Mary Margaret and I spent the entire day at her bedside. Visitors came and went. Dad sat in his chair in the room keeping a watchful eye on Mom, taking his meals in the bedroom as waited with her. Waited for the inevitable. Laura came and went. Caroline came and went. We worked on a puzzle. We were served coffee.
Towards evening, Mary Margaret went out for take out. We were hungry. She brought back Indian food from a local restaurant; it was quite tasty as I recall. There were leftovers that we put in the house refrigerator and never claimed.
Mom's breathing was erratic all day long. We'd look over at her when there was a longer than anticipated pause in the pattern. Earlier in the day she was in pain, propped up in bed with her eyes open; she recognized both Mary Margaret and me. She called us by name. It would be the last time.
The day was cool and crisp, sunny. The lawn caretakers were at the property that day, mowing and blowing leaves into piles to be hauled away; fall cleanup.
My biggest regret is that I was not with Mom when she died. How could I have not known that this would be her last night, that the end was so near, that leaving her bedside would be a mistake if my goal was "to be there" at the end? But, I left. Dad stood at Mom's bedside that evening, bid her goodnight, touched her hand and told her that he loved her. Then, he went to bed. Mary Margaret and I left together to return to my home for the night. We had every intention of continuing the bedside vigil in the morning.
But, as we ate breakfast on Tuesday morning, October 12, 2010, my cell phone rang and the news wasn't good; "Hurry", was the message. Halfway there, I got the call that she was gone. I wasn't able to be there but was in time to break the hard news to my Dad. He was sitting in the family room when I arrived, a worried look on his face, knowing in his heart that something was amiss with his partner of decades, troubled by the fact that no one would tell him anything but instead, had him sit in wait for me to arrive.
She was gone. Her spirit departed, vanished. Mary Margaret and I literally watched the life force disappear from her body over the minutes that we stood by her side.
I wish I had been there to see her take her last breaths. I wish it had been family at the very least. There must have been a reason for my unwillingness to stay the night, to be at her side. For my decision, I'll forever question the reason.