, and she asks me to make a cup like that for her too. When I bring it to her, she compliments, “That is very tasty.”
Joshua is raising the head of her hospital bed and asks, “How is that?” Mom laughs and gives him the finger.
Gatito (one of our cat companions) is walking near mom’s hospital bed. When she hears Gatito purring, she says, “And what are you going to say about it?”
“Thank you for taking such good care of me. I really appreciate it,” she offers to me again.
The Master gives himself up to whatever the moment brings. He knows that he is going to die, and he has nothing left to hold onto: no illusions in his mind, no resistances in his body. . . He holds nothing back from life; therefore he is ready for death, as a man is ready for sleep after a good day's work. ~Tao Te Ching v. 50
And so ends my journal of the caregiving journey with my mom in her last days. There is no grand finale, just a soft exit leaving my sons and me with no regrets. We banded together as a family and kept her comfortable in her own home until the time of her departure. That was our best, and we are very grateful that we had the resources to provide that for her. We are also aware that other families are not so fortunate.
The Scott sisters (Marilyn, Dot, & Minnie) with their mom
The Scott sisters, Minnie, Dot, and Marilyn, have left a legacy of love in their combined 12 children, and I want to share some of their wisdom with you. Aunt Minnie, the oldest and mother of three daughters, always said that it is not just, “The family that prays together, stays together;” but,
“The family that prays and plays together, stays together.”
My heart smiles when I recall Aunt Minnie making a coke or root beer float for me to enjoy while we gathered around her dining table to play cards and games during my summer visits to Ferriday. Besides regular prayers offered through our current family group text stream, we are still gathering at yearly, weekend family reunions to play cards and games and bask in the love of our Scott clan. Minnie and her husband, Archie, gave us that heritage.
Aunt Dot taught her eight children to,
“Always find the good in people.”
I have fond memories from my childhood of the times I visited Aunt Dot, her husband (Uncle Jack), and my cousins in Houston. Aunt Dot would bring coffee milk to me in bed and sing a good morning song, despite all the other work she had to do to keep up a busy household full of people. She did the same thing for all of her children! Aunt Dot had the gift of making each person feel special. She lead by example.
And my mom, the youngest of the three, emphasized to me and my sons to,
“Keep investing in your friendships.”
Only a week or so before my mom transitioned, a friend she had known from first grade came to visit her--one of at least two friends from elementary school with whom she was still in contact. First grade for mom was 81 years ago! Mom's treasure was in the people she loved so well.
Like a lovely flower full of color and fragrance are the words of those who practice what they preach. ~The Dhammapada 4:52
One of my mom’s daily encouraging texts to my sons and me
May your mind be peaceful and calm,
may your body be relaxed and comfortable,
and may your heart be filled with love.
Thank you for reading.
Blessings and gratitude,