First some background. My mother was raised in White Bluffs, Washington in a family that really, really hated Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It was a common refrain of our childhood. In their 80’s, Mom and Dad moved to a senior living facility in downtown Seattle and the building looked down at the Roosevelt Hotel. Every time Mom saw it she would make a face and say, “You know we don’t like him.” As her Alzheimer’s advanced, her memories faded—except Roosevelt. From her room in Supported Living, she would see the Roosevelt Hotel and again, “You know we didn’t like him.”
Two months before Mom’s death—at the age of 96— she looked at me and said, “If everyone who says they are going to heaven goes, it will be too crowded so I’m staying here!”
Alas, one night her blood sugar level spiked to 600 and stayed there. I rushed her to the emergency room fully expecting that she would be back to normal soon. But there was a serious problem with her colon and she remained unconscious. Invasive surgery was out and we did as she would have wished. The doctors put her in a coma with an expectation of 4 to 5 days to live.
My brothers and sisters and I gathered around her to say goodbye, telling her how much we loved her, what a wonderful mother she was.
One day, about two days before she died, a few us were standing by her bed, singing and talking to her. We remembered her unquenchable dislike of Roosevelt and I swear Mom grimaced. Just to make sure, I was tempted to stand over her saying, “Roosevelt! Roosevelt! Roosevelt!” which, of course, wouldn’t have done at all.
But I was sure that Mom was listening. Over the next two days I sat with her, holding her hand and talking—saying goodbye.