Mom was in the bed she died in, in the living room because no other room had enough space for that rolling hospital cot. She'd been washed and shampooed by the CNA and my sister when she quietly breathed her last, while I was getting on the plane to Phoenix, and when I landed and switched on my mobile data saw my sister's text that the funeral-home people would hold off on taking Mom's body until I got there, if I hurried.
Mom and I had built a good adult relationship and I visited often in the past few years, knowing that parents don't last. In May she'd been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer that she was suffering from since March. I was glad she'd been released from it; and parents die because that's what parents do, sadly. I had no last-minute beggings and forgivings like so many people seem to have, at least in movies. Dad had passed suddenly and shockingly of a heart attack in 1982; now, that gave me what we call PTSD, then called being hysterical and messed up, and agoraphobia (the sidewalk bounced like a trampoline, it really did!) and feared mirrors and electricity and was terrified I'd never be sane again. I'm older now, and so was Mom. She was 82. Stepdad survives her; he's 98. This time he's the traumatized one, with good reason. "I never believe this gonna happen," he said, in his accent.
I'd planned a week's stay and it turned out perfectly aligned with Mom's death, funeral, and burial, and 118-degree days and 95-degree nights. I wrote the obituary because that's how I could serve, and gave the eulogy because the eldest child does, while my sister who is the executor did paperwork and phone calls and the other sister hosted and poured drinks for our many callers and guests. Besides going to the funeral home and picking out the casket, etc., I couldn't be of much service so I simply worked as I usually do, beset by deadlines, except retiring very late and rising very early and speaking some Serbian. Here, I'll teach you: "Bozhe, Bozhe, " literally, "O God, O God," and only older people say it because it connotes: "God, I've seen a lot of s--t in my time, but this takes the cake."
I asked my sisters what was Mom's biggest gift to them, and we all agreed it was her work ethic so that's what the eulogy was about. I didn't write it; I spoke. I get handed a lot of "Read the eulogy I wrote for my parent" and they are all the same. Mom didn't look like herself in her coffin simply because she was lying down and still. Only her hands, folded, looked like her. We all agreed that was not our mother.
So I came home to some kindly friends, thank God, and when I was alone realized that whenever under stress or really excited I'd called my mother to tell her about it. I actually turned to look around for the phone before realizing.