On Monday, with her sons at her side, though by now far from knowing this, my mother-in-law, Blanche, slowed her breathing down, slowed it again, and then, she finished. Her chest stilled, no longer struggling to catch just one more breath. She slipped away gently, connected to people she loved, much the way she had lived her life.
I was not at her side, having left the hospital an hour earlier to take my own elderly mother to a doctor’s appointment. Before I left, I said my goodbyes, gingerly stroked my mother-in-law’s soft hair, because I knew it was going to happen in the hour I would be gone.
And sure enough, as I was helping my mother on with her coat at the conclusion of her quick, uneventful check-up (“you’re great for 88, Mrs. Steinhardt”) my cell phone rang.
“This is it,” I told my mother, as there was not one shred of doubt what would be said when I answered.
“She’s gone” my husband choked out the words. “It was peaceful, she just… stopped.”
We knew this was coming, her body clearly worn out after a long, full, fulfilling lifetime, but still, it’s never easy. My husband loved her very much, will miss her greatly.
She had rallied last week for a few final conversations: a meaningful one with my husband that he will always cherish; an evening with grandchildren, marveling at a belly full of her twin great-grandsons-to-be.
We are saddened maybe most that she will never get to meet them out in the world. But it is also good that this circle of life will tumble on. She will so clearly live on in the memories of those whose lives she blessed with her presence, and through her genes, now dispersing themselves on though yet a next generation.
My husband’s family is large, and Blanche much beloved within it. There will be tears and hugs aplenty in the next few days.
Tomorrow, a funeral, and then within a few weeks: a birth, a double bris, a continuation of family, which meant the world to Blanche, my mother-in-law.