The Last Night

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Our cell phone rang shortly after 2 a.m. I thought it was on the nightstand, so Mark wiped his hands over it and knocked my glass of water over, soaking his clothes. It turned out it was in my sweatshirt.

We called Mendon back, and he told us my mother was dead. We got dressed and ready to head over to my parents' home. I called Mendon again and told him to wait for us. We were there by 2:30.

Mendon and Kristen were the ones who had been on the night shift that night with my mother. I like to think that it was my mother's last gift to Mendon. It was hard for me not being there at night with her, but somehow, knowing Mendon was with her, made it okay for me.

My father was sitting next to my mother. He had checked that her heart had indeed stopped. It just came to me, but I stood over her body, whispering, "Ya Baha-ul-Abha" in her ear. It was heart-wrenching to realize that she was gone. Really, really gone. And yet, in that moment, in that little itty bitty moment, I felt joy for her.

We got a large bowl, filled it with warm water and rose water.

I read a prayer for the departed.

Some time in there a Hospice nurse came in. Apparently, she was rather amazed and impressed by the way we were all functioning. Not much for her to do, actually.

Rachael, Mendon, Nathan, Kristen, Papa and I washed her body as Aunt Cindy read the Tablet of Ahmad. Mark held Liam.

We each said our last good-byes to our dear mother (and wife and mother-in-law and grannie nannie).

We then dressed her in her silk gown, laid her in her shroud, each of us taking up needles with beautiful jewel-toned silk thread and stitched up the shroud. We inserted roses that had sat at the threshold of the Shrine of Baha'u'llah in Haifa. My sister embroidered my mother's initials, S C D, onto the shroud.

The funeral home came not too long after and took her body away.

There was nothing left to do. We sat. It sucked.

We went back to bed.

I will cherish that memory for the rest of my life.

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me too. I agree that it was hard to have mommy die when it wasn't my shift. IT was always hard for me to let go, to let others do what I had been doing. Bless Kristen for waking me. She was gently trying to wake me. I had told her that she could wake me if she was tired or not feeling well. I sort of groggily replied that I would get up (only half believing the statement myself) - and after several minutes she finally said "I think Mama's stopped breathing " and I was up instantly. I remember believeing that I saw ma move, that I could feel a tiny little pulse. But Ma looked different. I knew. Still I was greatful for Papa checking. I recall looking at him and asking if she was gone. He nodded. I felt a little lost and didn't have any tears. I didn't know what to do. And I am so greatful for the cleaning, the task of caring for her body after she passed was a way to pull together, to phocusthe moment on mama, and us. There are small moments of laughter and silliness that are too private to share in this medium. But that time after she passed was a moment of great strength and peace. It was all so surreal, and still is.

Thank you, Rae. I was really hoping people would share their aspects of that night (and correct me on anything). Yes, the task of caring for her body really made that time a "moment of great strength and peace" as you say. I, too, am grateful for it.

Thank you Mara - such loving unity, calm & peaceful, in caring for your dear mother; so beautifully expressed.
Much love, Noel

I don't remember it, but Mendon came upstairs and told me that he thought Maman was having trouble breathing. I didn't wake up, but had horrible nightmares that did wake me up.

Mendon came up again a few minutes later to tell me that Maman was gone.

I went downstairs and Daddy was combing Maman's hair and saying: "Goodbye, Sweetie." Somebody called the Hospice nurse. We turned off the bed and the house was very quiet.

Somebody said "We'd better call Mara." I thought I'd called, but Mara remembers Mendon.

I had a hard time breathing. Mendon and I went to the back porch and cried. Mendon told me that he'd tried to squeeze a sponge of water into Maman's mouth to keep it moist and she'd bitten the sponge.

Mara showed up.

Rachael was up and both alert and calm. She kind of took charge. Daddy said goodbye to Maman again. It made me feel so full and so empty at the same time. I realised that Daddy involuntarily got up every morning and loved Mommy and that he'd done it for forty years.

Cindy showed up and read the Tablet of Ahmed.

We washed Maman, then we dressed her in the clothes she wanted to wear. There are some things that happened that I don't want to share.

Then we put the ring on her finger and wrapped her in silk and each of us took a needle and sewed it. Just before we closed it, Papa asked if we wanted to say goodbye, so we did. We lined up and kissed her forehead and said goodbye and then sewed the shroud shut, then Rae embroidered SCD in the shroud.

Then the undertaker came and took her away. We were up for a bit longer, then went to bed. I couldn't sleep; every time my eyes shut, horrible dreams appeared. Instead, I sent emails and blogged.

Hi Mara,
I think of you all often. I miss your mom too.
From my standpoint, after doing this for 25 years.....well, your mom is one of those "memorable ones" anyway, just because of who she was and the depth of her personality. I hope you all realize what a beautiful gift you have given her and yourselves in participating in her death the way you all did. None of us leaves this world alive, and it is sad and difficult for those who are left behind, but what a way to go! I hope and pray that I am blessed to be surrounded by my children and husband as I leave this world to the next. Especially with the love and care you so thoughtfully gave to her. Hers was one of the most peaceful, graceful, blessed "leavings" I have ever seen. She truly lives on in you and your siblings. I see so much of her in all of you. She left a wonderful legacy in all of you. My best to you all, Jude'

I don't quite have the words for it all. That night was so important, for so many reasons. I'm grateful that we had it the way it was. I'm grateful that I was able to participate, and find such peaceful closure to all of the care that we had given her.

I remember how afraid I was of waking up anyone. It felt so unfair to wake up someone with that kind of news, but how much more unfair to not say anything.
I remember stepping out for a moment, right after Maman had stopped breathing, which was so sudden and permanent, to say prayers alone, for her, for you guys, for strength. Feels kind of remarkable, thinking of it now.
I remember the crying.
I remember being infinitely grateful to Papa for checking Maman's pulse. I felt overwhelmed by her transition and was relieved to see Papa confirming it. I couldn't believe what I saw or felt, but I could trust his words.
I'm glad, Mara, that you remembered that Aunt Cindy said the Tablet of Ahmad. I had forgotten, but now I remember us, at times, picking up parts of the prayer to say with her.
I remember seeing us, a wall of a family, from the undertaker's eyes as he took Maman away. I remember being pissed, then crying out of sadness for her departure. Not a job I would ever want to have.

Maybe more later, but I need to take a break from the remembering for a little bit.

Mendon woke me and said if I wanted to say goodbye to Mama now is the time. I went to her and said "I'm here Stephanie, it's okay for you to go now if you want to. I'm right here with you. I love you". I put my arm around her and kissed her and she let out one last breath and was gone. She had a slight smile on her face and her skin was soft and smooth and she was beautiful in her peace. I checked her for a pulse and there was none. The family was incredible with their tenderness and love for their Mommy.We cleansed her with rose water and dressed her in the special silk gown as she requested. I sense it was awkward for Mark and Kristen a bit. I also can assure them that Stephanie loved them very much and she delighted to see them whenever they came to visit. Her family was everything to her and she took great pains to love each of them. I am glad Eric read the special prayer for the departed at her funeral. She would have been happy to know he did that for her. It is Feb. 17th and she died on Jan. 6th. I am still numb over it and still look for her in the night expecting her to be somewhere in the house.

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This page contains a single entry by Mara published on February 10, 2008 4:47 AM.

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