Sitting beside the bed that holds my mom and listening to her breathe. Listening for the pauses between. Listening for sounds that indicate she’s in pain. Waiting for the next hour to arrive, so that the medicine can be increased seems endless knowing she is in pain. I wouldn’t have thought on Friday that Tuesday I’d be waiting for my mom to take her last breath.

Yes, it’s been a year of hospitalizations due to infections, nursing home rehab, falls and Covid. Mom is great at being dramatic about her health and the situations saying, “Your just going to let me die here.” And me telling her, “You’re not dying” or “Everyone’s going to die sometime.” Now here she is. . . actually dying.

I’ve spent a lot of time with my mom this year. Not all of it was pleasant, but some of it was. I think one of our favorite moments was Thanksgiving evening. We colored. Nothing spectacular about the pictures. Just copied Thanksgiving color sheets that the nursing home provided. Mom sat on one side of the small bedside table and I on the other as we picked colors. . . talking and laughing.

I also learned how to knit hats on a loom with her. Oh my goodness. . . how many times she’d have to start over because she dropped a stitch. We sat that winter making so many toboggans. She liked to put pom-poms on them. This spring and summer found her crocheting baby blankets. Mom learned crocheting around age five from Grannie. Her fingers remembered the movements, but she’d miscount the stitches and would have to unravel them or she’d forget the pattern. She met a friend, Vera, in her last nursing home who loved to crochet also. They called themselves the ‘rip-out queens’ because they’d mess up and pull out the stitches to do it correctly.

Mom lost a lot of time this year between UTI’s and bone infections. She’d become confused and wouldn’t remember what happened between getting them and coming out of it. Her body lost mobility because of the time needed for recovery. Then the arguing would start about her ability to go back home to live. Of course, she couldn’t. I did try a few times, taking her home and she’d fall or the infection would come again. Sometimes, it felt like we were living on a carousel or watching the movie, Ground Hog Day.

The UTI infections caused mom to become confused. The result was either funny situations that she truly believed, hallucinations of people long passed, or being paranoid about people around her. I didn’t mind the crazy stories, but when she became mean. . . it hurt. I’ve laughed so hard about her stories. I’d usually argue or try to explain that they weren’t true, but Paul would go with them which often made us laugh.

Mom is a very social person and loves to talk. Sometimes, she didn’t listen or couldn’t hear others because she didn’t like to use her hearing aids and the communication tended to be one sided or misheard. I don’t know how many times I’ve laughed because of what she thought she heard. When she would answer something in a weird way, I’d say, “Mom, does that even make sense?” She’d say, “You don’t even know the things I think you’re saying.” Mom made friends wherever she was. I know she’ll be missed by them.

Crafting always made mom happy. She loves to paint things. She painted bird houses for some of the nurses at the home and helped paint crafts for the bulletin board at the nursing home. One of the directors was right when she said that mom feels her pain less when she is in the craft room.

This year has been long. I’ve spent many lengthy days with mom and been bone tired because of how many hours I used in a day. Now as I sit beside Mom with her hand close to mine and I stop and stroke her face, hair, and shoulder. . . I’m reflecting back on this last year that has been such a roller coaster of emotions with her. Sometimes, I was Becky or Sis. Sometimes, she called me ‘Mom’ and called Paul ‘Dad.’ I’d correct her. But in our way, I have been Becky, Sis, and mom to her. I know Paul has been a son and dad. Maybe that was both our gift and burden as we spent this last year together.

So, I’m watching the breaths, crying, and trying to harness my feelings in words . . . as mom’s journey here is finishing and she makes her way Home.