I was privileged to hold my mother in my arms when she died. Knowing how ill she was, Aaron had come from college to visit her and spend the weekend. He had always had a special bond with her, born in part by the uncommon physical energy and stamina that each of them possessed. On that last day of her life, they communicated, grandmother and grandson. Aaron talked, and she seemed to be listening, or, at least aware of him. He told her of college and the plans he was making. He spoke of playing basketball and studying Spanish. He would spend time in her room, then go out into the living room to read or watch television. Between Aaron, my sister, the caregivers, and me, there had been someone with her continuously throughout the day.
Late in the evening, she seemed to be sleeping, so we all went out and started watching the Miss America Pageant on TV. After about twenty minutes, the caregiver went in to check on her. She came out and started looking rather frantically for my mother’s pain medication. I raced into the bedroom and saw Mom apparently in pain and gasping for air. She had already instructed us not to call an ambulance, so I asked the caregiver to call hospice and my sister, who lived nearby.
I was surprised when Aaron hurried into the room because I had not asked him to do so. I grabbed my mother around the shoulders to try to help her and asked Aaron to say a prayer that she might be able to stay until my sister could get there. He did so, placing his hands on her head. But then, on his own, he asked that she would not be scared and that someone would be there to meet her so that she wouldn’t have to be alone. She died during that prayer.
Both he and I were holding her when her spirit passed. We talked later and found that we had simultaneously felt the searing heat that left her body at that moment. It was about 11:00 at night. We called my sister, who had returned home after sitting all day with my mother. It was 2:00 a.m. by the time the funeral director had removed the body and everyone had left. Aaron and I sat down to have a glass of milk, and I suggested that we have a prayer before we went to bed. We did so and said no more about it.
The next day Aaron inquired if I remembered the prayer we had said before going to bed. I realized that I had not given it a moment’s thought since then, but when he asked me, the experience came back with incredible clarity. As I had recited it, it seemed as though Aaron and I were transported to another place. We sat in a circle of faces, unknown except for that of my mother, and were immersed in a love that was as palpable as being submerged in a tub of warm water. We had remained there an infinite time, and then the experience was gone—totally forgotten until Aaron asked me about it. It provided us with an undeniable certainty when we most needed it, that our mother and grandmother live on.
In the next few weeks, I had vivid dreams about my mother. In one of the dreams, she was sitting on my bed smiling broadly, a happy smile that I had not seen in the years that she had been sick. In another dream she was flying, and I was trying to keep up with her. We were shopping and looking for grape juice, among other things. I had to ask her not to go so fast. My little mother’s broken wings were fixed.
When I talked to Aaron by phone after he returned to college, he sounded upset. He grumbled a bit when I asked him what was wrong, then said he had had a dream about Grandma. In the dream he was lying in the top bunk of his dorm room, taking a daytime nap. He heard the door open and thought his roommate had come back. But he looked up, and it was Grandma. She waved at him and motioned him to follow. He went out into the hall and watched her push the silver bar on the door to the stairs and go. She came back and went out the door again and then was gone. She had come to say good-by to her dear grandson.
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Last reviewed: 4 Jun 2014