Time had changed things. The once-vivacious personality had quietened. The sweetness had not faded. She leaned on my arm as I walked her down my sister’s drive, and she peered at the automobile with a bit of confusion. The car that she and my father had purchased less than a year ago sat waiting. It was the only car there….
Deterioration had been slow. At first, she would have just the momentary loss of a name, then it became more noticeable as she would no longer initiate stories, relate family news, or even talk about church and her social group there. We came to realize that it would not be a reversible process. With two sons as physicians, we knew deterioration was coming. Mercifully, it wasn’t overly long.
Even a month prior to her death, she still could remember that her eldest son was coming for a visit. Queries about families lost the specifics, and she began losing the dignity of personal space. Outside help was required, and the intrusion of her home, and needing help with the softly described “activities of daily living” continued to increase.
In the final two days of her life, she saw three of her four children, her oldest grandchild, and a great-grandchild. She still smiled.
On the last day of her life, my sister kept telling her I was coming. She kept breathing until I was there, holding her hand. She held my hand for my first steps, I held her hand for her last breath, at 7:17 pm on May 15. She waited for me to be there.