Margret knew the end was coming. She knew it before I did. I suspected, but I didn't want to know. It broke my heart when she said, "Please let me go." I put my head down on her tummy there in the hospital bed and I cried. She patted my back, and said, "Don't cry mommy. I love you."
On Sunday, the doctor stopped after rounds to tell me they would not be changing her treatment any more because she was "end stage". Her sister C who planned to go home Sunday night changed her plans. C arranged for D to come from the other coast. On the first plane she could catch. Because we did not know how much longer Margret had left. C did it because I said I couldn't handle the details. Really? I couldn't. Besides, I didn't want to leave Margret's side.
I called family. I called friends. On my cel phone. From the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. D arrived around 1 am with her 5 week old baby. I held the baby on the bed, and put Margret's hand on the tiny feet. The feet wiggled. She moved her hand off. I said, "Those are the baby's feet. Aren't they tiny?" She put her hand back on the little feet. I talked. She kept her hand on those precious feet. D took the baby and leaned him across Margret's tummy, his Auntie's tummy, and put Margret's hand on his back. She said, "That's the baby you're holding, keep your hand there so he doesn't fall." She talked to her sister, and Margret kept her hand on the baby's back.
The last sister, B, the second oldest, arrived with her family around 2am. She came up and hugged Margret, and talked a bit, but the sedatives and morphine did their work and Margret was finally sleeping. We all went to sleep. Morning came. The nurse taped a picture of a white flower onto the door, where once, before her virus screen came back clear, were directions to mask and gown as a precaution against contagion. Friends arrived, and my husband.
We all tell Margret how much we love her, how wonderful she is. We tell our favorite stories again, one last time. We remember our favorite Margret Quotes. Mine is "I'm only fat around the edges." The doctor comes in, and the chaplain, and the Advanced Care team, and our social worker. They stand in the back.
The nurse gives a dose of morphine so Margret won't feel panic as her carbon dioxide level starts to rise. She turns off the monitor.
The RT and I take the hated ventilator mask off. "No more mask, Margret," I say. She raises both arms straight up, as if to say, "Hallelujah, the mask is off!!"
I take her hand, (the RT has turned off the ventilator, no more tweetling vent alarms), husband puts his hand on her arm next to my hand. She looks at me, looks at him. D starts singing, "I'll Fly Away". Most of the folks in the room join in. I can't. My throat has closed up, and the tears run down my face. I look up to see tears in the chaplain's eyes. I see two sisters holding her other hand. Several hands on her legs belong to the other sister, friends. Letting her know by touch that she is loved, and not alone. Not alone. She breathes slower. The song ends. Voices trail away. Slower. Stops. So peaceful. She looks asleep.
The doctor listens with his stethoscope. Looks at the clock, "time of death... 1:45PM."
3 weeks ago