The nurses would duke it out between them to be the one who got to come to my parents' condo to take care of my mother. One of them explained, "We take care of people who aren't nearly as bad off as your mom, but who are so negative. Your mother is so appreciative over any little thing we do for her. She always says thank you, she always makes us laugh, and she always asks about our families."
That's how my sweet mother was, even in the final weeks of her life, never putting herself first.
A hospice nurse once told me that once a patient passes on, there is a strong sense that the spirit of the person stays near their body, though not in it, for at least a little while.
The morning my mother passed away, on Mother's Day of 2004, I could feel her spirit there in the room. As the medical people began to roll away the monitors and remove the respirator, it was as though my mother stood next to me, thanking her body for being so good to her, carrying her through seventy-nine years of living. It had a profound effect on me. I so often ignore that a woman's body is not only a miracle because it can give birth, but because it is so resilient. The body never gives up on us...it will do anything to keep the heart beating, but we so often neglect it.
My mother's words, "Take care of yourself," resided in my memory, but I still didn't take the time to take them to heart. That is, until my heart was affected, both physically and emotionally.