As we prepare to celebrate and honor the Mother’s in our lives I reflect on the many ways we can show love and appreciation for those dear mothers who are in their final hours of life. One such story is June…

“Where’s the aide? They promised they would be here hours ago?” Frances was frantic by the time I arrived at the facility where her mother resided. “I promised mom (June) she would always be clean and well cared for. Now look at her, she is covered with urine!”

As I assessed the situation, including the level of frustration with Frances, I immediately gathered wash cloths, towels, a wash basin, soap, shampoo and June’s favorite perfume. I told Frances we were not going to wait for an aide. June was 92 with end stage dementia and had only hours, maybe days, to live. June had not responded to any voice or movement for the last week and hadn’t eaten in two weeks.

We worked quietly at first gently rolling June’s 90 pound emaciated body to the side and removed the wet linen. Frances was afraid to touch her not wanting to cause her mother pain or discomfort. She followed my lead as we gently squeezed water from the washcloths to cleanse June’s body. I put on Benny Goodman tunes which were June’s favorite music.

A few minutes later June’s older daughter (Kathy) arrived and joined in. No one spoke. They followed my lead gently washing, drying and then massaging each extremity with lotion. Very quietly, as if talking to herself Kathy said, “When we were small mom used to bathe us in bed when we were sick.” Frances and Kathy began spilling out a cascade of childhood memories. Frances then moved to the head of her mother’s bed as I softly guided her in the washing of her mother’s hair. Soon a hair dryer was brought to the
scene by a timid aide. Frances thanked her and informed her that we had things under control and that we will finish on our own.

As Frances combed and styled her mother’s white hair Kathy was at the foot of the bed finishing up with a foot massage including dusting powder between the toes. The linen was changed, a fresh gown was put on and we sprayed June with her special perfume. The attention and concern demonstrated by Frances and Kathy was nothing short of a mystical experience. June looked beautiful.

As we all stood in vigil, tears of love and sorrow fell from the eyes of June’s daughters. Tears also fell from June’s eyes. We all breathed slowly and deeply as June took her last breath – clean, well-cared for and loved.