We knew our mother was nearing the end, but the three months life expectancy from her terminal cancer diagnosis telescoped down to six weeks. Mom was brave—and proud. She declined treatment, choosing to be at home under hospice care. When the end came, four of her five children were at her side. I was surprised at my own immediate desire to dress Mom up before the funeral home staff arrived. After getting an ok from my siblings, my sister and I and a sister-in-law, removed her nightgown and dressed her in a brightly colored outfit. We also adorned her with costume jewelry and some very high heels. My sister combed and braided her long white hair. We put on some makeup, just as she would always do before leaving the house. So our mother went out in style, as she would have wanted.
Reflections: It is a gift to be with a loved one as they die. I felt very fortunate to be able to share my mother’s passing with her and my siblings. I feel sad that some people run away from the loved one’s final days or hours or that they feel a need to conclude some “unfinished business”. The dying person doesn’t have the time or energy to address your regrets or resentments. Death is a part of life. The loved one has already forgiven you for your sins, whether they ever expressed that verbally, and you certainly should have forgiven theirs. One of the most illuminating parts of this experience was to witness the vast gulf between being alive and being dead, particularly when the person dying is not hooked up to an array of medical devices. Even as Mom was nearing the end, she clearly was alive and her body had substance and tone. After dying, her body lost that tone and it was visible to the eye and touch that she truly had left this Earth. We were surprised by how comforting it felt to dress up her body as a parting gesture in remembrance of all she meant to us.