Yesterday was a difficult day. First of all, I was supposed to have had Will all lined up to stay at home and in the shop so I could go down to my father's house and help my sister go through my mother's things and donate what we couldn't keep. My sister-in-law was also there to help us, which was a really great thing; my mother apparently kept everything, so there was much to sort through.
Will ended up going with me, which made for an extra long and boring day for him. He basically sat in one spot on the couch in the living room for about seven hours, except for the two trips he made to use the restroom. He entertained Daddy with several games of Henry (a battery powered light up matching game) and attempted to show him how to play BopIt. All that may have taken about forty-five minutes, max. Lunch for Will lasted another hour to hour and a half. The rest of the time he just sat, and sat.
I arrived (with Will in tow) about three hours after my sister did. She and my sis-in-law had already gotten a good start, so I jumped on in and began folding and boxing up Mama's clothes. The first thing I picked up was one of Mama's flannel nightgowns. I wrapped my arms around it as if somehow I might make her appear inside if I squeezed hard enough. I pressed it against my face and just couldn't get enough of the feel and the scent of her all around me. I buried my face in that nightgown and cried for my Mama. I dried my tears with it, folded it up and placed it with my purse to bring home.
There were headbands, combs and brushes with Mama's hair still in them. There was a half-eaten piece of peppermint sticking out of the wrapper on the night stand at her side of the bed. Mama always kept peppermints with her to pop in her mouth when her throat got dry and she started to cough. They were soothing to her, so she was never without them.
As I was going through the drawers in Mama's dresser, I found 26 pretty little handkerchiefs, some still in the original packaging. She always kept a lot of those on hand to give as gifts. She had given me several over the years. I brought those home with me, too. My sister and I decided I should send at least one to each of the girls in our family, on their next birthday, no matter what age they are. It may not mean much to the younger girls now, but in years to come, it will be a treasure. Their mothers will share stories about Maw Maw and how much she loved her children and grandchildren. We all have a special story to tell about her.
I can still picture Mama in her kitchen, canning beans, freezing corn, or mixing up enough Chicken and Dressing to feed the neighborhood (we ate as much as we could, then split it up and ate more at home) -- all from her wheelchair. As her health declined, Daddy helped her more and more, but she was busy doing as much as she could, which was a whole lot, considering the wheels on her chair were her walking legs..... She always had a list for Daddy, too. (He called her The Boss.)
Mama really didn't want to leave us when it did happen. She gripped the sheets on that hospital bed so tightly that her hands swelled. We'd have to remind her to straighten her fingers out, but after a few minutes she'd be holding on again. She just couldn't seem to let go. One of the clerks at the hospital motel told me of an experience she had with her own mother's passing. After lingering for days in a coma, her Aunt told her that just maybe she was trying to work out some unresolved issues with God and when it was all settled between the two of them, she would feel that she could then rest in peace. Maybe that happens with some people. I don't know. I do know that Mama stayed as long as she could, then she quietly, gracefully, gently, slipped away.
I'm so grateful to have witnessed the bond my parents had between them, especially during those final weeks of Mama's life. The love they shared is indescribable with words. It was even felt and mentioned by all the staff and fellow waiting room friends we came in contact with during our stay in the CCU. Mama and Daddy celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary exactly one week before her death. Daddy wore a tie all day, with his dress shirt and slacks. I'm sure he probably applied a little after shave lotion just for her. The nurses all complimented him on his appearance that day. He told them he was "trying to impress" his "girl." Daddy told us that when he looked at our Mama, he saw the same 14 year old girl that he married 65 years ago.
I was talking to one of my brothers on the phone the other day. We both decided that our Mama was IT. She pulled everything together, especially when it seemed impossible to do. Mama never stopped believing that whatever the problems were, someone else always had it tougher.
It was a hard thing to watch, my Mama taking her last breath, but I am so grateful to have been by her side when she did. I'm especially grateful to have had her in my life for almost 55 years. I look forward to spending an Eternity with my Mama. But, for now, I have the blessing of memories to embrace and to share. Mama. She was indeed IT.
Blowing kisses to you, Mama....