I wanted more than anything to be with her in her last moments. I felt it my most profound duty as her daughter and the highest privilege I would ever have.
Saturday had been my third night of keeping watch in her room. Sunday morning was bright blue and gold, cool and dry--- a perfect September day. At nine o’clock, my older brother arrived from his home on the coast. All of a sudden she, who had neither spoken nor opened her eyes in three days, seemed suddenly to be trying to talk. My brother and I stood close on either side of her bed, forming a canopy over our mother, one arm around each other, one hand each holding each of her hands. We told her again and again how much we loved her. She furrowed her brow, opened her eyes, looked to the right and left and then up at us, her stare both opaque and piercing. She took two slow breaths and then, at 10 am, no more.
Her passage to death had been long, eleven months since we were told she had probably only weeks to live. Our impossibly tiny, frail, chic, irreverent, gorgeous, loving mother beat those odds--- a fact which frequently distressed her. She felt she had, in many ways, outlived her life.
She rallied, though, numerous times toward the end and we were able to go shopping, get manicures, get her hair cut, eat lunch or dinner at the French bistro that made us feel we were back together again in Paris.
In the end, my mother and I said everything we wanted to say. We spent many luminous hours together. I’m filled to the brim with those memories. They will sustain me for a long, long time.
In those last days, a steady stream of nursing staff members came into her room to check on her, to see what help or comfort they could give. One lovely woman put her arm around my waist, told me with great emotion how wonderful my mother was and said, “ We are SO glad she was with us.”
Oh, yes, we are.
Let it not be a death but completeness.
Let love melt into memory and pain into songs.
Let the flight through the sky end in the folding of the wings over the nest.
Let the last touch of your hands be gentle like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a moment, and say your last words in silence.
I bow to you and hold up my lamp to light you on your way.