My Mother-In-Law died last Monday, October 26th.
Some of you may remember my posting about her problems with emphysema, which led to her losing lung function with each bout of pneumonia. She went into the hospital in early July with an almost symptom-less case, but it still took a heavy toll. Her doctor informed us about the permanent loss of lung function after that, and that we would only have weeks or perhaps months left to spend with her.
My MIL made the wise decision to enter hospice care at that point, so that she could have in-home assistance but would never go to the hospital again. She knew she wouldn't survive another major illness, and she didn't want to be trapped in the medical machine during her final days.
She managed those final months with grace and dignity, despite occasional flareups of frustration at not being able to do the things she wanted (mainly, not being able to go on outings anymore). She wasn't strong enough to use her walker for more than a few minutes in her small apartment, and slept a good deal when she wasn't watching TV or visiting and reading about current events.
I made sure the kids and I got to see her several times, and we warned them of the importance of those visits.
Her sudden downturn in health late on a Saturday came as a surprise, because she'd been well when my husband saw her on Friday. She started to slip away on Sunday, and all of her children came to be with her, and she was able to hear their goodbyes on Monday before dying peacefully around 1:30 in the afternoon.
She did a lot of things in her life. She graduated from her one-room schoolhouse in Nebraska at age 16, and then taught it for a few years. Then she moved to California to attend UC Berkeley, finished her degree, joined the Women's Army Corps in WWII, then went to nursing school. She met her husband at the age of 33, and they married and had four children by the time she was 39. Later, she got her Master's Degree in Education and worked with Special Needs children. All of this was before I met her, 22 years ago.
She had spirit and independence, and a great love of family. More than anything, she was proudest of being a mother and a grandmother, and she excelled at both. She was a storybook grandmother-- the kind who doted on her grandchildren and offered them endless hugs and love and cookies and attention. Our children were so lucky to have her in their lives, and I think they and her other grandchildren brought her a great deal of happiness in the 21 years after her husband died.
I'm glad that she is no longer caught by the limitations of her failing body, but at the same time we would never have willingly let her go.
She was 88 years old, and we loved her dearly. Somehow, it still seems that she left too soon.