What do you wear to your Mother’s funeral? What dress? Which shoes? It matters. It’s the last time you’ll dress for her. What would she want me to wear?
My mother was very particular about what we wore to which event. She taught me to dress well, always wear earrings. She loathed pants in church and once told my daughter to go upstairs and get changed, that she was “Not wearing sweatpants to the mall!” To which my daughter quipped, “Go put on a bra, Mom Mom!” We all had a good laugh!
When deciding which dress to wear to the funeral (no, pants were not an option for this daughter,) my daughter, Becca, said, “I don’t have any dresses that fit. I think I’ll wear pants.” I said, “Wear what you’re comfortable in. Mom Mom wouldn’t care.” My daughter said, “Yes she would! She hated when we didn’t get dressed up for church!”
I visited mom nearly every weekend once she went into hospice. I didn’t want to miss any opportunity to be with her, breathe the air she breathed, touch her skin, hold her hand.
The first visit after they put her on morphine, I walk into her room and she is curled up on the bed, sleeping with her head at the bottom and her feet at the top. I sit on the bed and say, “Hi Mom, it’s your daughter, Angela.” Her eyes flutter open and quickly close. Arthur tries, “Hi Rose, it’s Arthur.” She opens her eyes and looks at him before closing her eyes again. Sleep is winning. I begin to cry, thinking I missed the upswing she had, eating her meals in the dining room, getting her haircut.
The next time I visit, she is weaker, thinner yet. The nurse’s assistant puts her in the wheelchair to take her to the bathroom where she changes mom into her pajamas. I see her legs and think, who belongs to those legs, so thin?
Mom and I sit on the bed side by side, her head hanging down. Can you lift your head and look up? No. I sit on the floor in front of her. I want to see her eyes, her beautiful brown eyes. She raises her head slightly, her eyes looking up. She mumbles something inaudible. Just a short while ago her voice was strong. I ask her to repeat, try to follow her lips. I look at Arthur and shake my head.
May came and went and mom hung on.The first weekend in June I visit her. I sit on the bed, she opens her eyes and says, “Did you have lunch?” Just like I was visiting her at home. She reaches for my hand. She puckers her lips; she’s thirsty. I get her water and a straw. She tries to hold the cup herself while I support the bottom. She says to me, “Next time.” I know. She wants it cold. Ice cold. She takes my hand in hers and kisses it.
When she opens her eyes again, she lifts her hand and rubs the palm of it down my face. It’s a gesture she used to do to me regularly and it annoyed me. Now I laugh. She reaches her arm up and hooks it around my neck, pulls me to her for a kiss. I bury my head in her neck; tell her I love her. Her lips mouth the words back to me. Then she is sleeping again.
Each time she wakes up, she rubs my arm, like she used to. And smiles and pulls me to her, arm wrapped around my neck. She takes my hand and holds onto it while she drifts off to sleep. When she opens her eyes again, she purses her lips, she wants a kiss. Later, she looks and me and Arthur and says, “Good night.” It’s 4:30 and daylight.
Leaving is hard. The decision to leave is hard. All the kisses, the hugs, the recognition. Her being present and knowing me. I want more and I want it to go on. If I leave and this is it…then it’s over. No more hugs, kisses. No more seeing her brown eyes looking into mine.
I had a premonition on the ride over that it would be the last time I would see her. I am reluctant to leave her.
I had one last visit with Mom. A bonus visit. The Sunday before she passed. Her nails are freshly painted pink. She eats 5 spoonfuls of applesauce. She wants to sit up; she wants to put her socks and shoes on. Where is she going? After I dress her, she stands with my help, walks to the end of the bed. Takes a few more steps. She’s weak and exhausted. She sits back down on the bed. She says, “I miss Tacony.”
She is ready to lay down again. I help lift her legs on the bed, tuck the blanket around her. It’s time to go. Arthur and I have a long ride home. I kiss her face, rub my fingers through her hair. Walk away and return to repeat this several times before I finally say, “I have to go Mom. I love you. I’ll see you later.” She lifts her hand and waves to me. “Take care,” she says.
She passed away on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. It was my 8th wedding anniversary. It was an honor that she chose that day. Her mother passed away on her wedding anniversary.
I prepared the program for the funeral mass. Made a board of photos from her life. Gathered comments from friends and family about Mom. I did it with joy. It would be the last thing I do for her.
The funeral mass was at Our Lady of Consolation in Tacony, PA at the church she grew up in, the church I grew up in. Laid to rest in St. Dominic’s Cemetery next to my dad, Paul, her mom, Angelina and her father, Pasquale.