Granny Rachel, my husband’s mother, was an old country soul. She was a simple lady who loved the Lord.
She accepted me with open arms when my own parents turned their backs on me.
Granny Rachel made the best sweet tea and the best homemade vegetable soup with cornbread and gave unconditional love to all.
She totaled two of her cars twice. Her son would check on her and found multiple candles lit in her house. She left the tub on until it overflowed with water.
Rachel could no longer be independent.
We relocated her to an assisted living center — an almost five-star-like hotel. Happy, friendly people and Rachel found a new best friend, her roommate, Sally. They giggled and laughed together over silly things.
After two years at the assisted living center, Rachel started to deteriorate at the age of 89. Her CHF and her COPD from years of working in a mill in the South, where there was pollution and no filters, destroyed her lungs — brown lung disease.
Granny Rachel was dying. She let out agonal breaths. At any time, we thought, this was it.
It was the grand finale. My husband, our son and I gathered around her.
We held her hand and waited for Granny Rachel to let out her last breath.
My son opened up the Bible as he read: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”
And then we heard a coarse whisper from Granny as she recited: “I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff: they comfort me.”
Beyond disbelief, some type of chills ran through our bodies. For one lucid minute, granny Rachel was with us. She was here to let us know she was traveling through the tunnel to eternity.
My mother with colon cancer with mets to her lungs. Her brain. We did vigils at her house — us daughters. We took turns watching her and caring for her with the assistance of hospice.
She would slip in and out of consciousness.
The time had come. Her breathing had slowed down. And then she opened her eyes.
She said to us: “I see angels … beautiful angels.”
It was just as clear as could be.
And then she said, “Joe, there’s our baby Terrence.”
Joe was my dad. Terrence was the baby she lost at birth many, many years ago.
Sargent Sam (Sarge) was a World War II veteran. He was a father of five with a wife of over 50 years. When it’s time to leave our ICU, like a promotion, that’s a good thing. But this was a transition to our comfort care suite. Sarge did not want to be on a ventilator with his lung cancer.
He knew it was time. He just wanted his family by his side. As the technicians wheeled Sarge on his stretcher out of the ICU, Sarge, who had an incredible sense of humor, shouted out to me: “I’m going to tell my wife you tried to flirt with me!” And with that, I blew him a kiss. Sadness filled my heart as I knew this was it. With his entire family by his side, Sarge died comfortably two days later.
How do we explain this end-of-life rally?
Maybe we can’t. Perhaps it’s their way of saying goodbye as they enter the heavens.
They are on the brink of death, and they wake up. Stable, lucid, they want to talk and eat and drink.
Rallying is a hallmark pre-death sign of improvement before death. This can last for a few moments, even days. They can sit up and talk. This rallying is also called terminal lucidity.
Try to cherish that last goodbye.
That is one last opportunity to connect with your loved one while still earthly creatures.
They are saying their last goodbyes, with love in their hearts with peace.
And they want you to know that all is well.
Debbie Moore-Black is a nurse who blogs at Do Not Resuscitate.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com