Do you believe in angels and in an afterlife? If not, you might change your mind after reading this story. It is about the last hours of my mother's life, and is written by my cousin, who along with her husband Ronnie, was with mom when she passed away.
I have edited the text only minimally, and included bracketed comments so that non-family members who read this will have a frame of reference for this story's cast of characters. One of my mom's most distinguishing traits was her desire to be grammatically correct; my editing, I think, would be in keeping with her wishes. Read on.
I have seen on TV and read about near death experiences and hoped they were true to concretely confirm an afterlife. I am now convinced more than ever that there is something beyond now, and Esther helped me know this.
Thirty or so years ago, Ronnie and I utilized Aunt Esther and Uncle S.T. as our surrogate parents, while we were going to college. We were just an hour from their home in Richardson. Our own folks were several hours away. It took us several years to finish college, so they were a big part of our lives for a while.
The years after college, our lives got busy with our own growing family. We did not see them as much as we would have liked but thought of them often. So, when we heard Esther was not doing well, we knew we had to go help any way we could and see Esther before it was too late.
We first saw her last Friday night when she was asleep and not doing well. The next morning she was much different. She was awake and alert, and knew what was going on. She told Kelly, Kevin and Walter [my husband and children] bye as they left for home. She held hands with Raymond and even winked at Elizabeth. [Raymond and Elizabeth are my sister Dorrie's children.]
She stayed awake all day. Around 9:00 that night, still enjoying the day, she decided she was finished with her oxygen and her gown. She was going to be with her Lord. She kept saying that and refused Pat's attempts to put her oxygen back on. We did convince her to leave her gown on. She knew what she was talking about. She even decided she and others were silly. It was nice to see her have fun but Pat and I kind of wondered if she was getting delirious. Pat, Dorrie and I even discussed the fact that she knew she was going to die soon and how comforting it was that she accepted and looked forward to it.
Sunday morning, Dorrie said she continued her jubilant discussion about her upcoming trip to heaven, until early in the morning. Morphine did not even stop her for very long before she started discussing it again.
Later that morning, she was almost lifeless, much different than the day before. She did not appear to be aware of anyone in the room. She did not respond when ice was put into her mouth. According to Pat and Dorrie she asked for ice often and would chew it even on her bad days. Her breathing was shallow as usual but she stopped breathing every couple of breaths as if resting. Pat said she thought several times she had stopped breathing for good but then would start again.
Since everything seemed almost routine, Dorrie wanted to join her family for church. She was apprehensive but finally decided to go. A while later Ronnie and I decided to eat lunch, leaving Pat alone with Esther. After we returned, Pat decided to go too and get lunch. That left Ronnie and me with Esther, who appeared to be in the same condition as earlier that morning.
With Dorrie and Pat both out of the room, Esther apparently felt it was a good time to slip quietly away, sparing them the pain of seeing her go. I was sitting by her bed occasionally wetting her mouth with a sucker like sponge. She continued her shallow breathing and resting. I too thought a few times she had stopped breathing but she was just resting. Then after a few seconds, she would start breathing again. I kept an eye on a muscle on her neck that I could see move with her pulse. She was listless, barely awake and unresponsive to anyone in the room.
A few minutes after Pat left, Esther opened her eyes wide, looked up and was watching something on the ceiling. She did not just stare blankly at one spot; she looked around and even turned her head slightly looking at something. This went on for a few minutes. I watched her and even looked up myself to see what she was looking at. I could only see curtain hooks hanging on the curtain rack. Nothing that looked very interesting to me. I then had a spooky thought that maybe she was seeing what the people report seeing when they had near death experiences. I then thought, "Oh no. Pat and Dorrie need to be here."
Apparently Esther did not share my thought. After a few more minutes of looking around she took one deeper than normal breath, let it out with a slight groan, relaxed, stopped breathing and shut her eyes. She was not struggling to breathe any more. I looked for the muscle in her neck for a pulse, saw none, touched her throat and felt none and then called the nurse. She listened for a pulse and also found none.
Esther knew what she was talking about the night before. She knew she did not need her oxygen; she had plenty where she was going. She also did not need her gown. Where she was going, it probably was not in fashion anyway. The previous week she saw her two sisters, grandchildren, children and some nieces and nephews. She had seen those closest to her heart, knew she was loved and they all knew she loved them. She tried to make it easier on her husband, children and grandchildren, who tirelessly and unselfishly provided Esther with anything to make her comfortable. She found them not looking and decided to slip away while they were gone, to spare them the pain of seeing her pass.
For me it was very painful to know she was gone but it was not painful to see her pass. For me it was an enlightening experience and I thank her for allowing me to be with her at this time.