The Angels Who Carried His Mother Home

Summoned to his mother's hospice bedside, Guideposts' Editor-in-Chief Edward Grinnan learned that she was in good hands for her homeward journey.

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- Posted on Apr 27, 2020

A caregiver comforts an Alzheimer's patient

I walked into my mother’s softly lighted room at Clausen Manor, where Mom was an Alzheimer’s patient, to find her bed surrounded by people I took to be strangers. The night before, my sister had called me from Michigan. “You’d better come,” she said, and I didn’t have to ask why. Not after these last few heartbreaking years. I got on a flight from New York the next morning, feeling guilty as always for living so far away.

Mom looked unimaginably frail and parched. A woman with blond hair held Mom’s hand in both of hers while an aide dribbled sugar water from a dropper onto Mom’s lips, making rivulets of the deeper wrinkles on her chin. I noticed Mom’s buddy and fellow resident Pat standing vigil at the foot of the bed, clutching her ever-present purse. I now recognized the blond woman, Colleen Burke, whom I’d met not long after she’d taken charge of the unit.

“Hey, green eyes,” she said to Mom, “look who’s here.” My mother turned her head weakly and gave me that goofy Alzheimer’s grin that had taken so much getting used to. The movement caused more sugar water to run down her chin as she made a sound that substituted for “Hi.”

The hospice nurse and a social worker slipped in. Mom’s eyes brightened. “Hi, Estelle,” whispered the nurse. Mom waved as if she were in a parade.

For an instant, I felt like an intruder. My mom had always been so profoundly devoted to her family. Yet here she was, surrounded mostly by young strangers. Dying.

I made myself go forward into the soft light. Colleen transferred Mom’s hand to mine. Her grip was surprisingly strong, and she was pulling me closer even as she closed her eyes. I knew then that I was exactly where I was supposed to be, at the moment that was meant to be, surrounded by my mother’s new family, the people who cared for her on a daily, hourly basis. The people I needed almost as much as Mom did. They were not strangers but helpers, angels in their own right, sent to help carry Mom home.

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