Yesterday my mother turned 91 years old. Today I am driving down to my hometown to see her. Every time I go I wonder, “Will this be the last time I see her? If so, what will my last memory be? Will she know who I am today, or just be glad that some man came to visit?”
She has survived a lot, so maybe I shouldn’t worry. She was given last rites by the priest more than two years ago. She was on hospice and then kicked off of it because she was doing so well. She is tough. But she is also frail, and I worry.
Yesterday my sister called–she was calling all the siblings–just to verify that she should not call an ambulance or do anything out of the ordinary if things worsen. Mom never wanted to be put into a nursing home, did not want to be resuscitated if it came to that, and expressed often that she wanted to be in her home when the time comes for her to go. So of course I said that we should honor her wishes. She has been at home for the entire duration of her decline and she will be there to the end.
The reason it became a question yesterday is because a nurse was there for her regular visit and mentioned that my mother’s body may be starting the process of shutting down. She said that if that were the case it could be five minutes, five hours, days, weeks, or even months. There is no way to tell. What she related was that Mom’s pulse was erratic, her breathing seemed shallow, she couldn’t find Mom’s blood pressure because the heartbeat was so faint, she thought she saw some darkening of the skin, and a couple other things that might be signs.
My mother has been bedridden for several years now. All of us should have had plenty of time to prepare for the inevitable, but she has miraculously survived so many times when we thought it might be near the end that it seems that she may go on forever. She has been magical that way. She recently told my sister that she planned to live to 110, and that may yet be true.
Still, I am nervous about this visit. For the last week or so I’ve had an uneasy feeling about this 91st birthday. I wanted to be there for it yesterday, but couldn’t so I was planning on going today anyway. I don’t know if I want to be there when the time comes for her to leave this plane. I don’t know if I want to be away from her when that happens either. Either way I don’t feel ready for her not to be in my life, even when she may not know who I am anymore.
Nevertheless I will go today. I will kiss her. I will tell her I love her. And I will hope that if this does prove to the last visit that it will be a good one.