I remember our mother as being the living embodiment of civic and moral virtues.
Wasting food was distasteful to her. Each bit of rice had to be eaten, she said, otherwise you would end up marrying someone with a grainy complexion.
My mother always saved us the best bits of the duck or chicken (the drumsticks) and successfully pleaded on our behalf when Dad wanted to discipline us strongly.
The bed had been rattling all night with the effort of my mother’s laboured breathing. Her long pauses alternated with deep galloping sighs.
It had been a sobering 10 years since my healthy mother suffered a massive stroke.
The bolt out of the blue cast her bedbound into a nursing home. Robbed of vital energy, her face was rapidly stripped of emotion and expression.
Her eyes stare untiringly but blindly ahead and, after she lost the will to eat, nutrition had to be delivered through a tube inserted into her stomach.
the warmth of hands and her chest rising and falling — there really wasn’t much else. As death’s grip wound tight, I smiled through teary eyes as my mother stirred as we sung Psalm 23, her eyes blinking with brief recognition of loved ones gathered around.
In her long incapacity, Mum was lovingly attended to by Dad. My sisters cared for her deeply with meticulous acts of daily kindness to her spirit, her hair, skin and teeth. It is the ultimate testament of love in action, the innumerable small deeds of care necessary to keep my mother in great physical shape for so long.
My father visited her daily over a decade. I wonder what she would have thought of the same small pond and garden that she was wheeled around maybe 3500 times, had she been able to see it.
What of my sisters’ tending to her daily care three times a week over a decade? No family could have been more devoted.
My father and sisters were there at the end as her laboured breathing inched to a stop.
Death has now released my mother from her entrapment.
But what sort of life was this at the end, with Mum staring vacantly upon trees outside her window, from a miniature world inside a room that constrained her existence for a decade?
We bid our mother farewell, and granted her spirit freedom to roam. I gain solace from the knowledge that “dying is what the living do, dying is what the loving do, and that dying is what, to live, each has to do”.
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