I was holding vigil over my mother’s deathbed. She had checked into the hospital and they found a large non-HodgkinΓÇÖs lymphoma cancer tumor just below her ribcage. The good news was that it was curable. The bad news was that the CHOPS therapy she needed couldn’t be fully used because she had heart problems. She was in a very fragile condition at age 79, so we were all amazed that she even consented to receive therapy. Unfortunately, the morphine that they began to give her for the pain quickly swept her under. She couldn’t wake up from it and her organs began to fail. I stayed with her in the room every night for 3 nights holding her hand when she couldn’t speak or move anymore. I knew she could still hear and feel me, though.
Finally, I couldn’t bear that my mother was suffering like this because she had truly lived a saintly life. I know many Catholic Irish people will say that about their mothers, but this time it couldn’t be truer. I never have nor will I probably ever meet a person as completely unselfish as she was. Everyone who knew her knew she was a saint. So I was really struggling with why my mother had to suffer. I had reached the point where I was feeling really desperate, begging my father (who had passed before her) to come and take her out of her body. I was so worried that she would be in pain and not be able to tell us.
I finally told my mother that I was going to let go of her hand, because I wanted her to begin to let go of her earthly body. This was a very hard thing to do. I didn’t want to let go of her hand! I didn’t want her to leave me! But I knew that she needed to go home to God. I felt that it was the right thing to do.
When I let go of her hand, I felt like her spirit was very sad. This was just the worst moment of my life. I was crying on the little cot next to her hospital bed and just asking repeatedly, to my father, ‘Where are you? Why don’t you come for her? Why is God letting her suffer?’ I was beside myself with grief.
Then, all of a sudden, I felt that someone was in the room with us. I turned around and ‘saw’ something hanging in the corner of the ceiling. It was a huge being, which had wings but was more like a birdΓÇÖs wings than angel wings. They were down and pinned to its sides. It was just sitting on nothing in the corner. I was terrified. I was completely frozen, the way you freeze when something is so scary you just try not to move or to be noticed. I had no idea what it was, but it didn’t feel good.
Then, suddenly, my mind was flooded with rapid-fire good memories of my mom and our life together. I can’t even remember all the memories, but the quality of the memories is what I will never forget. It was like lightning speed but somehow my mind could comprehend it. I went from the darkest moment in my life to being flooded with every good feeling, joy, and peace all at once.
At the time, I didn’t connect what happened to me with the presence in the ceiling corner. That thing was bad and this was good. It wasn’t until later that I wondered if that could have been an angel or even someone, I didn’t recognize. I don’t think I will ever know who that was, until I die myself. I’ve wondered if it was a guardian angel, hers or mine, my dad, or even my mom’s unrecognizable spirit. I will never know.
I do know that it had the quality of a life review, but it was all the good memories. It filled my heart with peace.
I’ve never felt that need to have anyone ‘believe’ my story. It happened, and I know it. I already believed in God, so this didn’t change my life that much except that I do feel like the veil of death creates a thinness in the barrier between this world and the next. I was there at this moment in time when a light shined through from the other side.
It was still hard to lose my mother, but because I held her hand for so long, I have a lasting gift from those days. Whenever I am sad, I put my hand on my face. My mother’s hand is comforting me. That was her gift to me for staying by her side. She told me to do this.