Saturday, September 19, 2020

A life well-lived, and left well

| June 28, 2020 1:00 AM

In mid-March my 93-year-old mother, who had so far lived independently in her own home in Cincinnati, was hospitalized. Though I made the 911 call due to her severe back pain (incurred while folding bedsheets) it was her heart rate and a fibrillation that determined the EMTs take her in.

The day after she was admitted she was told by one doctor she would benefit from short-term rehab; the next day, a different doctor decided to send her home. We don’t think he was fully aware of her home environmental circumstances; nevertheless, she was released. My sister, who was working full-time and lived a two-hour drive away, stayed with her for the next several days.

My husband and I decided it was time to arrange for either assisted living or round-the-clock home health care for Mom and felt it essential we do that in person.

At the time the coronavirus was just establishing a foothold in Montana. We quickly switched from searching for flights to making plans to drive across the country; with the threat of the virus and flights being rampantly delayed or canceled, we wanted to be sure we could make it home again.

The day we got to Mom’s my sister opened the door and her eyes filled with tears, She admitted it was the first time she’d allowed herself to cry.

We hugged and I whispered, “We’re here.”

It was the first day our mother did not come downstairs from her bedroom, watch TV, set her hair, eat.

From that day, Jim and I became Mom’s caregivers. By the end of the first week we’d arranged for hospice visits and nighttime care so we could get a little sleep.

Mom grew weary of her earthly bonds, but used the time to confide in her priest, visit dear friends and talk on the phone to close relatives and her grandchildren. She remained clear-headed through it all and we were blessed to share stories, photos, prayers and songs — her lovely soprano voice lasting until her final days.

We’ll always remember her grace and good humor as she gently slipped away. Jim and I were closer than ever to Mom in those last days.

Mom had the distinction of being the first parishioner in her church to have had a coronavirus-restricted Mass said for her funeral. Church receptions were not allowed. Although she had countless friends and a large, close church family, Mom’s viewing, Mass and burial were limited to just 10 family members; not even her grandchildren (our kids) could travel to attend their last grandparent’s service. Right up until her passing our social butterfly mother rightfully assumed her funeral would be well-attended and followed by a lovely reception (with wine, of course) … and we never told her otherwise.

The Mass was live-streamed on the church’s website so it could be attended remotely, though the church insisted we not publish the date and time in Mom’s obituary due to the risk of people showing up.

Due to its timeline in America, Mom also never knew of the full coronavirus pandemic since she didn’t have a TV in her bedroom, or that restaurants, churches and stores had closed their doors. We’re good with that, too.

We ultimately came to realize the doctor who’d sent her home from the hospital, the one we were so upset with initially, had done the best thing for Mom, and all of us — she may have never made it home otherwise. Instead, Mom died happily and peacefully in her own home under her family’s loving care, just as she’d always wanted.

Community editor Carol Marino may be reached at 758-4440 or by email at