Last Breaths


I’ve pondered many things over the last month and have busied myself in order to not think too much about them, but sometimes things happen that bring back a thought or memory. Here is my experience.

Recently I went home to spend time with my mom as she was taking her final breaths on earth. I had spoken with her just a few days earlier and she asked when I was coming home and what were we going to do when I got there. So to hear the news that hospice nurses said she had hours to days left here with us absolutely threw me into shock. 

I took an American Airlines flight from Beijing to Tulsa. During a layover in Dallas, I learned mom’s breathing had become quite labored and her time with us was coming to an end. I had an hour layover in Dallas and was quite ready to get on that plane for home. The flight is less than an hour to Tulsa, but it seemed much longer this time.  

Upon arrival to Tulsa, passengers were asked to stay seated on the plane. Finally, they told us the air bridge was broken and they were trying to repair it so we could disembark.

We sat for nearly an hour before they decided to move the plane to another gate.  Genius! Why not do that in the first place?  

I finally arrived at her house at 9:15 pm.  There were several lifelong friends there, as well as family members.  I went to talk to my mom, but she could not communicate by this time.  She was breathing quite heavily.  

It did seem as though she could hear what I was saying, as she would grip a hand or move a foot in response.  We were all sitting near her, people coming and going. We told stories of days gone by, happy memories.

As we talked, we could hear her breathing in the background.  I assume she heard everything we talked about. I don’t recall which story we were on when all of a sudden there was no more heavy breathing.  The heavy breathing sound was gone. Mom had taken her last breath. 

She was now free of diabetes, UTI’S, and so much medication.  Though saddened by her absence, I am happy to know she is in a better

fullsizeoutput_6457place now with dad and my son Clifton, who died many years ago.  No more insulin shots, or bottles and bottles of medication, trips to the doctor, nursing homes or hospitals. 

She died at 12:15 a.m.  I was fortunate to be able to have spent her last three hours with her.  I’m saddened by American Airline’s lack of abilities to have working equipment and the foresight to move us to another gate early on, as I could have had four final hours with my mom rather than just three.  

I’m thankful for my friend who waited at the airport for the additional hour so I could hurriedly get to my mom’s house.  This allowed my daughter to be able to stay at Grandma’s house longer that evening as she didn’t have to pick me up from the airport. I will forever be grateful for that act of kindness.

My mom took her final trip down her front porch stairs at 2:22 a.m.  guided by my iPhone flashlight and the two gentlemen from the funeral home who took her body safely to the hearse.   Why did I mention the time she left her house?  2/22 is the date in which my twin boys were born.  She always considered 222 her lucky numbers. 

I guess they were her lucky numbers after all. She didn’t want to be in a nursing home and thanks to many family members who stayed with her, she was able to leave her home rather than a nursing home at 2:22 a.m. 

On a totally different note, I recently took a dive trip to Moalboal, Philippines. I was preparing for my 3rd dive of DCIM100GOPROGOPR0477.JPGthe day. Before entering the water, I tested my equipment.  I noticed there was a small hissing sound coming from the BCD, the equipment that holds the gear in place and floats me to the surface when needed.  The Dive master checked it and said it was ok; with a minor adjustment.

Next was the scuba regulator check.  This piece of equipment converts the high pressure air in my tank to pressure suitable for breathing, while delivering air to other places, such as my BC inflator.

A quick turn on of the tank and an exhale/inhale with the regulator checks to make sure it is working before going under water and finding out there is a problem.  A quick inhale revealed the regulator stuck and the air continued to blow upon removal from my mouth. The dive master came over and made an adjustment.  I gave it another inhale, still the air continued to blow when it shouldn’t have. He checked it again, made an adjustment and said it was ok.  

I took another inhale as I just wasn’t convinced just yet.  I took one more deep breath and the air cut off before I could finish inhaling. There was no air.  There was no air for me to breathe. 

I had a small panic but quickly realized all I had to do was take the regulator out of my mouth to solve the problem and continue to breathe, and of course I was on land so it was really ok after all.  My tank had been turned off, but not for long.

It was then, I had a flashback to my mom’s final breath.  Was this what it was like as she took her final breath? I inhaled as normal but I couldn’t complete that last breath, did she do the same?  I quickly pulled the regulator from my mouth so I could breathe. Mom, however took her final breath and readily slipped into a place more beautiful and peaceful than the underwater adventure that I was about to experience.

The sound of silence after my mom’s final breath was so loud. She was no longer gurgling and struggling to breathe. Her tank had been emptied for the final time.

Days prior to her death she was looking in her pockets “Searching for her train ticket.” She couldn’t find it. She found it on September 8, 2019. 

Breathe freely Mom.

About cessley

I am a bereaved parent. I write to give hope to other bereaved parents who are fresh in their grief. I want them to know life begins again. It (life) is forever changed, as are you, but one day, you will smile again. You may travel, you will make new friends, your heart will mend, though never heal and it will be a painful ride. It is one step at a time....sometimes, even one breath to the next is all we can seem to live through each day. But each day will be a new beginning, a different beginning, a different you. I have two surviving children: Amy, who is married to Brandon, and they have one daughter, Avery, and one son, Dylan. and Eric who is a doctor and is Clifton's twin brother. Clifton passed away when he was nearly two years old. As any bereaved parent knows, it is tough, REALLY tough trying to live after the death of a child. I lived in Shanghai, China for three years after the death of my son, and then lived in Beijing for two years. I am discovering life again, one step at a time. I returned to Oklahoma in February , 2020 due to the uncertainty of the virus. Little did I know the uncertainty would follow me across the ocean. This is nothing compared to the death of a child. I will survive! View all posts by cessley

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