She wanted to be set free

Content note: death, grief, passing of a loved one.

Every year on the fourth of July, Independence day is celebrated in the USA. The Declaration of Independence was signed on 4 July 1776 and it declared the thirteen American colonies to no longer be subject to the monarch of Britain, King George III. They were united, free and independent stats.


I was going to write something totally different for this prompt, until on Saturday — 4 July 2020 — a memory popped up on my Facebook timeline of 4 July 2017.

That was the day my mom was released from hospital.

It was only 4 days after she had told them to stop all treatment.

It was only eight days before her death.

That morning, when the two female paramedics walked into mom’s hospital room with sympathetic but professional expressions, I was overwhelmed by grief. I knew mom was about to make her last trip in a vehicle. Ever. I knew she was on her last journey. I knew it was what she wanted. I was at peace with it, but also so damn sad. I was about to lose my mom, to have her torn from my life. I didn’t know if I was ready. Can one ever be ready for it?

When they rolled mom out of the ward to follow the hidden-to-public passages to the waiting ambulance, I turned to the other side to get my car from the parking area. I was going to meet them at the hospice where they were transferring mom too, but at the first set of lights, I ended up pulling up alongside them. From there on, I followed them, and once we entered the quiet town, I retrieved my phone from my bag and snapped a dozen or so photos of the ambulance driving ahead of me.

I remember, while driving behind the ambulance, I thought about it being Independence Day. Even though we don’t celebrate it in The Netherlands, there was something special about mom being transferred on this day, to the place where she would leave this world for the next. I don’t know why it felt special, because as I say, Independence Day is not a Dutch thing, but still it did. Just like it feels special sharing this memory four days after Independence Day, and four days before the third anniversary of mom’s passing.

Ambulance transferring mom to the hospice on 4 July 2017.

I spent the next 8 days in the hospice with mom. If I could, I would’ve chosen for it to be 8 weeks, or 8 months. Anything but only a mere 8 days.

In those 8 days I watched mom sleep. I watched when the nurses came in to wash her, and how gentle they were with her. I listened when mom tried to speak — she barely had any breath or strength left. I watched how mom let go of life, little by little. She said the things she wanted to say. Asked about people she cared for, and if they were okay. Told me which messages I had to pass on. Divided her jewelry between the kids and one of my cousins, that she treated as one of her own kids. These things were done in the first half of those 8 days. In the second health she was quieter. Slept more. Talked less. Her smile weakened, but it was there. She was letting go. That part was clear.

She wanted to be set free. Free from the pain, from the suffering. She finally let go in the night of the eleventh and passed away on the twelfth, while my daughter and I held her hands.

© Rebel’s Notes

Wicked Wednesday

20 thoughts on “She wanted to be set free

  1. This was a hard post to read and it made me very emotional with how direct it was. So often death is shrouded in euphemisms but the reality is far from that and I think that is what makes your post so powerful. It is just so real. Thinking of you lovely Marie ?

    1. Thank you, Missy. Death is part of life, and when I write about my mom, I just can’t do it in euphemisms. Even after three years, things are still too raw.

  2. What a gift you were to your mother as you accompanied her transitioning and letting go. I’ve seen so many family members who are afraid of death, dying, of losing their loved one, yet they absent themselves from their loved one’s last earthly journey. I was privileged to be with my father and with his sister-my aunt as they let go. As a pastor, long-term care chaplain, and hospice chaplain I was blessed to be with many persons’ and their families during this very special time of transition from this reality. They were very special and holy experiences. Our feelings of loss are so powerful even as we experience our loved one being set free from the pains of being in a body which is no longer able to sustain them.
    The truth is that you helped your mom into her future by your being present loving her. Like a midwife you were there at a very sacred time supporting her and caring for her. Thank you for sharing your special memory and love.

    1. Your comment brought tears to my eyes, David. Thank you for your strong, loving words.

  3. I think as people let go they often do things that make us let them go – even though it is difficult to actually do that. I know it sounds strange but ten years b4 my mum died I remember saying i could not comprehend her ever leaving me. Then when she did I was almost ready for it – because I knew she needed to go. Her need came above what i wanted…
    May x

    1. Just like with your mom, I also felt my mom’s need came above what I wanted. She needed to go, and I had to let her go xox

  4. you are not supposed to make me emotional and cry! I do understand. it is such a mixed bunch of feelings. Sadness, relief, wish others sloshing around. (((hugs)))

  5. What a beautifully written post Marie. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must be. I think the death of a parent is something we all fear. I know I do.

    1. I never wanted to think of my mom passing away, and then when we knew it would happen, I had to lock all feelings out to care for her. Life is precious, and we should be thankful every day for those loved ones we still have around us.

  6. It is so hard to let our loved ones go. I have not lost my parents yet…but I know that it will be difficult. The loss of your mom has impacted you so deeply, and for that I am very sorry. I have no words of condolence that would be worthy.

  7. It is so sad to watch a loved one slip away but at the same time a positive thing to know their suffering is ended. Your experience was not easy.

    1. I wouldn’t have wanted her to still suffer, but I would do anything to have had her with me still. She died too young.

  8. I think you’re right, her regaining independence in the way she was able to lead her final days is a special moment indeed. And to live those out in a gentle hospice rather than a busy, medicalised hospital ward. She was lucky to have that option and to have her loving daughter by her side.

    8 days would never have been enough for you, but for her… like you say, she took the time she needed to let go.

    I hope you find the opportunity to celebrate her life on her anniversary, though I know how hard these difficult days can be. N xx

    1. They are difficult indeed, and the closer the 12th comes, the closer the tears are. I will go to her grave on Sunday, will be there, talking to her, telling her things I would normally have told her. She did things her way, and it’s good she let go when she wanted to, and didn’t hang on because she thought it would be best for us. I miss her, every day, but I would’ve hated for her to still be in pain, and I feel privileged that I could stay at her side 24/7 for the last 11 days of her life.
      Thank you for your comment, N xox

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