I sit here watching, waiting for her next breath. She sleeps more, her breathing slows, but there are still those moments of clarity where she can hold conversations and enjoy a good tennis match on the television.
But, these activities don’t last as long now, nor happen as often as before. She eats less, sleeps more, and every routine evolution of the day takes much longer than before. Talking wears her out; listening and thinking are getting tougher too. Those thoughts are getting disjointed, sentences started but never finished… concentration wanes, and she can’t remember what she was doing - if she finished or hasn’t started. Days run together, and time has less meaning now. Even realizing if it is day or night can sometimes be a challenge.
I sit here watching, waiting for her next words, listening to the oxygen concentrator pump out the four liters she needs to fuel her body. But I know this isn’t enough, that her body isn’t processing it as well; looking at the dark fingers and hands, cold to the touch even when it is warm in her room, her toes not any better in color or temperature.
She talks about “Pa” who finished dinner one night, went to sit in his favorite rocking chair on the front porch, and fell asleep quietly, never to wake up again. Quickly, quietly, without the degradation and pain that comes with a slower passing. I believe this is what she wants, yet she still clings to another hour, another day of life.
Many others at this stage don’t last long - her visiting nurse said it is often a sign of the final few weeks. But she also believes Mom is strong and stubborn still, and will last for longer. But how much?
While I hope she will last longer, I don’t want to see her in pain, lose her dignity and self esteem. She will probably last more than the two weeks the nurse said is common for this stage, but it is almost certain she will not see her next birthday in December.
I am glad I get this time with her, to care for her as she has for me in the past. Sharing moments with her, watching tennis or the races, baseball and hockey, or just talking about family we miss and places we’ve seen. It is peaceful and enjoyable to remember those activities we shared, and share memories of those we did not have together.
The end came quicker than expected, but blessedly so. Her decline accelerated, and in a matter of days she went from vibrant and stubborn to vacant and subdued. It was about a week, and she went quietly, curled up with her Bear, looking as if she was peacefully asleep. A whispered, “I Love you, mom,” and a kiss on her forehead as the tears flowed down my cheeks, then the calls to the funeral home and family. We gathered to share our stories and memories, to say goodbye to our matriarch with favored foods and music.
Margaret Maconaghy Fegely came into this world the only child of a Methodist minister, and while she left this world without the material wealth which so many claim makes one rich, she had the limitless joy and love from family and friends, that priceless asset of immeasurable value. Mom now knows a pain-free peace, and lives eternally in our hearts.