Back in November, my mom suddenly passed away. She was an older lady and lived longer than even she thought she would. She had unknowingly developed heart failure and constriction of an artery to her brain. We had seen signs of aging but none of us knew the extent of her disease.
I had the blessing of spending her last day with her over lunch and enjoying her company. By dinner she had rapidly declined and went to the ER, where she had a stroke shortly after being admitted to the hospital. She never regained full consciousness and died a few days later.
While in the hospital with her I noticed something I wanted to share with all of you. As I share this keep in mind that I’m a doctor (a veterinarian with experience in human emergency medicine) and so can view things both as a son and from a medical perspective.
While she was in bed she was in what can best be described as a catatonic state. Her eyes were usually open and she did experience reflexes even though she couldn’t communicate directly with us. She had some degree of understanding early on as she would respond to simple commands from the doctor who assessed her neurological state. She could also grasp my hand or push it away, and could push away blankets that warmed her too much.
Now here’s what I noticed that was interesting (at least to me.) From time to time she would turn her head towards her left side and reach out into space as if someone was there communicating with her (her right side was paralyzed so it was always to her left side.)
As I watched this behavior I couldn’t help but think of something that brought me peace:was my mom sensing someone else in the room with her? Was it simply a reflexive action? I don’t have the answer to that but I know that we live in a spiritual world, even if the spirits (both good and evil) remain invisible to us. Was it possible that God, Mary, the saints, her guardian angel, or even my dad who passed away many years ago was calling her and comforting her? Again I don’t know and science can’t answer this question. Yet watching her I began to think (wishful thinking?) that there was something more than a simple reflex to her actions. Typically a reflex, by definition, involves a response to a stimulus and doesn’t “just happen,” and there was no obvious stimulus that made my mom act in such a way. So then, what made her reach out into space, staring at “something” or “someone?”
Regardless of whether I’ll ever know the truth here on earth, I found peace that maybe this action was some sort of blessing for her and those of us who witnessed it. It did make her passing easier and provided me a lot of comfort knowing that in life and in passing from life, we are never alone. I imagined my dad waiting to reunite with his bride and present her to her eternal groom, Jesus. I imagined my mom reuniting with her parents and siblings who had gone before her. And I hope and pray that she and all of my relatives and friends are preparing a place at the eternal banquet for me, and will lead me on my journey when it’s time for me to return home.