The morning my mom died, I rode in the passenger seat of my own car as my husband drove us to my parents’ house. His car was in the shop, so we had to take mine. We had just moved into a new house in a new area the day before, so we had to use the GPS to get there. We also had to bring our dogs with us because we didn’t want to leave them home alone all day in our new house.
I couldn’t believe the timing of everything. It was incredibly stressful to say the least. But none of that really mattered to me. All I cared about was that I wasn’t with her when she died.
Over the sound of the GPS and my Lucy’s whining, I sobbed and screamed and cursed the entire way. I repeatedly punched the door panel in anger, frustration, sadness, just completely overwhelmed with grief in those moments.
“Fuck! I wasn’t there! I wasn’t there! I was supposed to be there! I was supposed to be with her! I wasn’t there!”
I had every intention of witnessing my mom’s last breath.
I had every intention of being there to hold her hand as she took it.
During the last ten years, I tried so hard to control the progression of my mom’s disease. I thought if I spent enough time with her, then she would never forget who I was. I thought if she did certain things for herself, then she would never forget how to do them.
I so desperately wanted to control the journey.
During the last three months of my mom’s life, I tried so hard to control the timing of her death. I wanted to make sure I knew what was happening and when it was happening. I had her caregivers write down every single thing she had to eat or drink, every time she went to the bathroom. I constantly asked the hospice nurses if they could give us a timeline even though I knew they wouldn’t.
I so desperately wanted to be there for her last breath.
In the end, I wasn’t there and it broke me. To be honest, I’m still struggling with it. Yet another loss in a long series of losses.
I lost that final moment. I lost control of the journey once again. That was never part of my plan.
But what I’ve come to realize is that I never had control in the first place. It was never about my plan. No matter what I did or didn’t do, nothing, none of it, was ever up to me.
When my mom began the final decline, I received a beautiful voicemail from my friend, Lisa Chirico.
“Surrender,” she said.
“Your mom is in control now. She has a plan for how she wants this next stage to go.”
Obviously, I didn’t really listen. I continued to try to control the journey. I continued to try to control the timing of her death. And I still continue to go over and over it in my mind, wondering if I could have done anything differently, anything to have been there.
In many ways, I believe my mom spared us. She didn’t go several days without eating or drinking. We didn’t sit vigil at her bedside for several days, waiting. She died peacefully in her sleep while my dad was sleeping in the bed next to hers. So peaceful, in fact, that she didn’t even wake him up.
That was her plan. She was in control.
I didn’t listen to my friend’s advice, but maybe you will.
Your loved one is in control now. He/she has a plan for how he/she wants this next stage to go.
You might not be there. And that’s ok.
You are not in control. And that’s ok, too.
Just surrender and let it be.