5th October 2017
It is December and just 4 days left of the year. A busy day at work. The pone rings. It´s the nurse from the home where the mother has lived for few years.
Your mother has had a stroke, again, and we would like you to come and talk to her doctor.
I tell my boss I need to go and see what is happening. He is nice and just tells me to go. He understands. He knows that I will take care of what needs to be done when I can.
I drive to the home and try not to drive too fast. I am prepared for the worst, or maybe it is not the worst. Maybe it is just a relieve. The mother has been kept alive for too long. The son has been in charge. He does not want to let go. Why are people like that? Is it because of guilty conscience? What is it? I don´t know.
When I arrive at the home for the elderly, my mothers family doctor is waiting for me. He explains what has happened. He explains what can be done. He explains what live would be ahead for the mother if she is kept alive, once again, going through the process of not being allowed to get the rest she really needs. She is 90 years old and has been more or less out of the world for several years. In the home for the elderly, she has demanded that her door is locked all the time, locked by key, so the others can not get into her room. Isn’t that being a prisoner in your own room? Every time I have had to lock the door with the key from outside when I leaving her, my heart has broken.
This is not a live, this is death, I have thought when leaving.
The doctor is a wonderful man. I have known him for a very long time and he hugs me while I take in the situation and decide what to do.
Please my dear doctor, I say. Please allow her to go now. She has nothing left. The life she has been living these last years is not a life. Please just make sure she does not suffer these last moments, I beg of him.
He hugs me again and agrees. This is the end and the road to a beginning for the mother. A beginning to a better life, a life where pain is gone and she can meet with those who she loves and are already gone. Those who are alive have to accept and stop being selfish in their guilt.
I have been to my mothers home every day for almost 3 years. The nurses and staff know me and that makes everything easier. They are like a family. They are the ones that have taken care of my mother and cared for her. They are also dealing with grief.
I go back to my work. Tell my boss how the situation is and he tells me to be with her as long as I need. I tidy up my desk, leave and now it is just the mother that matters. These are her last days. I bring a mattress from home and a bock and something to knit. Knitting makes the situation somehow more normal. The doctor and the nurses tell me to talk to the mother. They think it will sooth her. We don´t know how much, if anything, those who are at the end of the road and have lost consciousness, can hear or understand.
I play Gregorian Chant, very low but it is soothing.
The doors are not locked.
This is not a time to use a key and lock everyone out. This is a moment when everyone is free. There are 2 of them dying. Everything is quiet and serene. The others, who live in this part of the corridor, sense that the moment is for quietness, not for joy or laughter, just for being.
The mothers son comes and he is told that nothing can be done and this is the end. He has to accept and he does.
When the nurses leave the shift they come and say good by to the mother. There is so much love and passion in their quiet words and they caress her head and wish her well. They don´t expect her to last the night and this might be the last time they see her alive.
I go to bed on a mattress which I brought from home. I am not leaving. These are the last moments and I am going to spend them with the mother. She is not going to leave alone. During the night I wake up when the night shift comes into the room to make sure everything is ok. They come like angels. They don´t make any noise. They just come. They ask if I am ok. They care. They know it is difficult, but they also know it is a relieve. They understand and have gone through this many times. They have bonded with the people who live in the home and they are also sad. This night it is not just my mother, there is another one also.
When the night shift ends they come in and say good bye to the mother.
When the day shift comes they are surprised that she is still there. This is 2 days before the end of the year.
In the morning the nurses invite me to have breakfast with them. They have breakfast together and there they share some of their feelings and the sorrow but also the good joyful memorise. It is a unique moment. We are all in the same boat. They tell me some stories about their work and I understand more about how difficult and sometimes undervalued their caring is. They do care. I have come to this home for three years and I have seen how much they care, but this morning I can also see their pain.
During the day, a nice comes and sits with the mother while I go home to have a shower and change clothes. The new year is coming and the mother has always said we should take a shower and put on clean clothes so the new year arrives into a clean world. I need to make a call to the brother who lives faraway and let him know the situation. I manage to gather my strength and the nice calls. You need to come she sais, the time is close, and I rush back.
When I come back the mother seems to have lost more conscience, she somehow seems to be slipping away. I caress her head and tell her that now I am ready for the new year. I tell her I have taken a bath and changed clothes and now everything is as she wants it to be. The nurses are in the room and I go to the bathroom and cry. One of them comes to me and it is good to be in her arms while I cry a little. She gives me the strength I need for these last hours.
The brother and the wife arrive, the nice is there and I. The mother is fading away but does not want to let go.
When the brother sits there with her fingers in his hands and sais,; Look how the fingers are getting bluer, isn’t it interesting? I get crushed. How can he be so cold? He who has kept the mother alive again and again after one stroke and another stroke. Now he is at her deathbed wondering about how the fingers slowly loose their colour!
I lean to my mothers head and whisper in her ear:
My dear mother, it is ok to let go. Just let go and move into the light. I love you, but now it is time for you to let go and see the light ahead that is waiting for you.
When I rise up, she takes the last breath.
She is gone. She is free of pain. She is where the loved ones are waiting to embrace her and bid her welcome to the new world.
The brother leaves with his wife. The nice leaves. It is just me and the nurses. We sit for a while, talk about the mother and remember the good moments. They follow me downstairs and we hug. This is the end and the beginning.
I will never forget these 3 days, the days I spent 24 hours at the nursing home, that my mother had as a home for 3 years. I will never forget the love and passion I experienced for those 2 who were dying. I will never be able to thank the nurses, the doctors, the priest, the whole staff, that made me realise how little we know about the life inside homes for the elderly. They are not just like angels during the night. They are angels all the time.