On August 24, 2014, I watched my mother take her last breath.
Death is an ugly thing, but movies often portray death as beautiful and calming. Well, if you've watched someone die, you know that generally isn't the case.
She came home with hospice care, and we knew she wasn't going to stay with us long. She was able to say her final goodbyes, though. We heard what we needed to hear from her for the last time.
When I woke up the next morning, I walked downstairs. My dad said he was shocked she had made it through the night, but there she was.
She was producing scratchy and labored breaths, and she wasn't really able to communicate anymore. But, she was there.
He told me to sit with her while he went to get coffee for us. My brother was upstairs in bed, my dad was on a 10-minute excursion to Dunkin' Donuts and I was sitting on the floor, holding her hand as she lay in a cot in our living room. I was talking to her and trying to love her hard enough to get her to stay.
The night before, she pleaded with me, "Honey, you have to try to keep me alive. I'm sorry. I don't want to leave you."
It's weird watching someone go when you know he or she isn't ready. You hear stories of people being at peace with their deaths, but she didn't want to leave us. It was a strange feeling.
Within minutes of my dad walking out the door, I watched her chest rise and fall for the last time. She was my best friend and my world.
"It's you and me, baby." That's what we always said.
This is something that never leaves you. If you've experienced this, you'll know what I'm talking about:
1. The Sudden Quiet
Your loved one wasn't making much noise to begin with, but when he or she goes, everything is quieter. That may be the one part the movies get right.
2. The Loneliness
This is the worst part. There was this feeling in your heart that suddenly felt lonely. An obvious piece of your being just goes missing.
It's ironic because how present was your loved one toward the end? More present than you realized, I guess.
3. The Fact That You Were There
Whether you were alone with him or her or not, you forever have that moment ingrained in your memory. It's something you can't share with anyone else. It's special, sad and frustrating all at once.
I remember at first telling people, "But you weren't there. You don't understand how I feel."
It changes you. Not for better or worse, but it changes you. You see your loved one's death a little bit differently than everyone else does.
4. The "Why?"
Have you ever wondered why you got to be there, and someone else didn't? We've heard it all.
"They waited for you to leave." "They waited for you to get here." What's the right answer, and what does it mean?
Whatever any of this means, you were with that person, and that means he or she wasn't alone. I believe he or she felt your love. I try to find peace with that.
I don't know if the loneliness will ever go away. It kind of follows you around.
It's a bizarre feeling. Though it's a reminder of the person's absence, let it be a reminder of his or her presence, too.
Look for the person's light. Listen for the person's voice in your head. He or she is a part of you in a way most people will never get to experience.
Cherish it. It was sad, dark and ugly, but it was yours. It was another moment shared.
Find the beauty in the ugliness. It's always there.