The Last Mile
My mom fought a hard fight. She ran that race right down to the wire. She was a strong woman. In the end, though, age and biology overcame her indomitable will to live. She died as we sat close by in the late hours last night.
When we got her back to Hospice she went down even more rapid than she had been. Over night Wednesday I slept on the roll-away while my brother and my sister’s daughter stood by her bedside. From what I heard and was told they had a veritable camp meeting. She sang gospel songs and talked about Jesus.
Towards morning she became so weak she could no longer speak. Through the day she lay twitching and unresponsive as the nurses came and went with medications they hoped might relieve any pain she was in. I spent the day by her side as I promised, telling her I loved her and I was proud of her.
In the evening around eight or so I stood by her, rubbing her neck. She’d pointed to it though it was all she could do to communicate with a wavy hand. Her muscles were tense. All of a sudden she scrunched up, her eyes clenched, she turned a very dark red and shivered. She apparently suffered a stroke or something as I was holding her.
In a few seconds she stopped the incessant twitching she’d been doing. She became rigid, eyes fixed with labored breathing. We called for the nurse who said call the family by her side. I called my wife who had just left for home half an hour before.
For more than two hours her body clung to life though the eyes were vacant. Her breathing stopped and it was over.
I can’t say mom was a perfect mom nor that my childhood was wonderful. What I can say is that my mom loved me, my family, my siblings and their families with an unending and undying love.
Like most kids I didn’t spend enough time with her through the years, all wrapped up in my own life. In the end, though, I was there. I promised I would not leave her side and I didn’t.
When my dad died I was angry at God and at Dad for going so quick. The moment he left us I started a journey that ended the moment my mom took her last breath. Though I miss her very much already I have an understanding of life and death, a strength of purpose, I never had before. I was able to be strong for mom and family because of what I’ve learned from Gautama the Buddha. The answers I found in his words are the foundation upon which I have stood through these past few weeks. With mom’s passing I am firmly on a new path, putting behind the old, setting aside the days of confusion, moving forward.
I want to be the best Buddhist and the best servant of mankind I can possibly be. These weeks with my mother showed me where I can find strength. I learned I can do many things I would not have thought myself capable. I have a strong desire to give the same kind of compassionate service to others as I have given to my mom as Jesus and as Gautama taught us we should.
Yesterday is over. Tomorrow is full of promise. Today I shall be sad, I shall cry, I shall remember and I shall look upon a hundred, a thousand different reminders of the woman who gave me life and say “Thanks, mom.” I shall say goodbye and I will be assured that I have done my duty as a son, given her all my love and provided all I could for her as she ran her last mile, the one we ran together.
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