My mother was about 5 feet tall and tipped the scales at around 100 pounds in her prime. She had 7 kids. When we stood next to her as adults it seemed like a miracle that she once carried us in her womb.
For over 30 years my mother was a smoker (Benson and Hedges Deluxe). As a kid, I could tell she was coming up the stairs by her coughs: one in the middle of the flight of stairs and another at the top. She quit in her 50s or 60s. Her father savored a cigarette like it was sent from the gods. I remember seeing his 90 year old hands shake as he had his daily smoke. He watched what he ate like a hawk and walked every day. He was in amazing shape. He died at 96 in his own bed with my mother by his side.
For the past two and a half years, my mother had the dwindles. Once she reached 88, her warranty was up. Slowly her body started to fail her. Bit by bit, day by day. She spent the past year confined first to a recliner then a bed. It seemed impossible that someone so frail could live so long, but she had her father's genes and excellent care. Ten days ago on a Monday I received a phone call from my younger sister telling me that she had taken a turn for the worse and to get home. The hospice nurse said she'd be lucky to last a day or two. I arrived a little after midnight on Tuesday morning after a 7 1/2 hour drive. After talking to my mother for a little while, I fell asleep on a sofa. I woke 4 hours later and began a long week, mostly just hanging out by my mother's side with some of my siblings.
I read books (the Hunger Games I and II), flipped through magazines, played with my iPhone, and channel surfed. Waiting. After a few hours, I pulled Little Nellie out of the trunk of my car and went for a short bike ride. I stayed within the city limits of Albany NY, meandering down to Washington Park to check out the tulips. I didn't appreciate the tulips in Albany - originally a Dutch colony - when I was a kid but I sure do now. After 13 miles I headed back to my mother's house.
|Little Nellie among the Tulips|
|My Favorite: Two-toned Tulips|
|Awesome Victorian in Voorheesville|
We played her some Dean Martin tunes. She managed a little smile. I asked if she wanted to hear Tony Bennett. She grunted what was obviously a "no". Deano was her man.
My mother stopped moving on Friday. She could no longer see, but she kept breathing. We were all in amazement. A hospice nurse came and said it wouldn't be long now. She was impressed with how strong my mother's heart was. We gave her morphine to keep her comfortable. A little after 11 pm, one of the aides and my sister gently bathed her with a damp cloth.
Just after midnight, with four of her now adult children by her side, in a bed in her own home, she dwindled away. Very peacefully.
A few days later there was a short visitation at the funeral home and a funeral mass. At the gravesite, a squall line came through. Gusts of wind and sideways rain. As the burial ceremony came to an end, a hail storm hit.
I guess they don't have dwindles in the great beyond.