A Mother's Love and the Comfort of Friends
In tough times, we rally together, lean on friends and family, and reach out to our pets for comfort
Sunday was a Mother's Day to remember: It was my first Mother's Day in 50 years without my mom. None of us were prepared for her sudden stroke in mid-April, and certainly not for her passing two weeks later. As they say, no matter how much you prepare, you are never really prepared. My father, after 56 years together, was probably the least prepared of all.
The two weeks in ICU at Fairfax Hospital and hospice care at home are still a bit of a blur. However, there are moments of clarity, tiny details and infinitesimal surprises that I will never forget.
While the massive stroke left my mother fairly paralyzed, unable to speak or eat or care for herself, we were all certain that she was still "in there." Sitting by her bedside in ICU, we would constantly remind her of all the things she loved dearly and those who love her dearly and were thinking of her. Including Shadow, her cat.
Mom and Shadow had a very special bond, and we hoped above all hope, that her desire to be at home with her beloved cat curled up on her lap, would somehow give her the strength to heroically overcome all the odds against her.
According to my dad, Shadow was not always so attached to my mother. Originally, it was my father who went to the Fairfax Animal Shelter and rescued Shadow from certain death about 12 years ago. For quite some time, my dad was the "Chosen One." Eventually, Shadow came to prefer my mom's lap, her bed, and her attention and patting. And my mom accepted this devotion, and very quietly and unassumingly, reciprocated.
After five days at the hospital, and the final realization settled so gloomily upon us that there was no recovery coming, our mission was to get our mother back to her own beautiful home on the property, "The Farm," that she loved so much, and back to Shadow, as quickly as possible. We wanted our mother to know the comfort of home, and loved ones, and the beauty of her gardens, for her final hours, days or weeks.
With Mom back home, on a hospital bed setup in her old room looking out the giant picutre window at the towering Maples and flowering gardens, we would sit by her bedside and point out to her the dogs (a.k.a. "The Tailwaggers Club"), identify the birds coming to her feeder, and guide her hand to pat Shadow. Mom's facial expressions were priceless to us, and we knew that this was the best medicine of all.
We were all with her up to the very end, and her final breath. A gift for all of us and for her. Being at home, to die in peace surrounded by everything she had created, grown, loved and nurtured, was the greatest gift of all. And the comfort of dear friends and family, neighbors and co-workers, and pets, has helped us weather this storm, leaving us with the resolve to honor Mom's memory and keep her close in our hearts.
Shadow is finding her own comfort back on my dad's lap once again.