My mom's passing on December 13 reminded me of some rather intriguing circumstances regarding the last moments of people's lives. Even our mother surprised my sisters moments before she passed. Unfortunately, I wasn't there on the day she succumbed.
But let's start with the story of my dad's best buddy, Mellow. He passed away shortly after my dad died nearly 10 years ago. He was in his late eighties. When I went to Mel's funeral, he was lying there in the casket with a smile on his face! It could not be mistaken for anything else. I'd never in my life seen a smile on the face of a deceased person.
I said to my mom, Can you believe this? Did the funeral home somehow do this? She said, "No. Didn't you hear the story about it?"
It turns out Mel died with a smile on his face! He was getting some sort of non-emergency medical evaluation and died during the procedure at the clinic. But before he passed, Mel said, "I see Angie!" Those were his last words.
Angie was his wife, who preceded him in death. Hmm.
Then there was my parents' other lifelong friend, Phil, who just died a month ago. Phil's wife preceded him in death. His niece told me the story of how Phil was alone in his house shortly after Rosemary passed, when early in the morning he heard something while he was in bed. Phil assumed his daughter came over. But when he got up, he found no daughter and he heard the words, "I'm okay." Then he noticed something like mist, which then dissipated. Hmm.
My friend Kay Heggestad, a physician who has long had an interest in end-of-life care, told me in White Coat Wisdom that, inexplicably, people seemed to have an ability to time the moment of death. She told of multiple examples of how patients waited until loved ones arrived, the beginning of the new year, attendance at a wedding or other event, etc. Once those goals were achieved, the patient would pass. Hmm.
Now my mom's situation. Two of my sisters and two of my mom's grandchildren were with her before she died. Mom had long stopped communicating at this point and was sleeping constantly.
"Her breathing was very sporadic," said my sister Joan, who was there when mom passed. "She opened her eyes for maybe ten seconds. She was looking straight ahead, upward," Joan added. Mom had tears in her eyes.
Naturally, one wonders, What was she looking at? And, why did she open her eyes at that moment when she was no longer conscious?