It was Thursday morning, and Mother had been in the Hospice Unit of Hendrick Medical Center in Abilene, Texas, since Sunday afternoon. Her breathing was gradually becoming more labored, and shallow. Her heart rate was going up as her blood pressure was going down. There had been no output from her kidneys in over 24 hours. Her kidneys were shutting down. Her feet and lower legs were growing cold, especially her left leg. There a condition called ‘marbling’ that began in her lower legs. I recognized it immediately because Daddy had it before he died. She was now unresponsive to any of our comments to her. She seemed to be relaxed and not fighting at all. We knew she was ready for her coming passing from this life into the next.
My sisters were both up there that day for some period of time. I really don’t remember when they came and when they left. That has all blurred in my memory. Darla, as a school counselor, had educational things to attend to, as well as the twin girls to see after. Susan, a teacher as well, had students to teach and other responsibilities. I think from about 4:00 p.m. on that evening I was alone with Mother, though they called during the evening to check on her.
Of the events that happened that day, this moment in time stands out in my memory. About 7:30 that evening a group from one of the local churches visited the unit and went from room to room singing. This was a special group to our family. Some of the members of this group were Diane and Bobby, the owners of the bakery for which Mother worked. They had known and loved Mother for many years. They came in Mother’s room and stood around her bed and sang several hymns. Then, Diane, standing by the head of Mother’s bed, began to talk about meeting Mother. She talked about the day this ‘white haired’ lady came into their bakery and into their lives. She talked about how hard Mother worked and told a couple of funny stories about Mother and her incessant talking. She talked about how their lives had been enriched and blessed by knowing her. Then everyone joined hands around Mother’s bed an prayed for her and for us. I do now have words to tell you how special that was and how much that meant to me and Mother.
After they left, my memory about the rest of the evening is unclear. Nothing in particular stands out as being different from the previous days in that room. I just followed my regular ‘hospital routine.’ Showered, got settled in for the night, made phone calls to family members and eventually went to bed.
About 11:30 I awoke to the sound of voices. It was a Hospice nurse and Mother’s doctor standing by her bed, talking quietly. When I sat up, the doctor came and sat on the couch next to my cot. We talked a few minutes about Mother. He thanked me for the opportunity to take care of her, and I told him how much we as daughters appreciated all he did to help her. The conversation lasted just a few minutes, and then he left.
I dozed off to sleep and woke up again about 30 minutes later, just after midnight. I immediately knew she was gone. I heard no breathing. The silence in the room was very loud. I walked over to her bed, and looked at her shell, the body of my mother. I had no tears. My primary feeling at the moment was not sadness, but relief for her. And my thoughts were not on my loss, but on her victory.
I called the nurse’s station and a nurse came right away. She arranged Mother’s body in her bed and went to call the funeral home. I called my sisters and grandmother, and began to pack up the room. The man from the funeral home arrived, loaded her body onto the gurney, and took her away.
Her battle was over and her victory was won.