She got her wish.
She went to sleep and she didn't wake up.
I was there the night before, bringing brownies for the caregivers, making sure she was in a comfy, flannel, Lanz nightgown, turning down the lights, kissing her cheek. Every tiny movement caused tiny little ouch's and so I chattered over them, trying to distract her. I told her about my phone call with Gladys, her oldest friend, and the memories she shared of horseback riding and skiing and driving in the days when girls didn't do those things and the caregiver smiled at me as I said, "You're not really hearing any of this. You're not really here at all, are you, Mommy?"
We were both stunned when the wraith-masquerading-as-my-mother looked up at me from the bed and said "Nope."
Not one to give up on a responsive moment, I went right back at her.
"Do you know where you are?"
"No," she said, bemused.
"Is it okay?"
And whether she said yes, or smiled, or asked why wouldn't it be, I can't really remember, though from time to time I can hear her saying any one of the three. The intent was clear, if my memory is faulty.
What I know is that it's as close to a glimpse of heaven I've ever heard.
Her brain is part of a long-term dementia study being conducted by Columbia University. Her living self participated in verbal examinations, fPET scans, and fMRI's; her brain was removed here in Tucson and shipped out to NYC before the rest of her arrived at the funeral home.
Are you, like everyone else I've told, saying How cool is that right now? She didn't think it was creepy or strange. "I'll be dead. I won't be needing it anymore, will I?"
The hearse attendants forgot to bring her teeth when they took her body. At one point, her brain was in the air over the mid-west, her carcass was in mid-town Tucson, and her dentures were on the front seat of my car.
In another adage come to life moment, I really did not know whether to laugh or to cry. Where are you, Mommy??
Though certain nieces entertained a wicked fantasy of G'ma going 'round and 'round on the luggage carousel, in fact she was packed in dry ice and shipped as cargo. TBG and I felt like cargo as we strapped ourselves into two pay-extra-for-them aisle seats from Phoenix to Newark. Hours in the air, hours in a strange hotel, hours in my sister's house, hours without my mom. They all blended together. None were better or worse than the others. They were hours without my mom.
G'ma has the last plot in Daddooooo's family's section of the Jewish cemetery right around the corner from Belmont Raceway. We toured the stables and the grandstand and the main entrance and I would have taken pictures were we not in a funeral cortege, circling the facility from the other side of the chain-link fence.
We paused as the gravediggers donned their warm clothes and mourners headed to the rest rooms and then we drove past big stones and little stones and crypts and dates from the 1800's and lots of beloved relatives before we got to the corner at which G'ma was laid to rest.
There's a certain way to hold the shovel and a certain way to put it down and I followed the instructions because it was all I could do. Little Cuter and SIR hugged and tossed dirt and we breathed a little easier when it was all done.
We rotated between the hotel and the diner across the street and my sister's house for three days. Three days without a glimpse of the sun. Three days surrounded by nieces and nephew and cousins and stories... lots and lots of stories.
We played games and looked at pictures and ate and drank and saw old friends. As IntrepidCat said, "This was a really fun party. It's too bad that G'ma had to die for it to happen."
From time to time I'll comment on the loss, the process, the clean up, the distribution, the love. For now, I'm easing back into the world. I've taken the last seven days to consider my mother's place in the universe, to grow accustomed to her absence, to make a plan for going forward.
It was a long life and an easy passing. Wouldn't we all like to say the same for ourselves?