With Mother’s Day coming very soon, I decided to write something about my mother. Her name was “Carolyn,” and all seven of her grown children were with her all day on the day she died. Some of us were at the hospital by 6 a.m., and the others came soon after.
When two of my sisters and I got off the elevator on her floor, we saw one of our brothers already sitting in the waiting area. Mom was having a test run, and he had just stepped out of her room. We spent the whole day talking to her, checking with the nurses, having lunch, drinking coffee, making some necessary phone calls, and preparing ourselves for the inevitable. Mom knew we were there and talked to all of us. She had the same wonderful nurse (whose name was also Carolyn) from early that morning until she died that evening.
One of the things we asked the nurse was how they know when it’s time to call in a family. We were told that it’s when the blood pressure of the patient drops to a very low level. And she added that our mother’s had just reached that low level. So, we stayed close and were aware that she probably would not make it through the night. The last thing she did was to say something so softly that none of us understood what it was. One of our sisters leaned over her and asked what she had said. Mom lifted her hand and made a gesture like she was trying to tell us that it didn’t matter. Her skin looked like blue tissue paper. The nurse, Carolyn, pulled the curtains closed and everything got quiet.
And just that quickly, she was gone. Just as peacefully as anyone can imagine. The hospital staff asked us to leave the room for a few minutes while they took out her breathing tube. There would be no more needles, masks or monitors. When we got to go back in to see her, the staff had a short ceremony for us. The chaplin said some wonderfully comforting words, and one of the nurses sang a familiar hymn very quietly. One by one, we all said our goodbyes and left her room.
It had been a long day. It started at 2 a.m. on April 23, 1987, when I got a call from one of my sisters that we should go to the hospital. We were able to be with her from that time until after she died, and we left the hospital and got back home by 10 p.m.
This Sunday, on Mother’s Day, we will remember our mom, who spent all those years taking care of us, seeing that we had homecooked food on the table at every meal, who washed and ironed our clothes, kept the house clean, moved us to more than 14 different houses and never complained about anything. After all these 35 years since, I have never quit saying to myself, “Thanks, Mom.”
Kay E. Conklin is a retired Delaware County recorder who served four terms. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in sociology and anthropology.