“She looks so peaceful,” the woman remarked, as she gently tucked a wisp of her mothers grey hair behind her ear. “Things were so crazy the day she died,” she continued. “I got to her bedside, and we facetimed my brothers in New York so they could say goodbye to Mama- they couldn’t make it to her in time. Technology is good sometimes…”
She went on to tell me how every day she visited her mother, she took a selfie with her. “I took my last selfie with her today, just now.” she said. “Is that weird? Some people would think so, but I don’t. I think it’s ok, don’t you? I’m so glad I got here early, you know? Things have been so busy, I’m so glad we had this time alone before everyone arrived.”
She paused for a deep breath, then continued, “I feel terrible though. I was in the bathroom when she passed. I wasn’t there beside her.” Her eyes met mine, and I could see the worry furrowing her brow. “That happens, quite commonly,” I assured her.
“It’s almost as though Mama was protecting me from the pain of watching her leave, maybe?”
“That could be…” I said. In all honestly, this does happen frequently. I’ve heard countless stories of loved ones at the bedside of the dying, to leave for just a moment for a quick shower, another cup of coffee… a bathroom break. I’ve heard just as many stories of loved ones holding on until someone arrives at the bedside. My grandfather did just that for me.
“In our culture, after the death, the person will send a sign by the 7th day, to let us know they are ok. ” She began counting out the days on her fingers, “Today is the 7th day, and I don’t think I’ve gotten a sign…what if I missed my sign?” She looked into my eyes again, as if hoping I would have the answer.
I paused for a moment, then softly stated, “I don’t think you’ve missed your sign. Maybe you’ve just been so immersed this past week, give it some time and reflection.”
She seemed to take some solace in my reply. “Sometimes the dead will send a sign by visiting your dreams… maybe she will come tonight.”
I excused myself from the room, leaving the woman alone with her mother for the last time until the rest of the family would arrive. She had told me how she had been the sole caretaker of her mother until they had to seek additional assistance from a nursing facility near their home. She had been tasked with all of her mothers care and final arrangements, leaving her overwhelmed and tired answering to the other 5 siblings around the country. This past week had been a blur, and she was ready for some rest.
The family began to arrive in the parking lot 20 minutes later. I entered the slumber room to notify her, to find she had pulled up one of the chairs directly at the head of her mother’s casket, and was gently stroking the side of her cheek. Her face lit up when she saw me. “I was singing to Mama,” she started, “and I heard a bird. I looked at the window and there was a Red Bird on the windowsill, right there!” She pointed to the only window in the room, and a soft smile spread across her face. She stood up and wrapped her arms around my shoulders. “Thank you so much for the time alone with her. I needed it so much, and Mama sent me my sign!”