The past several months I always left work at 11 when I would visit, yet last Wednesday I left at 10.
When my mom opens the door for me to come in, I see her eyes are bloodshot, the lines on her face seem to have deepened. She tells me the night before was the hardest and longest. She’s so very distraught; she wants peace for Oma, but nobody really wants it to be the end.
My mom goes to shower downstairs and I move a chair into the hallway just outside Oma’s room. The shades, always open during the daytime, are closed. My eyes start to flood with tears when I see the state in which she just lay there on her bed.
Take her. Take her now.
Her mouth practically hangs open. Breaths so fucking hard, so far and few between.
I sit there watching, listening, thinking. Her mouth gently closes for the first time since I got there.
Take her. Take her now.
I keep watching, not wanting to wake her, yet wanting to… Wanting her to know that I was there, that she wasn’t alone. Never ever alone.
Oma’s mouth slowly drops open and I wait for a gurgle, a hard breath.
I widen my eyes, push my head out. No gurgles. No movement.
“Breathe,” I whisper. Take in a hard breath already.
Oh dear God.
I lean in closer. It’s dark, maybe I’m just missing it. Breathe, Oma, breathe.
Tears flood my face. I remind myself to breathe. I wipe away my tears, clearing my vision.
There’s a knock on the door and I turn my head to look behind me toward the door to the house, still listening for a gurgle.
It’s a hospice nurse.
“I think she’s gone,” I greet the nurse. “Like literally just now. I think…I don’t know but …”
“OK. It’s OK I will go check.”
She walks through the kitchen, into the living room and into the small hall that leads into Oma’s room.
Shaking, I force myself to follow her as I peek in behind her. She’s got Oma’s hand in hers. I can tell she’s looking for a pulse. The night before her blood pressure was already super low at 50 over 35. I quickly turn away to cry into my hands, to catch my breath. I know she’s gone. I knew before the knock on the door. I wipe my face and turn back to peek into Oma’s room and I can see a glowing light from the nurse’s cell phone. I know she’s calling someone…9-1-1?
She’s calling someone because Oma is gone.
With my hands covering my mouth to hold it shut, to stop the screaming, the nurse comes out and nods her head yes: “She’s gone.”
My hands hold my face as Michelle puts her arms around me.
I cry into her shoulder for a minute, leaving a wet spot from tears and snot. “Can I see her again?”
I walk into Oma’s room. Her mouth is still hanging open. She’s as white as fresh snow. I take her boney, cold hand into mine and ever so gently pet the top of it. I cry and cry and tell her to tell Ota we all say hello. I tell her to eat some cookies and Schnitzel, to fatten up a bit. I thank her for being the most incredible, most inspiring woman I have ever been blessed enough to know. I thank her for the past couple of months, for letting me tell her I love her, for telling me it in return. “I love you so much,” I say, gently putting her hand back down.
I walk out of the room and realize my mom is still in the bathroom downstairs… she has no idea her mother is gone.
I start taking in deep breaths and releasing slowly. Over and over again in rhythm to walking down the stairs.
Standing just outside the bathroom door, I say, “Mama?”
“Yeah?” she calls from the bathroom.
She opens the door and I walk to her and hug her and say “she’s gone” all at the same time.
“What?!” Mama shouts as we cry and embrace, something we never do.
“Oma,” I whisper into her gray hair. “She’s gone.”
I don’t want to let her go. I don’t want her to go upstairs. I don’t want her to see her mother, skin and bones, mouth ajar, lifeless.
But I do it...I let go.
We take solace in knowing Oma wanted this. She wanted to go. And she’s now with her beloved husband and her parents, whom she missed so much. She’s no longer struggling to breath, to eat, to live. She’s in peace and she will never ever be forgotten.