I held her hand. I told her not to worry about me. I told her she had raised a strong independent daughter who could take care of herself. I told her to go to dad. Then I made one final request of her. I asked her for one last Christmas gift. She and I had been together when I came into this world – I asked her for the gift of being together with her once again when she left this world. Her breathing became shallower and shallower. Soon the breaths were so shallow I knew they could not sustain life. One last small breath, a tear ran down her left cheek and she was gone. Peaceful, quiet and eerily beautiful. At that moment, my mom gave me the most precious gift of all.
I cannot think of a better way to honor her than to reprint what I blogged the day after she died. It captures all of the emotions I felt and continue to feel to this day.
WRITTEN NOVEMBER 15, 2006
Euphrasia Dolores Miksis Drabik – born September 23, 1922 – died November 14, 2006. How do you even begin to put into the words this very special life? She was one of four children (the baby) of Apolian and Marcella Miksis (Victor, Genevieve and Bernice), born in Chicago and lived under very modest means on the south side of Chicago (a large Lithuanian stronghold at the time). She married Edward Joseph Drabik (1915-1998) and had two children, Robert (1947) and Janice (1951). She lived in Chicago until she retired with her husband to Clearwater Florida in 1982 and moved to Colorado to be near her daughter in 2004.
Mom, I miss you terribly already, but I am at such peace because you are not suffering any longer. I had two + great years with my mom here in Colorado. We went shopping, went to movies, saw plays had regular ladies nite out dinners – and I was blessed to have had the opportunity to really spend some time with her after living far away from her for so many years once she and dad moved to Florida. She always felt I was going to follow them down there, but little Jan who always had a boat load of independence decided that Florida was not for her and lived in Chicago, Dayton, Ohio and now Boulder, Colorado.
I had never experienced a death before and so I was really not sure what to expect and how I would feel about it. Yesterday started with a call from Hospice. They asked if I wanted a nurse to stay with mom all day, because they had one available. I jumped at the chance, because I had planned to be there all day as well, and knew I would appreciate not only the company but also the professional assessment of mom’s condition.
We sat all morning and chatted about mom. There were some changes in her condition since the nurse spent the day with her on Sunday, but nothing to indicate eminent death. The nurse was quick to remind me that those conditions could change at any time, and could change rapidly.
At about 11:30 am, the nurse suggested that I go out for a while and grab some lunch. I decided to do so – nursing homes are tough environments to be in when you are sitting at the bedside of a dying person.I was just finishing when I got a call on my cell phone – some things appeared to be changing, they recommended that I come back. I got back relatively quickly, and to my untrained eye I could not notice any type of change. But they told me that her heart rate had increased significantly and that her breathing was changing.
So, I sat by her bed and held her hand. I told her that she was the one who was there when I entered into this world and I asked her to give me a final Christmas gift – to let me be there when she left this world. I kept encouraging her to go, I told her daddy was waiting, I told her that I would be ok, and I told her that she should give in and be at peace. Over the course of about 20 minutes, as I continued to talk to her and to hold her hand, her breathing became more and more shallow. It finally got to the point where her breaths were so insignificant that it made me wonder how that little amount of oxygen could sustain life. Then there were a couple of more very shallow, very small breaths, and nothing. A tear streamed down out of her left eye, and it was all over.
When I came back from lunch, not only was the nurse there who was assigned for the day, but mom’s regular nurse, the hospice social worker and a nurse being trained to do bedside assessments. She had a room full of people, pulling for her to be out of her pain and wishing her a speedy journey to dad. I have to say, although I was fearful of what to expect, it was the most beautiful experience of my life. My mom gave me the ultimate gift, and I will always be grateful to her for sharing her last moments of life with me.
Since last Wednesday you could see that she was accepting what was happening and preparing for the next phase of her life. On Friday she asked me what was happening to her. When I asked what she thought was happening to her, she said, “I’m dying”, and I told her yes. With tears in her eyes, she told me that she would not be able to go Christmas shopping with me, and with tears in my eyes, I told her that she would always be able to go Christmas shopping with me, because for as long as I live, I will always have her in my heart wherever I go and whatever I do. She smiled.
On Monday I had both my aunt and my brother talk to her. I held the phone by her ear and they told her it was ok to let go. When she heard my brother’s voice, she opened her eyes and I got cognitive recognition. I said hi to her, and she very weakly and softly said to me, “I love you.” Those were the last words I would ever hear her say.
Today we will finalize the arrangements and my last job is to get her back to dad. I can’t believe that it is over, and yet I am so happy that she is finally out of her pain. This journey was a tough one, but she handled it with grace and a positive attitude. I truly believe that until this last week, she thought she would beat this thing and walk out of that nursing home. She was a fighter until the end.
Euphrasia Dolores Miksis Drabik – born 1922, died 2006. I love you with all my heart, mom. And until the day that I die, you will live on in my heart. I am counting on you to be my guardian angel now. It’s a dirty job, but I know you are up to the task. Thank you for everything, mom. I will always love you.