We were bringing her home. We had stopped praying, I had anyway. I knew she was dying, but I was grateful that we had gotten her this far. One year ago. The last days with the woman I called “Mom”. I remember watching my dad sign the papers for hospice. Realizing what was happening. It felt like I was on a carousel with the horses wearing every color. As a dream that keeps going around and around, I wanted to get off. But it was never going stop, I knew.
When the ambulance rolled up to the house, it was such an oddity. To see the gurney be pulled out like deliveries on Christmas morning. I wondered what it felt like to know this would be the last time in a car alive. Hearses do not count, they just carry death. Soon enough, for a second she pulled her arm from under the straps and asked them to stop. Although they seemed confused, I knew. She wanted to feel the sun on her face. It had been so many days in the hospital, now the finality seemed obvious to her. I had to turn my head so she wouldn’t see the tears. She smiled in a weak manner but was beautiful in a very soft way. I wanted to run and jump in her arms “Please don’t do this” I would beg to a woman who seemed bent on dying. Yet she had stopped “living” in the night after her birthday.
My Dad and I had spoken softly the day we sat with the hospice nurse. We had both agreed that getting her home if only for a week would be worth it. Knowing how this would feel, I would have settled for an hour, a minute, a second more with her. He looked like he was coming to the same state of knowing and he looked so much older than weeks earlier.
As she entered the house for the last time, she smiled as she looked around. She inhaled as deeply as her scarred injured lungs would let her. Inhaled the smells of the home she had made with him. My oldest brother had his funeral clothes with him when he had arrived. It made me cringe, though in my head I had thought myself what I would be wearing. The hospital bed sat in the middle of a large room covered with windows so she could watch the birds migrating back home. They move back and forth during the month of May. I have seen them fly overhead lately, taking me back to her. To that moment we settled her in.
It was brutality every second of that week. Her cries for help, the people who walked in to say “farewell”. The “goodbyes” to the boys, the few days that I felt she was getting better, but now I realize she would rise to a higher place to visit. At times she was whispery, but still had the strength she represented to me. It took so much from her, those “so longs”. She would nap for a bit after each one. Each person who left knowing they would never see her again. Leaving the Hunts to greave alone. It was our extirpation as well as hers. We had gone from a family of eight, to six, soon enough we would be a group of five. We were living in reverse.
Those first few nights before she went into a sleep mode held precious few moments she would open her eyes and smile a little crooked like the rest of her brothers did as well. I would watch her, the chest rise and fall. Then she would pause, and I would wonder did she just go? But then, she would muster the strength to bring a few more molecules of air into the body that was giving out, and she was stopping the misery. It would make me angry for flashes of time. Why didn’t she fight this? How could she just give up? She knew when to call it, and she had done so. She knew we would make it through, that we would take care of the man she had been married to for so many years. She wasn’t quitting at all. She was accepting the moment had come not for goodbye, but hello to the people she had lost so many years before. Did that comfort her? I think it did.
She just silently went. I am so glad this ‘year of firsts’ is just days from being in the past. I miss her, I love her, and I admire her. Even the flaws that she was ladened with, the bouts of depression, burying her children. She really had been through so much. And it was time to go home.
I wonder if the flight to her new home felt at all like that ride in the ambulance taking her to her earthly home for the last time. Was it magical seeing earth from way beyond my thoughts, or dreams? I bet she said “hello” to a flock of geese as she left. She loved those birds every fall and spring. This was her spring, and she was about to fly home. Every now and again I will look upwards when I hear a flock overhead. I can smile at them now. She knew I would do that as well. Life goes on, just not hers. But mine does, because I have boys who love and need me. I have Kate, and my Pops. I still cry daily. I still can’t get through her writings to me, but one day I will. Many laughs were had after she lost her folks, I never gave that a thought because I was young. Now I know that dying takes strength. She wasn’t giving up, she was accepting an invitation into heaven. Who wouldn’t take that?
I hear the birds. I hear her laugh only in my memory, but it is there. I will go on, and I will be happy and well again. If not, that would be giving up. She would have hated that. They are so beautiful flying next to the sun waking up. They are going home, just as she did. She went home.