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  • by Carolyn Lackey

Mama Cammareri

The breath had almost totally left her body. She was as white as snow. And then she completely pulled back from death and stood up and put on her clothes and began to cook for everyone in the house. The mourners. And me. And herself! She ate a meal that would choke a pig!

                                                                                                     -Johnny Cammareri, Moonstruck

Moonstruck is one of my all-time favorite movies.  It's gritty and real and funny and endearing.  Alan and I love the part at the end when Rita goes to answer the door and comes back into the kitchen sing-songing, "Johnny Cam-ah-rare-ee!" 

My mother hasn't made a miraculous recovery like Mama Cammareri.  She hasn't bounded out of bed, dressed herself and headed for the kitchen to cook for everyone in the house.  She hasn't eaten a meal that would choke a pig.  But, she has begun to eat soft foods once again.

I spent most of last Saturday curled up beside her in bed with my hand on her chest measuring the amount of time that it ceased to rhythmically rise and fall with breaths.  We struggled to get sips of water into her mouth with a sponge.  Cold feet and hands with some purple mottling signaled that her body was no longer circulating her blood properly.  I cried off and on all day.

Then, on Monday, her caregiver was able to get her to eat a whole fried egg that had been chopped to smithereens and a cup of pulverized fruit.  She had the same breakfast today.  The Hospice nurse is scratching her head trying to figure Mom out.  We keep hearing things like, "You can never really be sure," and "It's between your mom and the good Lord."

Mom is still very much bed-bound.  She has the functionality of a two-day-old baby.  She has lost all of her body fat and muscle tone.  A special air mattress senses her every tiny move and redistributes the air to keep her from getting bed sores from pressure points.  It goes kind of crazy when I crawl up on the bed with Mom.  Sudden weight gains don't compute.

I feel like she's in the faulty elevator of an old skyscraper.  On Saturday, she plummeted about 10 stories and unexpectedly came to a slow, creaky halt.  Then, she slowly inched back up two floors.  Alan is using the DEFCON system of readiness that he cleverly calls "MEEMCON."  Saturday was a MEEMCON 1 day.  She's currently at MEEMCON 4. Today, I sat with her most of the day wondering if the elevator would begin to free fall once again or if the MEEMCON 1 alarm would be sounded.  She spent the day curled up in a fetal position snoozing quietly.  No bells.  No whistles.  No tears.

The good news is that I have had ample time to take care of plans for her home-going.  I've had lots of quiet time spent with soft praise and worship music and my cuddly little mother to give careful thought to details that I want to remember.

We have whispered reassurances to her.  I've sung to her.  I've reminded her that there is a huge group of friends and loved ones in Heaven that are waiting to happy dance her through the gates.  She's still alive, but, she's simply not living.  

This evening, Alan and I resumed our old-married-couple routine - Lean Cuisine Three Meat Pizzas and Caffeine-Free Diet Coke on bamboo trays in front of the TV.  Our old-married-couple routine never felt so good.  

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