Mom, May Your Spirit Soar

My Mom’s nurse practitioner, Melissa, was scheduled to come by on Friday May 31st, two days after my brother’s funeral. She had performed some tests the week before because Mom was complaining of an upset and swollen stomach. Melissa was coming by to check in on Mom and give us the test results. I informed her about my brothers’ passing; Mom wouldn’t wouldn’t talk about it, all that she would tell Melissa was that she didn’t want to eat anymore. This was really not good because she only weighed about 100 pounds if that.

The tests didn’t reflect anything other than that her blood oxygen level was dangerously low. Her oxygen level confirmed that it was time to do something even if it was against her wishes. She had fallen in the middle of the night two weeks prior to the doctor visit but thankfully didn’t hurt herself other than a few sore ribs. We told her that she may not be so lucky if it happened again.

I visited her daily and she did have an aide that came every day for 3 hours but at this point, that was not enough. In light of all this, the doctor arranged for hospice to come by the following week.

I called the nurse the morning of the visit because Mom’s stomach was really bothering her and I wanted to see if the nurse would be bringing any pain medicine. She explained that it was an intake appointment and she wouldn’t be dispensing medicine on the first visit. It was time to consider alternatives.

Mom gave me a bit of a hard time about getting a full time live in home health aid; she was still very independent and stubborn! So, on Tuesday June 4th, (the day the hospice nurse was supposed to visit), I went to Moms’ with my niece, Elisha, and told her that I was arranging for an ambulance to take her to the hospital. I knew that the hospital could transfer her to their hospice and give her the pain medications that she needed.

After putting up a good fight, she finally realized that we were doing the right thing and was happy about it. She told me that she knew that she could trust me, that she always felt safe with me and that every time that I suggested something and she balked at it, in the end she knew it was the right thing. I told her I was bringing her to a hospital by my house and would be with her everyday. She was happy about going to a hospital close by me and said it felt right. I think there was a sense of relief for her in knowing that she would be taken care of.

We packed some of her things, her favorite Snuggy blanket that I bought for her, her eyeglasses, walker, pajamas, slippers and a little wallet with family pictures. When she opened the wallet, the first picture she saw was my brother, Danny, as a baby. She shook her head sadly as she looked at her late firstborn son’s photo before closing the wallet and packing it in her bag.

The ambulance driver called to say that they were almost there so she had one last cigarette just before the ambulance came and they put her on the gurney.

I didn’t think that she was going to die that day….I really didn’t. She was completely coherent; joking around with the nurses as she requested a bagel with cream cheese. Eventually she started to get chest pains and they gave her a Percocet which did nothing for the pain but at least it made her a bit groggy and helped her to rest.

As she slept fitfully, her heart began to increase. At some points it was beating at 125 bpm while her blood oxygen level continued to drop below 80. They finally gave her a much stronger pain medicine, Dilaudid, at about 3:30; it kicked in around 4 o’clock and then she fell into a peaceful sleep.

At approximately 7 pm she was finally moved out of the ER into a private room where she was surrounded by her family. We sat around her bed reminiscing about the good memories that we shared while also telling funny stories about her. As we shared stories, something compelled me to say, We have to stop, we have to pray, it’s time to pray”. I proceeded to recite the 23rd psalm as I did when my father was on his deathbed. I then said the Our Father, Hail Mary and a special prayer to God asking Him to take her into His loving arms and guide her peacefully into Heaven. I prayed for her to be reunited with Daddy, Susie, Danny and her parents. Then as if I heard someone telling me to say this, I was compelled to say to my Mom, “Mommy, it’s OK, you can go now, you can go to the light, I’ll be OK, you don’t have to stay here for me” she then took her final breath just 9 days after losing her son.

We had a service for her on Thursday June 6th at the same funeral home where my sister, Sue, was laid out in. Just as my brother’s wake was held by chance in the same room where my Dad was laid out, Mom’s service happened by chance to be in the same room that Sue’s service was in as well. So, there I stood giving a eulogy for my Mom in the same room that I gave one for Sue once again with my boys and niece by my side. We paid tribute to her with eulogies and pictures in celebration of her life.

We traveled back to the same family cemetery that we had been at only 2 weeks before. The driver of the hearse was not familiar with the area and got lost. He almost ended up in Pennsylvania with Mom! She had said that she wanted to go on a long car ride so I guess that was her way of getting one last tour of New Jersey!

That night, I sat outside alone looking up at the sky wondering where she was and what she was doing. Just then, a hummingbird appeared for a moment and then flew away.

Mom’s Eulogy

Thank you for coming here today to share your love and support as we honor my mother, Ann.

My mother was a part of the greatest generation born to Italian immigrant parents during the depression. She had a beautiful smile, a big heart and a contagious sense of humor.

She was a caring & loving mother to her 4 children, Daniel, Linda, Sue and I. She adored her 7 grandchildren, Christine, Michele, Dave, Lisa, Rich, and Elisha as well as their spouses. She was also blessed with 15 great grandchildren…we truly were all her pride and joy. Whenever we were around she was filled with joy…she said we gave her strength but we received so much strength and love from her as well.

As a teenager, my mom went to work to help support her family and during World War II, she held what was a predominantly male position as an embroidery watcher in Union City, then known as the embroidery capital of the world. She loved music, roller skating and basketball. In fact, she was the Nintendo Wi bowling champion at Westlake Mews! After the war, she married my Dad, Gus, truly the love of her life. She began volunteering with my Dad as part of the Elks club helping disabled children and visiting shut-ins in nursing homes.

She was a devoted wife taking loving care of my Dad until his passed away from cancer in 1996. Losing him was a devastating loss to us all but especially to her. Instead of dwelling on her sadness and loss, she poured her heart into helping the homeless at a soup kitchen in Jersey City. My mom would literally make huge pots of soup and baked goods and bring them to the kitchen. She would also buy socks, hats and gloves with money out of her own pocket to help the homeless people that went to the kitchen. She never judged them because she understood that many of them were a product of circumstances beyond their control. She opened her heart to them offering them guidance, prayers and love.

After she moved to Jackson to be with my sister, Sue and I and our families, she volunteered for years at Kimball’s Closet; a thrift store that benefits Kimball hospital. She was so overzealous working there that she once mistakenly sold the shelves that they stored the merchandise on for $10!

She lived independently her in Jackson up to her 92nd year; she was an inspiration to me with her strong faith, her positive outlook, sense of humor and words of wisdom. She was the epitome of a strong, selfless, loving soul.

I am so grateful for and proud of my mom; after losing my Dad and more recently my brother, Danny and also my twin sister, Sue, she never ever lost her faith and was my rock that I could always talk to and lean on…I used to call her my 91 year old baby and I am so grateful to have been able to be here to help take care of her. A few months ago we were sitting at her kitchen table and as she was smoking her Marlboro, she looked at me and said, I can’t believe I’m still here ….I said I know! And we both busted out laughing. She had a youthful spirit and told me that when she would look in the mirror, she didn’t recognize the old woman staring back at her.

She lived her life and passed away on her own terms; I am so very proud of her and could not ask for a better mom. God Bless you Mommy, may God and Jesus and all of the angels hold you in their loving arms as you are reunited in heaven with Daddy, Danny & Sue….I can picture you dancing with Daddy now…may your spirit soar.

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