Farewell to her last breath

Photo: Lorraine Smith smiling at her grandson's wedding
Mom was at Judy's son's wedding in 2009

My mother passed away at 8:05 am on Wednesday, April 13, at Casey House, Montgomery Hospice. She took her time in transitioning from the back-broken 91-year-old to the freed spirit that joined my father and brother in the hereafter. She fell on April 2, was admitted to the hospice on April 4, stopped eating on April 8 and said her last words (“I am sorry.”) Sunday noon. I was surprised that she hung on so long without food or water. Her last great grandchild visited her on Tuesday to say good-bye so she kept up her end of the bargain.

During those last evenings, I thought that I could still communicate with her even though she was unresponsive. I thought I detected a twinkle of awareness in her glazed, half-closed eyes, but I may have been deluding myself. I kept reading to her from the Scriptures, telling her stories from my life in Peru that I had never told her and remembering the most precious moments of childhood. It was one-way communication, but just sitting around in the room seemed even more irrational.

The last two evenings, her breathing took on an eerie quality, like raspy ujajai breathing, something from yoga that she would have never understood. She took four or five deep, hungry breaths into her chest, then the breath would become gradually shallower and fade to nothing. She would remain immobile for 20-40 seconds; sometimes, it seemed even longer. On a few occasions, I thought she had actually had passed away in front of me. But then she’d take another ravenous, noisy sequence of deep breaths. I spoke softly to her, “Mom, I did not think that prank was very funny.” On the last evening, the gaps in the breathing cycle got longer.

When I left the room that last evening, I turned around and look back at my mother’s still form on the bed for a long while. I followed the up and down movements of her chest. After a silent lapse, I heard the hiss of the air through her dry throat again. Even though her body was broken and her soul longed to escape, the prana, the life force flowed through her.