Sure, she said a few words beyond that, but I think that these will be the words that I remember as my mom's final words to me.
A few days before she passed, she was able to mutter a request to my sister and me that her siblings come join us, so that everyone can all be together.
So as my aunts and uncle on my mom's side made their way to Edwardsville, KS from Emporia and Oak Grove, my sister brought Mom some of her favorite food--ice cream and McDonald's french fries.
Hm, I wonder where I get my taste for junk food. When she tried and was unable to eat them, I knew her life was coming to an end.
In the back of my mind, I wondered if she was going to tell everybody goodbye while she still had the presence of mind, not to mention the ability to talk.
While it was still just the three of us, she inquired whether we could move into a larger room, one that could fit us all more comfortably.
Whether or not we would have been comfortable, we were all there for her--this was just another example of her thoughts turning outward toward others in her final days.
Visiting people in the hospital or nursing home is so much more difficult when you already know the final outcome--like watching Forrest Gump, you see someone who's lived through the 20th century,
only for it all to boil down to irrelevance. A few days before, Mom was admitted into hospice.
Two of her siblings were there to ensure the hospice was going to take good care of her while she was in their care.
All three of her siblings are there now.
Between opinions thrown back and forth regarding how long she has left (for some reason, never spoken in her presence), and awkward dealing-with-the-pain humor,
these aunts and uncle that I barely know coalesce into the only support my sister and I have.
Mom wakes up, just a little, just enough to know people are here. Whether or not she remembers at this point she requested them is impossible to tell.
It's even harder to tell if she remembers she requested to talk to her brother alone. We step out to allow her time with him, just in case she tells him what she was holding on to. No luck.
It seems that whatever she was going to say will die with her. If there was anything in the first place.
Determining what she's saying as opposed to what her brain injury's saying becomes more and more laborious.
With that attempt at getting her to communicate failing, everyone returns to the room.
The conversations continue, as they do among members of my family, and they turn to some family reunion I missed several years ago.
The running joke carried away from it was that each sibling felt that they had the perfect recipe for deviled eggs. A legitimate family argument. We ask mom to settle the debate once and for all.
Who makes the best deviled eggs?
With more life than she exhibited all day, she lifted her hand just enough to point at herself.
Her last joke.
The conversations continue, and I'm talking to Mom, letting her know what we're up to these days. Asking her if she's happy to see everyone here today. She replies through a series of breaths.
Asked to repeat what she said, it becomes a little more clear.
"it's my birthday"
Did she think it was her birthday because she had been bedridden so long? Did she think it was her birthday because of her brain injury?
Did she only want it to be her birthday, because she knew things were coming to a close for her?
Regardless, I thoughtlessly corrected her. "Your birthday's not for another month, Mom. It's still January."
No response from her.
Despite the other issues I had with Mom, I can't help but think that's my one true regret when it comes to my relationship with her.
Maybe I should have given her one last day in the sun. After all, everyone was there.
Or maybe I've just been corrupted by Hallmark movies in which the town comes together to give Christmas to a terminal child in October. Starring Sam Elliot.
At any rate, people are getting ready to go. I love you, Mom.
"I love you"