Because I Knew Her
It seems so long ago, now, those quiet days I sat with Mimi. It was just last week, actually. She took a sudden turn for the worse, and the family rushed to her side. My angel mother in law rarely left her bedside, opting to sleep there and take all her meals with Mimi. She had an infection, and double pneumonia. Her heart was working overtime, trying to compensate for the lack of oxygen, and her little body didn't seem to be able to cope with it much, so she slept a lot. Guessing how hard it must be for my mother in law, I would drop all the kids off in the morning with whoever I could find to watch them, and then rush to relieve her so she could go home and shower, or nap, or do anything else. Because she didn't want Mimi to be alone. And I can't blame her for that.
Those mornings, though, will be cherished and remembered for a long time, I imagine. The feeling in Mimi's room was indescribable, nevertheless, I will attempt. It felt like a little oasis of Heaven. The peace was calming and overwhelming and exactly natural, as it always was like that with Mimi. I would sit in the chair next to Mimi and hold her hand while I chatted with Janice, the hospice worker. We had many good conversations about Mimi, life and everything. Deep conversations you usually wouldn't have with a near stranger, but circumstances brought us together and eased the formalities usually present with new acquaintances. I helped Janice change Mimi's sheets, clothes, and everything else. It was hard for Mimi to roll over, and she would hold onto my hand with a grip of steal, wholly trusting me. It hurt her to roll from side to side to change everything necessary, but being able to hold onto someone she trusted seemed to help a lot. When Janice would leave, it would be Mimi and me, except all the exertion of her bath and bedding change was exhausting, and she would fall asleep holding my hand. When I would try to take my hand back, she would squeeze it tighter, not wanting to let go. I was content to sit, holding her hand, quietly talking to her sometimes, and other times, just letting her rest. One day I decided to paint her finger and toe nails. She was asleep at the time, as she was most of the time now. Another time I found her yarn and crochet hook and started a chain for her and then gave it to her. She seemed to be much comforted by that yarn.
I read to her a little, sang to her a lot, and loved to be there with her, whether she was awake or not.
She began to talk at night. She carried on conversations with her mother. Not made up conversations, but very one sided, seemingly answering questions type of conversations. My mother in law didn't get a lot of sleep, but was very happy to have the chance to record Mimi's part of those conversations. A few times I went back to the home in the afternoon when Jeffrey was home with the intent of relieving Chris so she could get a nap, but she never did. It was so hard for her to leave Mimi, and as Mimi is a much loved person in the community, there was always a parade of visitors wanting to express their love and support, and naturally, Chris wanted to be there as many of the visitors were her friends.
It was a roller coaster of a week. There were so many emotions swirling around. The weirdest part was how much those visits with Mimi took out of me. I loved being there. I loved being with her. I loved the feeling of peace and love in her room. But when I was driving home, I quite often found myself longing for things of comfort from my childhood. One time I had a nearly uncontrollable urge to climb my tree with a book. That was my escape as a kid. Except that tree got cut down when I was in 5th grade. I have been longing for the solitude of the mountains. I have wanted to retreat into a good book, or music, or anything for the sake of retreating. Not because I was trying to run away, but because those are the things that bring me comfort and strength, and I needed both of those after leaving Mimi. I still don't understand why, but it is what it is.
Amidst all of this worry over and visiting with Mimi, my home was greatly neglected. I didn't clean it once. I usually found something simple to cook, if I cooked at all, or I would ask Jeffrey to make meals, and I would go to bed early, exhausted, yet eager to go back to Mimi's side the next day. I loved to be with her.
Saturday morning there was a new hospice worker. His name was Kirk and he has a son with Down Syndrome, like Mimi. we talked a lot, and he told me that he would honestly be surprised if Mimi made it through the night. Her oxygen was at 94, but she was using 6 liters, which was a lot. Her blood pressure was 88/44, she had a fever of 102.7, her pulse was erratic, her breathing haggard and uneven. She had a little bit of what they called the death rattle when she breathed. At this point, she hadn't eaten anything for 2 days, and she couldn't swallow anything, really. To get water, we would dip a stick with a sponge on the end into a cup, and then put it in her mouth and she would either suck the water out, or chew it out. He told me what to watch for and then left.
I held Mimi's hand, putting cool clothes on her forehead and quietly tried to take care of some of the things I needed to do for Primary. Chris, my mother in law showed up and a few minutes later her sister and husband arrived. Everyone thought that Mimi had been holding on until Joanne her sister could get there, and I expected a call all the rest of that day, to tell me that Mimi had passed on. Meanwhile, I coordinated with Jeffrey's sister what we would do about Mother's Day, and our sister in law's birthday. We decided we would bring ingredients to make dinner and both of us made arrangements so we could be available all the next day.
Sunday morning came, and I wasn't able to get a hold of Chris, so I called Jeffrey's sister. She said that Mimi was doing better. Her vitals were up, and she had shocked everyone, especially Kirk. She was alert, talking, and happy. I suspect it was because she had all of her siblings around her. Joanne from Boise, Chris, and Ron who is leaving for a LDS mission to Madagascar next week. All day she was really good. She was a lot more alert than she had been for a few days, and though surprised, we were all hopeful. Jeffrey's sister and I proceeded with our plan to make dinner.
Jeffrey and I left church right after the kids sang in Sacrament Meeting. As we were walking down the hall to leave the building, Keith asked why we were leaving, and I told him it was so we could see Mimi. Beth heard me, and yelled "Mimi!" with such joy in her voice. She ran down the hall, hands over her head squealing "Mimi! Mimi! Mimiiiiii!" We laughed. Beth has always had a special bond with Mimi. She simply adores her. Anytime either my mother in law or father in law come by, as soon as she sees the truck or car, she squeals "Mimi!" and runs to the door.
We made dinner, ate it, enjoyed each other's company, sang Happy Birthday to our sister in law, and relished the day. Chris came home for dinner and joined us. She made a plate for her sister and brother in law, and I went back with her, protecting the plates from spillage in the car ride. We got there, and Chris, Joanne and Earl went into the lobby area. As soon as the aid was finished changing Mimi, I went back in her room and held her hand. She was so beautiful in her red gingham dress with daisies all over it. She smiled at me and squeezed my hand. I talked to her softly, gave her a sponge drink, and put some chap stick on her lips to help with the dryness the oxygen caused. She looked happy, but miserable at the same time. She would shudder occasionally, or reach out to something or someone invisible in front of her. She moaned occasionally, and as I watched her it broke my heart more than ever to see her like that. I silently prayed that if she had to be taken from us, to please let it happen soon so she could stop suffering. All too soon, Jeffrey and the kids were there to pick me up and take me home. Beth was excited to see Mimi, Faye lingered near her, but Keith took one look at her and walked out of the room. I didn't want to leave until Chris came back. I didn't want to leave Mimi alone. While I had been with her, she had been trying to sleep, but several times she jerked awake, clutched at me, and had a wild and terrified look in her eyes. That look haunted me. I didn't want her to be alone because I didn't want her to ever have that look in her eyes again. When she had jerked awake, she would clutch at me, and when she realized I was with her, she instantly calmed down. I gave her a hug, told her I loved her. She whispered "I love you too." and we left.
At 2:32 that morning my phone rang. I picked it up and saw that it was Chris, my mother in law. The significance of her calling me in the middle of the night didn't kick in. I nearly ignored the call, but for some reason, didn't.
Chris was calling to tell me that at 1:30 Mimi had passed from this world, to join her parents who we knew were anxiously awaiting her arrival. We talked for a few minutes about the implications, and then hung up. The call had awakened Jeffrey, so I told him his aunt had passed away. He said he knew, he had heard the whole conversation.
And we lay there.
Neither of us could sleep.
As I lay there not sleeping, I remember being so grateful that Mimi had passed on Monday, and not Mother's Day or Camilla's birthday. It would have been too hard for them, I worry, had she gone the day before. But Heavenly Father knew that, I suspect, which is why things worked out the way they day. I am also so grateful that after several days of misery for Mimi, she had a good day on Sunday. A good day for everyone to be able to say goodbye, and a day with minimal pain for her and more alertness than she had had for a few days.
Since then, things have been interesting. I am not sure how to explain, or if I even want to. Maybe when I get things figured out, I will. In the meantime, I am so grateful for the outpouring of love and support. I am thankful for all the people who watched my kids so I could be with Mimi and have those special mornings with her. It was an amazing time, and I think really helped me with closure. I am so grateful for the knowledge I have of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that families are eternal. I am humbled and overwhelmed by the love and sacrifice of my Savior, and for having had the opportunity to know and love Mimi so well. She has changed me. I am a better person because of her example.