When I arrived at the hospital on Tuesday morning, I knew we were nearing the end. The nurses said she’d been waiting for me.
Through a thick oxygen mask and without her teeth, she said quite forcefully: “Bring…everyone…here…now!” And she paused, as she always did, and reiterated: “EVERYONE!”
Within five minutes I was on the phone to everyone in her tiny world, letting ‘em know that Liz was summoning all of her loved ones to see her one last time. We never wanted her to know she was dying but sometime over the weekend, she figured it out. On Monday morning, she asked me: “Am I finished?” Knowing her 98-year history and her legendary toughness, I told her, “Not yet because we’re still here talking!” I told her that I still wasn’t betting against her. She laughed, just like she always did even amidst the discomfort of struggling for every breath.
On Tuesday afternoon, her beloved sister and nieces and nephews arrived from Delaware at 4:30. They stayed with her until 7:30. I left her with our beloved neighbor and my stepbrother and planned to return around midnight to take over the nightshift. My radio at WNST was mostly done for the week and I was ready to stay up late watching the Orioles and camp with her until the end – whenever the end was. The doctors informed me earlier in the week that this was not going to have a happy ending because she had lost her ability to swallow food.
Amazingly, she was completely coherent and communicative until the very end. When I left her on Tuesday night with eight members of our family at 7 p.m., it felt as though she would continue to suffer and struggle more – maybe even for days. Instead, her body failed at 8:25 and she was gone by 9 p.m. She gathered her family and said goodbye to us in her own memorable way. She stayed alive solely to see her 93-year old sister, who was always the most cherished member of her family.
I thought I would be there for her last breath. That was the plan. Instead, I was with a dear old rock and roll and high school chum at a Thai restaurant ordering a beer. As the waitress told me, “We don’t have that beer,” my phone rang simultaneously.
The doctor told me that my Mom had lost vitals.
Less than 30 minutes later, Eliza Allen McGurgan was gone.
She died, literally, while I was ordering a beer.
It’s incredible – almost inconceivable.
I have no regrets. Zero. She didn’t want me to see her die. She chose to die with