Today is about last breaths. Last words. Last goodbyes. And first breaths – of life without a parent.
My mom continued her death rattle through the night, as I sat by her side, writing and periodically stroking her forehead. I wrote my second haiku before midnight:
Day two of vigil
creating space for journey
rebirth of the soul.
Around 3 am, my mom’s caregiver suggested I go home and get a bit of rest, maybe sneak in a shower. She told me my mom didn’t seem like she was going to die in the next few hours. I drove home, fell into bed, and the next thing I knew the phone was ringing. I leapt up in a panic, certain my mom had died without me there – that I had not kept my promise to her. It was 7:30 am. Luckily, it was the caregiver, telling me to come back quickly. I put on clothes without looking at them, ran to my car, and walked into my mom’s apartment before 8 am.
My mom’s breathing had quieted, and she seemed peaceful. I leaned down and told my her I was there with her, and wouldn’t leave. And I let her know that I had brought her favorite Yiddish songs for her to listen to. I put them on, settled down next to her, and we listened to her music. Her breathing began to change, to slow, to become more shallow. I put my hand on her face, and said, “I love you, my Mama. I’ll miss you. Thank you.” In a few minutes, she breathed her last breath. It was 9:05 am.
I couldn’t tell the caregiver, waiting quietly in the other room, that my mom was gone. I couldn’t leave my mom’s side and call my siblings. I needed to sit, to allow in the holiness I had experienced witnessing my mom leaving this earth. I felt her soul hovering above her body. Her skin was still warm. But lifeless. Different. Her body was no longer inhabited.
Breathing in the air that my mom had breathed out was profound. I thought of ruach – the life breathed into us by God. It was now my job to move on, to move forward, without my mom, without my dad, without my grandpa – the most important adults in my life. I was the grown-up now. The next generation. I rose, left the room, and returned to life.