When I entered ma’s hospital room I expected her to be well rested and eager for company. After all, it was 1 pm. Everyone had a late start after the long night in the ER. The nurse was giving her meds in apple sauce. Ma was having trouble swallowing. Pretend it Ruby Tuesday’s seafood trio, I joked. A little smile came to her face. She had a few bites of pudding and barely sampled her entree. She fell asleep. By now the rest of the family was surrounding her bed. The vigil was about to begin.
Ma is one month shy of her 88th birthday. She has lived with heart disease since her 50’s. She is a tough woman. Never complains of pain or discomfort. Just let her rest awhile. I watched her breathing for 7 hours. Just don’t stop breathing. I held her hand. I whispered words of encouragement. I need you to get better,Ma. I want to take you home. She would mouth ok or smile. When she opened her eyes they seemed to dart across the ceiling. She didn’t focus on my face. She received a phone call from her sister. She listened and made a few audible sounds which my sister relayed to my aunt. When the CNA rolled her from side to side she didn’t fully wake up.Ma was always a light sleeper and she was one step from comatose. My sister and I played music on my phone. We sang along to Sweet Caroline. My brother cringed at our rendition but Ma’s mouth would move in attempt to sing the refrain. My brother was hoping we would refrain from singing, but did enjoy ma’s attempt.
Ma had the signs of life. She was breathing, her vital signs were ok, her skin was warm and dry, her kidneys were functioning. She just wasn’t alert. We say she has the Irish gift of gab but today she barely spoke. I had resigned myself to the fact that Ma might not make it out of here. I could tell from my family’s tears, look of worry, and moments of silence that we all felt the same way. Ma appeared to be at the brink of life and death.
Visiting hours were over. I couldn’t bear the thought of Ma dying alone. I decided to talk to the nurse frankly. I expressed my fears to her and asked if the doctor indicated any concern that she might not make it. Despite the high lab values in the ER indicative of congestive heart failure and critical blood sugars the nurse said she was medically stable. I said if my mother makes it out of here we would bring her home with services. She already has a medical bed and we would buy her the intermittent air compression mattress to maintain her skin integrity. I mentioned the price tag of $2000. At this moment, my ever frugal mother, opened her eyes and said, clear as day ” what are we talking about? What’s going on now?” After all the emotion of the day my whole family broke into laughter. ” We are spending our inheritance.”
We all said goodnight to Ma. We didn’t say goodbye. We left in good spirits.
Lazarus was raised from the dead.