One early, early morning about a month into my mother's hospital stay, as I was leaning over to kiss her good-bye for the day, she whispered to me, "Marie, don't do what I did. Take care of yourself."

As positive as my mom's attitude always was, she could tell that her chances of recovery had now narrowed, mostly because she never made herself a priority. She was too busy to ever put herself first. Besides helping to take care of my father and both sets of my grandparents, there were the nine of us children that she wanted to be certain were cared for well. She also did hours and hours of charity work and maintained five-page newsletters to family, friends, and fans. I guarantee that when it came to responding to other people, the words "deal with it yourself" never crossed my mom's lips.

Following her second stroke at age seventy-seven, she slowly declined over twelve months to the point of being almost immobilized. It was incredibly tough to see my mother's youthful spirit trapped in a worn-out body. Her youthful sense of humor, however, never declined.

After my dad moved my mother home to make her remaining time more enjoyable, day nurses would come to help with medications, breathing equipment, and IVs. In attempting to move her from the bed to a chair one day, the day-care person and my mother both lost their balance and toppled over on the carpeted floor. My father and a close family friend heard the soft thud and hurried into her bedroom. Seeing my mother lying on the floor, unhurt, but with her head halfway under the bed, they asked, "What are you doing?"

The day nurse was about in tears over the incident. My mother, always the caretaker, said, "We're just looking for quarters."


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