I tried to prepare myself for the phone call. I knew it was coming. At eight o’clock on Thursday night, exactly one month from my mom’s 100th birthday, the nurse from the home where Nana spent the past five years told me that my mom was “unresponsive” and the doctor wanted to send her to the hospital. “Shall I call the ambulance?” I didn’t know. I truly didn’t know what to do. My husband made the decision and told them yes. I’m so glad he did.
As we were driving to the hospital, which is an hour and a half away from our house, the doctor in the Emergency Room called us on the cell phone. He said that my mom’s heart rate was 20 and if she were younger, he would go into surgery and put in a pace-maker but at her age, there was no way that she could live through that. He was giving her oxygen and morphine so she would feel no pain. My husband, my daughter and I began to pray that Nana would be able to wait until we got there. And she did, because she was just that strong.
While my daughter held her hand and my husband put his arms around her, I bent down to tell my mother that we were here with her and that we loved her so much. Then, I said what I knew I had to say. “Papa wants you to join him, Mom. It’s time for you to go now.” A half hour later, as we were still hugging her and I was kissing her cheek, she took her last breath.
The Emergency Room doctor had waited an extra hour after his shift so he could stay with us. He took my hand in both of his and told me that it was wonderful for everyone working there to see our family and feel the love. He said that too often he must stay with the patient who is there all alone so someone will be there for that person’s passing from this world. Then, he and all the nurses came around and hugged us.
I felt empty and hollow as we drove home. During the night, I woke up every couple of hours and thought, “My mom is no longer on this earth.” It wasn’t a bad or scary thing to think, it was just adjusting to the new reality. In the morning, my husband found himself immediately confronted with a difficult business situation. He said to me as I drank my coffee that he kept hearing Nana’s voice telling him, “Don’t let anyone push you around.” I laughed, wondering if from now on, she was going to be in our heads all the time, putting in her two cents worth. She would like that.
This is my favorite photo of my mother. How elegant and graceful she always was. Opinionated, never afraid of anyone or anything, especially not death. She was my harshest critic and my biggest fan, and I deeply miss her. But now, we will celebrate this remarkable woman, not grieve, for she lived and loved with all her heart and soul.
I’ve created a website in her honor. Here is the link to it: http://memorialwebsites.legacy.com/HenrykaHamburg/Homepage.aspx