At long last, Mom was ready to die. Over a period of eight years, we had many false starts on her final journey, yet this one felt different. Her energy waned, her spirit softened, her demeanor was both accepting and excited to transition to the other side. As a solid Virgo, Mom wanted and needed to be in control of her final act. She had specific terms: to be at home in her bed surrounded by those she loved; to receive no medical interventions except pain relief; to know that no one would stand in her way; and that she would transition on her terms.
Mom was famous for saying enough is enough! She was dying of old age rather than a specific disease so hospice was not available. As her “chosen one” I was the grumpy reluctant uneducated care team leader. Having Virgo tendencies myself, I am an expert at organization, but I am far from a natural caregiver. Watching mom diminish caught me in mental/emotional confusion. We were dancing in the end game of life without a roadmap. With mom’s help, I found the courage I needed to be her active death partner.
Her passing prompted me to journal about the dying process. By writing The Pink Door, Mom’s Journey to the Other Side, I learned four necessary ingredients for a peaceful exit: love, forgiveness, permission and honor.
Love—In her last days, Mom was mostly comatose. One day, I planted many kisses on her dry colorless cheek saying I love you. She surprised me by opening her blue eyes and with a crisp clear voice said these final words:I love you. Talk about a heartfelt tender moment! Loving the eternal soul of someone rather than their ego nature makes transition easier. A loved one may have had their negative egotistic human aspects overwhelm you to the point of resentment or anger. Once the soul is illuminated, tender love can flow. Look in the eyes of one who is dying and say the three most important words in any language – I love you, releasing the gift of eternal peace. You are not loving how they treated you, what their personality was, but how they loved you (even if it was invisible) and you them in a soul filled manner.
Forgiveness—at the very end of Mom’s life, she said: “forgive me” over and over. Even though mom was no longer a practicing Catholic and had had absolution a few times, I called the priest. She was in a comatose state, but the priest said she would hear his words, be relieved and forgiven. Rather than forgiving her family or friends, I think she was forgiving herself for some action done during her life. The call for forgiveness was a soul saver. Don’t be surprised if your loved one asks for a spiritual leader from their childhood to come and hold their hand as they begin the passing process. Listen to their words, watch their actions and allow what they need and want.
Permission—about two weeks before mom died, she had me call her grandchildren for a short chat. We have a small family and everyone was in agreement that when mom was ready, we were ready to release her. If just one of us were to hold her back, she might feel that pull and stay here on earth for their benefit. No one wants to disappoint another, even a dying parent. Each grandchild and sibling gave mom the same loving kind invitation to do what she was choosing. Her suffering was almost past, why force her to go on for our personal reasons? We know we will miss mom’s presence as she releases from her earthly bonds.
Honor—we honored Mom’s wishes by giving her what she asked for. If she wanted breakfast, we made it to her specifications (burnt toast, one egg, weak coffee). If I needed to feed her tiny bits of watermelon because she had no energy to life the spoon, I did, feeling remorse we had come to this point. If she wanted to sleep all day, we allowed that. When she was ready to stop eating and drinking, nothing was forced upon her, no particular note spoken out loud by the caregivers. We respectfully followed her rhythm. We loved her all the more for the strength and valor it takes to get to the pivotal point of no breath. Enough was enough.