She is mostly gone now, my mother. Monday evening she went into that death-sleep that dying people go into — our dear friend Karen Akin calls it cocooning — and I knew then that it was a sleep from which she was never going to wake. So now we are just waiting for her to make that last separation from her body.
It has been said that death is a lot like birth, and I’ve found this to be true of the handful of deaths I’ve been privileged to witness in my time. It’s true now, and while in her room at Hospice the grief doesn’t hit me. No, there is work to do in that room. My mom is trying to be born into a new life, and my father and I are her doulas. There is work to do. Sometimes Mom has pain, so we rub her arms, hold her hand, play music, talk to her, and repeatedly mash the call button to summon morphine. We tell stories, we laugh, and we wait. My husband is worried that at some point I’m due a huge emotional breakdown because I’m being too practical about all of this, and he is probably right. I do tend to have delayed reactions to things. So a huge emotional breakdown is probably in my future, but right now there is a task at hand, and I focus on that task: Birth Mom into a new life.
My mother always said that people tend to die as they live, which is a pretty good argument for not being an asshole if you think about it. My mom lived according to a deeply rooted belief in hospitality. She wanted people to feel comfortable, at home, loved, and valued. She wanted people to eat good food, laugh a lot, have meaningful conversations, and enjoy themselves. This past weekend her room at Hospice took on the atmosphere of a party. A number of my parent’s close friends gathered to laugh, tell stories, tease each other, share pictures, plan for the future, and enjoy themselves. My mom was all dressed up, wearing makeup, fully engaging with her friends — every inch the Peggy Stansell she’s always been. She laughed, talked, and wore a peaceful smile the entire weekend. My father and I agree that she was having fun, and dare we say it, she was happy.
Monday evening after a full day of live music she went happily to sleep and has not woken.
It is only in my parent’s house that the grief hits me. It is impossible to separate the house from her spirit, and that’s when I cry because she is not coming back.
In this place between life and death there is work to be done, there’s a life to birth out of this world. So, I got up this morning put on a bright yellow dress, clasped my mother’s butterfly necklace around my neck in anticipation of resurrection, and came back to work.