Life is a Mystery

28 April 2011

Remembering: Release

I spent the whole afternoon of Wednesday, 28 April, with Oma, listening to her breath, helping her turn from side to side, watching trying to keep her weakly circulating blood from pooling on one side or the other. From time to time she would sip water set on her lip, but not much. She ate nothing. Alex and Anna checked in now and then. It was a very quiet day. As Anna and I helped Oma make one more turn, we realized this might be her last. Anna called Alex into the room. Oma lay naked and bruised as we held her hands and whispered our love to her, I felt a circle closing. She gazed at the woods outside the window one last time.

The dining room feels very empty now. As you heard from Mary, Oma left us this evening at 17:42.

Alex and I took our walk this morning, we got a wee bit lost at the end, and ended up in a place called “Am Himmel” which roughly translates into “in heaven.” We spent some time there looking at the “life trees” they have planted. Oma’s tree is an Ulme. Then we went to the church in Grinzing and lit a couple candles in front of the statue of Mary, asking for her mercy and help. Oma has been calling out to “mama” over the past few days, and once when Dagmar asked which mother, she said she was calling on the mother of God. So we did too.

Oma was still sleeping peacefully when we got home, though I do think she could hear some of what was going on around her. As the sun rose in America, a number of family members called and listened to Oma breathing and shared love and goodbyes with her. I sat with her all day, Alex spent much of the day with her too, but then went upstairs to do some work.

Anna and I would turn Oma every few hours, because her hands would start to go blue on one side or the other, her blood was not flowing very well. Her breathing, though, remained steady and deep. At about five thirty we decided it was time for another turn. I stood on the side of the bed facing the windows toward a lowering but still bright and high sun. Out of these windows we can see Cobenzl, though Oma’s eyes are not usually strong enough to see that far. She once told me she liked watching the fireworks on New Year’s from this window. As we turned her toward me, she took a deep breath and her eyes opened wide wide wide staring out the window at the light beyond. A brown foam rose to her lips, I began to wash it off as her breathing changed, slowed, and got very bubbly. She finished staring out the window and closed her eyes.

I noticed her lips turning blue. Anna and I then realized what was happening and quickly called Alex to rejoin us. Anna and I felt her pulse on wrist an neck as Alex held her hand. I could not feel a pulse in her neck but kept talking anyway, letting her know everything was OK, that we would miss her terribly, but it was OK to go, she could have some peace, everything was OK. We continued to wet and wipe her lips as she turned a bit bluer, then we became sure she was gone. 17:42.

Her eyes and mouth were already closed, she looked very relaxed and peaceful. We straightened her out, had a few awkward moments cleaning her off one last time, and called the doctor and the city.

Heinz came to see her and help us with the formalities of getting her picked up by the city’s equivalent of a funeral home. I will go there tomorrow to get started on next steps. Sigrun also called us just in time to hurry to us and see her body at home in peace before she was picked up. Her body left the house dressed simply, with her rosary, and with a small rosary book that Dagmar had given her. Anna lit a candle in the dining room and Oma’s room of the last few weeks, which is burning here next to Alex as I write.

We hugged, we cried, we miss her so already. I’m sure I will see many of you here in Vienna soon, and we will share details about what comes next as we have them.

A few weeks later I found this video of Oma playing with Alex fourteen Aprils earlier. This is my Oma, who I miss very much.

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Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 / efc@clst.org