This Frail Existenceby Jim

11:03 pm

Mom said very little today.  Jon got a faint “good morning,” but she didn’t say much more than that all day.  We had some visitors this morning: Dad’s cousin, Ann, and her partner, Sue, stopped by to visit for a few minutes on their road trip to the east coast.  It was good to see them and to chat for a bit.

We took advantage of having a superb pianist in the house and had Joseph play for us this morning.  I could tell Mom enjoyed it.  Her smiles are getting fainter, but you can still see them in her eyes.  She always loved listening to Joseph play the piano.

After our concert, Jason’s wife and girls came to visit.  They sat with their grandmother and sang and told her stories. Tiffany held 4-month-old Claire on the bed near Mom, reaching out a tiny hand to stroke Mom’s and wrap her baby fingers around her grandma’s thumb.  Claire was very happy and Mom’s eyes were shining — it was clear that they both enjoyed the visit.  Mom sure loves her grandbabies.

Jon had to leave this afternoon.  His presence here has been a great strength to us.  Thanks for helping with our posts and for singing with us and everything else you did.  We look forward to your return next week.

I spent some time talking to Mom again, like I’ve done over the past few days, telling her stories from our childhood.  Even though she doesn’t talk, I feel a connection with her.  I could see her love in her beautiful eyes in the way she looked back at me.  Many times throughout the day, each of us tell Mom that we love her.  Days ago, she would always reply with, “I love you, too.”  I have begun telling her, “and I know you love me too,” because I can see that she wants to reply but can’t.

A funny and unexpected moment happened today while we were sitting around Mom’s hospital bed. She had people sitting on either side of her and someone was talking to her.  Dad came around the foot of the bed and Mom caught his eyes looking at her.  She followed him with her eyes for a moment and then suddenly, Dad ducked and pretended to sneak around the bed.  Mom actually laughed out loud at his antics, which surprised us all.

The following was written by Joseph, who offered to contribute to tonight’s post.  Thanks, Joey, for helping us document the day.

Mom is now to the point where she does not respond to most questions that you ask her. You might ask, “Are you thirsty?” or “Would you like to watch some Studio C?” and she will just look at you, and you know that she can hear you, but it seems very difficult for her to find a way to reply. That is, unless it is something she has a very strong opinion on, and then we may get a little quiver of her head to indicate a nod yes or no. We’ve experimented with other ways to communicate yes and no, like blinking, or squeezing, or pointing to the “Yes/No” sign, but all have become too difficult for Mom to coordinate at this point. So, for now, the best we can hope for is an occasional little hint of a nod or shake of the head to let us know her desires.

One humorous example of her feeling compelled to share her opinion was during “music time” today. I had exhausted all of the classical and sacred piano repertoire that I had brought to share, and I wanted to lighten the mood, so I had moved on to some musical theater selections. We sang “People Will Say We’re in Love” from Oklahoma and “I Whistle a Happy Tune” from King and I and many others. Then I came to “Nothing Like a Dame” from South Pacific, and I said, “Hey Mom, here’s one that Dad might want to sing for you!” I started to play the chorus and sang out, “There is nothing like a dame, nothing in the world…” Then, wanting to make sure Mom was enjoying this, I paused and turned to ask her if she wanted to hear that one. She gave her strongest and clearest “no” of the day: her eyes got wide and her head gave a little shake back and forth. Needless to say, we moved on to other songs!

Another fun and very memorable moment was when Dad joined in the singing and serenaded Mom, singing “On the Street Where You Live”. It was very sweet. Only problem was he started forgetting some of the words, and inventing new ones of his own, which got Mom smiling and even laughing out loud (which is rare now).

At one point in the evening, I had the special experience of sitting close to Mom and we just looked into each other’s eyes for a while. After a little while, I said “Hi, Mom”, and her eyes seemed to light up a little, as if to say, “Hi” back. So, looking deeply into her eyes,  I said it again, “Hello, Mom”. And her eyes lit up even more and it was like we both understood in that moment that I wasn’t saying hello to her body, which was unable to say anything back, but to her spirit, which was able to say “hello” back with wonderful clarity. Her spirit is still very strong, though it seems to be preparing to leave her body very soon.

Then, in a tender moment, Dad and I sat on both sides of Mom and talked a little about her approaching departure from this life. I can’t remember the exact words, but we both expressed to her our gratitude and love. We said that even though we would miss her sorely, we recognized and accepted that her time left on earth was short. Dad then offered to give Mom a priesthood blessing, which we proceeded to do, with Jason, Jim, and me participating, too.

After the blessing, it was getting close to Mom’s usual bedtime, so we all decided to continue our tradition of singing to Mom as the last thing we do before she sleeps. Tonight we enjoyed full 4-part harmony with Jim on melody, Angie on soprano or alto, Jason on tenor, and me on bass. We sang probably a dozen hymns, and then we told Mom it was time for bed. She somehow seemed reluctant, so Jim asked, “Do you want to stay up and do some more singing?” She gave a very clear yes with a little nod of the head, so we sang for probably another hour, even venturing out into a few Christmas hymns. It was a very sweet evening. It is amazing to me how many hymns have new meaning now, given our present experiences.

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