It has been four years since Mom died.
There are still memories of Mom and her dementia swirling
around in my head, things I want to write about.
This story is about her last bath.
Mom caught pneumonia, was sent to the ER, admitted into
the hospital, and died the next day. All so sudden. You can read about it here.
The hospital called me early that morning, she had died
during the night. I stopped by her assisted living residence to pick up some
clothes. I hugged and cried with the staff. They had already been informed by the hospital.
When I saw Mom, she was lying peacefully on her back, all tucked into bed, intravenous lines removed and beeping heart monitor taken away.
The nurse was there with me, calm and reassuring.
"Did I want to bath her before we got her dressed?"
she asked. "I will help you."
We knew she was dying, they had kept her clean, did I really need to bath her?
But, this was a gift, a special time with my Mom, one last physical act between us, one last time that I could touch her, hold her, and take care of her - a goodbye event - a ritual.
Still attempting to protect and honor her modesty, we bathed her bit by bit, uncovering and exposing pieces at a time.
Sort of like how a masseuse reveals only the parts to be massaged. I washed her hair too, her short silky brown hair, I
towel dried it and tried to brush it.
Her body was cold and deathly white on top and so very hot and
purple on the bottom side. That she was so cold and so hot at the same time was something I was not expecting.
Mom never liked my help getting dressed. I would stand behind her, or off to the side,
when helping her. She would kick me when I would put on her sneakers.
I can remember "angry dementia Mom" saying snarky things like "did you get a good look" when I was helping
her into a johnnie at doctor appointments.
Getting her dressed was both horribly sad and humorous.
She was dead weight. She was like a rag doll, and like a Barbie doll, I couldn't
easily bend her to get her dressed.
Trying to hold her leg while putting on her socks just got me laughing.
It was heartbreaking, joyous, and humorous all at the same time.
As I tugged Mom's jersey over her head or tried to pull
her socks up I kept waiting for "angry dementia Mom" to pop up and
start yelling at me. "What in the #%$# do you think you are doing? I
don't need help getting dressed."
But when I brushed her hair I could hear my "real Mom" say in a
soft voice "Oh that feels good."
Thank you to the hospital staff for letting me have this time with my Mother, and supporting me through this ritual.