Gen Slips Away

Gen's new digs near Becky's home were pleasant and well maintained. The care she received there was completely to Becky's satisfaction. Gen had a private room with a bathroom right next door.

Those facts mattered to Becky and me, but perhaps not to Gen. She was pretty far gone by then and sliding inexorably toward the Great Divide.

I saw her one last time on a visit back east. She wasn't expecting me and gave me a puzzled look, saying "Are you Cindi?" I asked her to read to me, like when I was little. She picked up the Washington Post and gave it her best, but the effort exhausted her and she fell asleep quickly.

In the coming weeks, she experienced seizures and was transferred to a hospital. The hospital staff did the best they could for her, but the truth is that Gen was dying. Becky, Jessie, and I knew it. We also knew that Gen was ready to go. She was unable to act on her own behalf, but both Becky and I had medical power of attorney for her and we understood her wishes. Gen had a Do-Not-Resuscitate order and she clearly was worn out from chronic physical and emotional pain.

Gen's condition was no surprise to us. She had a tough time and she often stated her wish to move on. The staff couldn't quite grasp that we were willing to let her go. During Gen's last days, Becky had to leave town on business, which left Jessie and Robert to carry the load of hospital visits and instructions to the staff. Jessie called me from Gen's bedside and reported that The staff wanted instructions from Becky, but settled for me. Becky and I agreed that it was time to put Gen in hospice care and the hospital staff, greatly relieved, sent her on her way.

Early one October afternoon in 2012, Becky called and said, "Mom died about a half-hour ago."

Gen's affairs were in good order. Her advance directives were in place. Becky, Robert, and Jessica sat with her, spoke with her when she could respond, secured her comfort. We all pitched in to make sure her wishes were honored. It was a long, tough watch as her energy ebbed and flowed. Sometimes she rose to the surface and was engaging, but the intervals between those moments became longer and longer. Deep into her departing consciousness, she spoke to her father, called for her grandfather and Frieda, and meowed at a cat. Her thoughts were not with us, her children, at the end, but with the people who imparted their hardy Minnesota values to a girl who became a woman, a nurse, and a mother of magnificent strength and uncomplaining durability.