For several days Ruth drifted in and out of consciousness. Even when she was conscious, she was muddled and incoherent. On that last day, the Hospice nurse called us. Her name was Kelly. She was friendly and very helpful. She had met Al a couple of times during the last few days.
None of us had gone in that day. Kelly said Ruth was doing poorly and we had to come down right away. She couldn’t find her pulse, and Ruth’s breathing was short and quick.
Ruci, her father and I rushed to the home. From the moment we arrived either Ruci or myself were at her mother’s side chanting softly. Looking at Ruth’s condition, Kelly said that she was coming toward the end. She thought Ruth might last for three days, a week at the most. She phoned her office to order 24 hour bedside watch. The nursing home doesn’t have the staff to provide that kind of attention.
Kelly mentioned that a person’s hearing is the last thing that goes. She said that even though Ruth was unconscious we could still talk with her. We thanked her although we were aware of this. She left at around 7PM. She hugged us all and told us she’d be back in the morning. The staff spontaneously brought in a tray of coffee, teas, and snacks. Everybody knew we were vegetarian.
At one point when Ruci chanted to her mother, we all noticed that Ruth stirred. It seemed she wanted to chant with her daughter again as she had done a few days earlier. But she was trapped in a body that would not cooperate. We saw how utterly helpless she was. Ruci tearfully gave her mother permission to leave her body. Ruci said her sister and brother would be there in two days. She invited her mother to hang on, but assured her that if it was too uncomfortable to remain in her body that they would all be OK, and it was all right for her to go. She reminded her mother that Krishna was always with her.
We were all getting tired and decided to leave. Ruci suggested to her father that he say his goodbye to Ruth. Al was tired and thought he would talk to his wife in the morning. Ruci however insisted, and we left the room while Al said his goodbye. Outside, Ruci obsessed about whether to stay or come home. I explained that this could drag on for days or even a week, and that even if she stayed for the night she might fall asleep anyways. In any event, she needed to rest. She reluctantly came back with us.
Several hours later, shortly after midnight, we got a call from the nursing home. Her mother had died. The woman at the nursing home had seen many deaths there. At the moment of death people were usually troubled and confused. Ruth died peacefully in her sleep.
Earlier that evening I had spoken to the woman who had brought in the tray of snacks. She told me that in the short time Ruth was at the home she had touched all the staff; everyone liked both Ruth and Al. She said Ruth had a contagious smile. She said, for her, when Ruth smiled, “it was like the lights at the top of the Chrysler Building going on.” “You from New York?” I asked, surprised by her analogy. “No. From the West Coast,” she said. “We’re from the New York area,” I said. “Funny,” she mused, “that we all wound up in Moundsville, West Virginia.”