The caretaker, the centenarian woman’s youngest daughter, woke at the sound of her labored breathing. The baby of six who was now well into her sixth decade, listened in the low glow of the bedroom to her mother’s shallow breathing. It was not too long ago, she thought, of how her mother and she had shared the spool bed every night because the small house was filled by four girls and two boys. No bed for her but the one with her mother. The baby held her mother as her life ebbed away like a low tide, each breath less than the one before, finally giving way to old age and a life of hardships but for the last eight years of dementia when her four daughters rotated at noon each Tuesday to spend a week caring for their mother. The youngest held their mother, thinking of so many shared hours in this room, and now the final sharing of a well-lived life. Feeling blessed for being the one present at the closing of a good life, the baby kissed and loved the shell of their mother. She then followed their agreed upon protocol and alerted her three sisters.
By the light of day, the sisters arrived. Each in turn entered the room and, in their way, told their mother good-bye. She was dead and there was no rush to call the arranged for funeral home, so the four did what they had done for the last eight years. Other calls were made and they stripped her worn body before washing it. One combed her hair and snipped six curls, one for each of her children. Another carefully chose a favorite gown and they polished her nails. After love’s labor was done, one called the funeral home.
Together they watched their mother taken from 312, the address of her dear mill house where she had reared them and their brothers. Her journey over, the four knew that they had prepared her well. She and now they began a new slice of life.