In him the hope of blessed resurrection has dawned,
that those saddened by the certainty of dying
might be consoled by the promise of immortality to come.
Indeed for your faithful, Lord,
life is changed not ended,
and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust,
an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven. — Preface I for the Mass of the Dead
I am very grateful that my wife’s dear friend, Janet Bradford, was willing to share in this blog her very honest, intimate and moving testimonial about walking the journey to death with her mother, Linda Sue Brazier.
My Mother died September 16 at 3:15 of pancreatic cancer. I had the privilege, along with my four siblings, to do vigil with her beginning Sunday when a hospice bed was brought into my parent’s family room. We all camped out in varying spots in that room — the two reclining chairs, the couch, the love seat and two blown-up mattresses. Dad slept in his bed. I wondered when the last chance was he got to hold Mom? Mom was rarely alone. If she was she was asleep. Even then, someone was always close by. Maybe not in the same room but definitely in the house.
She started the death rattle on Sunday. We didn’t know what it was at first. We had witnessed her throwing up old blood and some liquid bowel. We all wanted to turn on the suction machine and suck it out. But we were cautioned not to do that unless we could see it in her mouth. We later learned it was bodily fluids collecting in the lungs that the lungs couldn’t expel any more. In a way I guess you could say she drowned in her own body fluids.
The early morning hours of the Wednesday she died, somewhere between 2:00 AM and 5:00 AM, we all could not sleep. By then we had been taking turns giving her morphine every two hours, trusting an alarm to wake us up. I believe we thought she would die in the night. We were all busy with our tablets or reading books wide awake yet exhausted. We didn’t want to miss her taking her last breath. The room was spiritually tense. I finally had enough of fighting sleep and knelt beside her saying a rosary — The Glorious Mysteries. When I got to The Assumption of Mary, I had become aware that Mom was living the fruit of that mystery — the grace of a happy death. Peace came to the room. It was almost as if it was the last thing I had to do besides see her die.
I had arranged a few days earlier, with her and Dad’s permission, for her to have the Last Rites and Holy Communion. She had confessed her sins. She even made a profession of faith with one of my now Baptist siblings. She had time with each one of her kids, speaking words of love and affirmation. She was very open to making sure her path to heaven was without any earthly obstacles. She was my model of how to be when dying. Joyful and ready.
All summer long God had been talking to me, telling me how much He loved me. Calling me “my darling,” inviting me to come see Him everyday in prayer, Mass or Adoration. I kept telling everyone it was a summer of mercy and grace. A summer of rest and peace. I had no idea I was being filled up with all the love I could hold to help me be ready for the battle I felt like I was in, once I learned the news of her cancer.
Traveling back and forth, the effort of getting along with my sisters and brother and their spouses, sorting through all of Mom’s dishes, jewelry, clothes etc…cooking, cleaning, laundry, sleepless nights, long days, people constantly around me (I am an introvert), eating all the wrong kinds of food (kindly folks kept bringing lots of carbs, sugar, and fried protein), keeping up with work demands and trying to respond in a timely fashion to those reaching out to me, took its toll.
My prayers in Mom’s last days went something like this: “God, I am exhausted. My heart aches. I can barely stand to be around anybody anymore. I just want to go home. I don’t want her to die before you are ready for her to die, but I am done.” Then God would say every time: “Just listen to my voice, my darling. Only my voice. All day long listen to me and I will help you through this.”
So that is what I tried to do with all my heart every single day until she died. All the way until I watched her take her last breath.
May the Lord grant Linda eternal rest.