My first thought when I woke up this morning was, “Mom is going to die soon. Maybe this week.”
Two weeks ago, I believed that Mom’s condition had been so severely compromised that she was suffering. A friend shared a similar experience with her own mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s. Because she had a living will, they were able to discontinue her tube feeding and her mother passed in peace. I thought my mother deserved that peace, as well. I asked my father to consider doing the same thing. A meeting was called with four representatives of Hospice and four people from the nursing home that has given my mother such loving care for four years. They explained that we have powerful options.
That was the most sobering hour I have ever spent. The decision was my fathers, and he spent days agonizing over it. We went to the home today to make our wishes known, but I wanted to talk to Mom first. That’s when my mother blew me away.
We walked in her room and she looked right at us. She tracked our movements with her eyes. I knew it was her. Mom. My mom. My beautiful, one-of-a-kind mother. One hundred percent, she was right there with us.
I sat on her bed with her and leaned close. “Mom,” I said firmly, “It is very important that, if you understand me, you let me know.”
The look she gave me said everything, but I wanted confirmation. “Blink” if you understand me, I said. She blinked. Then I wondered if she just blinked because she needed to blink. So I said, “Blink several times.” And then she blinked several times. But, I still didn’t want to be imagining anything.
“Betty,” my dad said. “We want to do what you want us to do for you.” I won’t share everything here because I want to respect his privacy, but he made it clear that he wanted to honor her wishes. She looked straight at him, very serious.
“Do you want to live like this?” he asked.
She looked at me, then looked at him. She smiled at him. She smiled at me.
I asked the same question. Again, she looked at Daddy and smiled. Then, at me. Another smile. Dad leaned in and she moved her head up a little. He inched toward her, and she kissed him. I leaned in closer. She kissed me.
“Are we reading you right?” I asked. “You want to keep living like this?”
She smiled again. At me, then at Dad.
We probably asked five more times, just to be sure, but we were sure. She was sure. We told her we’ll ask again if we think she is in pain. She gave a knowing look. We’re in it together.
It proved something I said many years ago.
You don’t bet against Betty Germer.