Mom's Last Wishes

So the summer started with a literal flood, on June 21st in my basement. Our water heater broke and leaked all over, both finished and unfinished parts. That flood was like a preview of what my summer would feel like. A mess, but an opportunity to grow and improve. My husband and I share a lazy streak, we wouldn’t have redone that basement unless it was necessary. Just days before the leak we had a conversation of how badly we needed to replace the carpet and paint the walls down there, but it was so much work! Sometimes the Universe presents us with opportunities to grow and change when we aren’t otherwise ready to make such a choice willingly on our own.

The day after the water heater broke, my mom was admitted to the hospital (2nd time since April). This time, though, she wouldn’t be returning to her home ever again. At least not in the physical sense. I already wrote about some of this in my blog from mid July. My family and I had been planning a big trip to Europe since about Feb/March. It was gonna be a few weeks long and start at the very end of July. Visiting my mom in the hospital and rehab centers throughout July, it was apparent to me (along with a little intuitive guidance delivered by one of my mentors) that my mom was tired of her fight. She’d been ill with an autoimmune disease that left her handicapped and mostly wheelchair bound for 15.5 years. Her endocrine system was compromised as well and it was her sodium levels that kept landing her in the ER the past few months. I spent most of July soaking up my momma as much as I could. I loved on her, I supported her, I cried with her. Nothing was left unsaid. When she asked “What’s gonna happen if I can’t get better?” I said “It’s okay to say ‘check please’, Mom. You’ve worked so hard for the past 15 years, it’s okay to be tired. Don’t worry about disappointing us. We love you and we understand.” She didn’t really acknowledge such talk straight on, but I was persistent in assuring her that it was okay to take her exit. It was clear she was tired and a bit defeated. If she were to survive it, it may have been in a compromised way—such as living in a nursing home permanently and I KNEW, and she did too- that there was no way in hell she’d want that.

Two days before my flight to Paris I decided to get some early morning yoga in. On the way out afterward, 7am, my dad called my cell. I knew what that meant. Not good. He said the rehab place admitted my mom a few hours ago to the ER with a 105 fever. I met him at the hosptial, as it was on my way home and divine timing had me right there. We sat again in the ER with my mom as we had on July 3, with her open but non-responsive eyes. He called all my siblings, everyone was gonna get to the hospital ASAP because he was convinced this was it. I left the ER to go home to shower and wait for my sister to arrive in Ridgewood from her train. I decided to meditate while sitting idly in my living room waiting to head to the train station. While in meditation, I heard loud and clear three times “Now is not her time”. My mom remained non-responsive the rest of the day. That evening all my siblings and I gathered around some pizza as per our Friday tradition growing up. Some were speculating that my mom would bounce back from this, some feared it was really over and that was it. I said with a deep knowing “she’s not done, guys, but she’s close. I bet she’ll be back to talk to us again.” I knew she was close to making her exit, but I was hopeful she’d hold out until my return from Europe 3 weeks from that day.

The next morning my sister and I headed back to the hospital to find my mom very much conscious and talking with my dad about what readings she’d like read at her funeral. She said to me and my sister “This is crazy, what’s the point?” (of continuing to live like this). We said we agreed. I was so glad my mom was finally coming around to look this straight in the eye. It wasn’t even sad and low, it was like “Yes! You’re ready for the next step!” We sat and talked with my mom for a while after my dad left for mass at 11. This was special for me and my sister because we got that focused time with my mom for us to clarify all her last wishes. She said “If I go while you and Bob (my brother) are away on vacation, don’t come back. Stay on your trips. We’ll do something when you come back when we can all be together”. (My brother also had a trip he’d been planning and looking forward to with his family). Soon after my other brother Jac came to the hospital and we all were literally laughing and talking, telling stories. Just loving one another and appreciating our time together. I returned a few hours later with my husband and sons, my mom took this opportunity to say goodbye to them in a very real sense of GOODBYE. She held each of their hands while they stood on either side of her hospital bed and looked them in the eye one at a time and said something particular to each of them, told them she loved them and would miss them. We all cried and they hugged her, as did my husband. I said “I’ll be back tomorrow!” (in other words, don’t say bye just yet!). I visited her the next morning and got some alone time after my sister and Bob left. I felt so complete with her, I knew I’d said and done everything I could think of. A few weeks before I read to her the blog I wrote about her and I broke down several times reading it. I said to her “can you finish reading it?” She said “I can’t. I won’t be able to!” So I choked down the tears and continued reading it until I was done. I loved on my mom so hard those last few weeks. I was there for her, I held her hand. Leaving her that Sunday just a few hours before my scheduled flight was not easy. But I felt complete, I knew even if she wasn’t here when I returned I’d said and done everything I could to let her know just how important she was to me. I was hopeful she would survive my trip, but she was pretty certain she wouldn’t.

On Wednesday while walking through the Louvre in Paris I got a message from my brother Jac, “Mom’s got a 107 fever. This is it. Giving her morphine now.” Just three days after I left. I wasn’t prepared for that! She passed on that Saturday and by then I was in Germany visiting my friend of 24 years. I contemplated going home but my dad and sister said “Stay! Mom said to stay, honor her wishes!” My brother was also remaining on his vacation so that helped anchor me. Plus, that coming Monday-Wed I was visiting my mom’s brother’s family in Germany. Knowing I’d be with some of the Linberg family during this difficult time really helped. The visits with friends and family in Germany were a large reason behind even going to Europe and I didn’t really want to lose that! While sitting with my cousin in Berlin on Wednesday around the time of the funeral it struck me. My uncle had died suddenly (at the age of 40) while visiting the US when she was 10. My aunt flew out to be there in the following days, leaving she and her brother behind with their German maternal grandparents. I said to her “Wait a minute, you missed your Dad’s funeral?” and she said yes, that they had done one in California, but never did one when her mom returned to Germany. This shared grief and experience brought us together in such a beautiful moment. We both lost a beloved Linberg parent and neither of us could mourn with the family at the funeral since we were thousands of miles away. We cried at this realization and immediately knew our parents were alongside us, helping to choreograph this. No longer did I wonder “why am I here and not at the funeral?” I had my answer.

It’s still hard to believe that my mom is no longer physically present. She has made her presence known in many ways already through songs on the radio, pennies, feathers and energetic hugs and words spoken in my head in her voice. It helps to know we are having a funeral part two with her ashes in December. It really sucks to have missed her funeral, though. Who misses their mom’s funeral?! But I wouldn’t take back those days in Germany. My mom and I knew we were good. And we are good. She continues to teach and guide me from the other side now. There are already cool stories to share, and many more to come. Love never ends.

Karen Foote1 Comment