Gone From My Sight by Henry Van Dyke

I guess this is what we mean when we say “gone, but not forgotten”

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says, “There, she is gone”

Gone where?

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me — not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone says, “There, she is gone,”
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!”

And that is dying…

Death comes in its own time, in its own way.
Death is as unique as the individual experiencing it.

I am still struggling with this. Last week, Mom rallied and I like to think it was because I spent all of my waking hours at her side. This week, she is worse. She can’t eat and can barely swallow. Our dilemma is whether to give her IV fluids and pain medications, which will prolong her life but make her passing easier or with hold liquids–which is what she originally wanted. I don’t think she realized how hard death is. When you can’t swallow, you can’t take pain medication.

So we’ve decided to keep her hydrated and comfortable. She has moments of lucidity–“Where am I” “Who am I?” “How did I get here?” Every once in a while she will make some disconnected statement that Judy has to call to find out who she is talking about. Poppy, Johnny, Earnest, Miss Annie, Buster, Penny…all of these people and pets were long before Judy’s time.

She recognizes the pictures of my Da and her but isn’t able to connect the woman in the photo with her.

We make sure her hair and nails are done and that she is bathed daily and that her nightgown and linens all match, because that would have made a difference to her. We keep mirrors away, since it would do her no good to see what she looks like now.

Hospice is better than a hospital or a nursing home but it takes a terrible toll on the family. Not that I’m complaining, It is just hard to see your mother slip away.

I beleive she is in between two worlds now and the one that I’m in is becoming such a faint memory…and that’s the way I want it.

The things she is remembering now…things that happened 50, 60, 70 years ago are much happier moments and so clear in her mind, even if one for a brief instant.


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