This photo was taken just one week before on June 21st. Marie, Lori and Kristen had scheduled a visit on this date back in the winter. I was planning on having a bar-b-q on Mom’s deck, I realized that would be a very big and tiring thing for her, but at the time I felt she was up to it. As the following months proceeded Mom got weaker and weaker, something had changed in her, she was tired of living like this. On oxygen most of the time and going to the bathroom was so very tiring for her.
Both Emily and Corrine also happened to be here and living either at home or in the area and so we were able to get this incredible photo of all the grandchildren and three great grandchildren with Mom.
After this photo was taken and everyone left, I tried to get Mom to eat a scrambled egg. She hardly had eaten the day before, but again she couldn’t eat, she couldn’t swallow she told me. When she seemed in a bad state I would sleep over, as it was on this day. I would sleep in the upstairs bedroom with the door open, and on this night I heard Mom crying and asking for help. I had set up the portable potty next to the couch where she had been sleeping. Although it was only a drop, the bleach in the potty irritated her and also sitting on the potty seat hurt her bones. She was down to 85 pounds and literally just skin and bones.
I got her back on the couch and she started retching, although nothing was coming up, we held each other for the rest of the night and drifted in and out of sleep together. I was asking for my Father to come and get her, and talking to her about ancestors and how they were ready for her. The next morning she couldn’t swallow and she couldn’t take her pain medication, so she was in agony and pleaded to go to the hospital.
The plan was always to pass at home but she needed some expert help and so we got the ambulance to take her in and in the hospital we found out that hospice would take her on as a patient. Her regular doctor had just retired and so we had to find a new doctor that would clear the Medicare hurdle to get her registered with hospice.
Mom spent three days in the hospital, getting fluids and eating a little food, but sleeping most of the time and finding out that she had kidney failure and more than likely was in her last days. Hospice came to her home with a hospital bed and everything she needed, including pain relief drops so that she could rest comfortably.
When we first brought her home on a Wednesday afternoon, we set her up in her room and she could look out two windows from her bed and see the forest that she loved living in. She immediately saw Corrine but called her Emily and then realized it was Corrine, she then asked for Emily and we immediately called her up and she was there within minutes. Mom asked for Corrine and Sue and then she called for me, her Little Boy, she never called me that. But she told us each that she loved us.
Then she closed her eyes and rested, I don’t believe she opened them again. She was cognizant and could hear us, so that day and on Thursday when she was awake we were able to talk to her, read her favorite poets and just let her know that we were there for her. She was not eating or drinking, but we were able to put drops of water into her mouth. At one point I asked her if she would like a little coffee and she smiled, so I brewed her and she managed to take three eye droppers worth and then the very last food she had was a little piece of chocolate.
She closed off Thursday night and went to some place to wait it out while her body slowly shut down. She was just a month from her 97th birthday, and now she didn’t show any signs of being cognizant of her surroundings. Hospice had outlined the dying process for us and what to expect, so it was comforting and a relief to know what was going on, she was dying from old age.
Whether she knew we were there or not it didn’t matter, because we continued to talk to her about all things. I talked about some of the hikes we took and how she helped my children grow up and thanked her for introducing me to the Adirondacks and eventually my wife Sue.
Not much change on Saturday morning, I was talking to her about our ancestors, because that was a big interest of hers and then about 1:45 pm I was totally exhausted and I told Corrine that I needed to go home and rest for a bit in my own bed. I was just getting into bed when the phone rang, Mom had passed. Sue, Emily and I got back to the house about 2:10 and was able to be with her for the next two hours till the funeral home came and took her body.
Mom and I talked about death many times over the last years, mostly in the last couple as she continued to loose her precious energy and abilities that a healthy person quite often takes for granted. But it was a time to question her about family life and all her memories. To compare her life to mine and my children’s and to see and understand the importance of continuance. To understand how we are here today on the back of the history of all of our ancestors, they cleared the land for us, they labored and educated themselves for us, quite often the following generations will reap the good fortune and hard labor of those who came before.
Mom went to Catholic School as a child, grew up Christian. I remember when her Mother Anna lived with us and I would go to Catholic Mass with her. I was confirmed into the Episcopalian Church and we also once belonged to a Protestant church. But I found Mom more and more questioning religion as I was. She was so interested in science and subscribed to several science magazines as well as devouring the Great Courses classes. Here was a woman who’s father she never knew because of WWI, lived through the depression, got married just before WWII and started having a family at the age of 30. Saw the cold war and threat of atomic weapons, saw her son drafted into the army and sent to Vietnam. Her husband died just before he retired and she moved to the woods.
Mom was very progressive in her thought in her nineties, I often wondered if it had to do with just the experience of being old. As she approached 97 I kept thinking of how few people in the world are that old and what a rare occurrence that my Mom is one and that I get to take care of her and talk with her.
It was a family moment that I will cherish forever and learn from forever. It was love and family responsibility that drove me to take on the responsibility of my Mother in her old age. It began 15 years ago after a car accident, but that only lasted about 6 months and then she was fine on her own again. But then the last four years after a bout of pneumonia and a mild heart attack she began a long process of getting weaker and weaker.
Wow, what a woman to have accomplished what she did, and provide so much guidance and love for so many members of her family and community.
Sue made this urn for Mom’s ashes
Below is the obituary I wrote for Mom………
Mildred Mary (Schwimn) Young, 96, of Jay N.Y. Born in New York City August 7, 1917, has died peacefully in her home with her family by her side on June 28 2014. Daughter of Anna Duffy and Emil Schwimn, Mildred was pre-deceased by her Husband Warren Arthur Young who died in 1977, and her sister, Eunice McGarvey of Saratoga N.Y.
Mildred is survived by son, Terrance D. of Jay N.Y.; and 5 Grandchildren, Marie Young, Lori Vincent, Kristen Esones, Corrine Young and Emily Young; three great-grandchildren, Molly, Sarah and Austin and many nieces and nephews.
Born at the beginning of WWI in Manhattan , N.Y. , she was raised in Brooklyn , N.Y. Married Warren A. Young in 1941 just before WWII broke out. Warren joined the Air Force and Mildred worked for Sperry Gyroscope, finding out after the war she had been working on the Norden Bomb Site System which greatly helped the war effort.
Mildred also did much volunteering in local hospitals were she lived after the war and then moved to Queens County, N.Y. , to raise a family. After her son was older she worked for and became a buyer for Sporting Goods at the May’s Department Stores.
Mildred had a quest for knowledge that included her learning several languages, Latin, German and Russian. In later years she delved into Scientific Magazines and Mental Mathematical challenges. Always wanting to learn she had a large selection of Great Courses books with subjects as diverse as History of Jazz to the History of Languages.
Mildred was a private pilot, flying out of Zahns airport on Long Island , she was a member of the all woman’s flying organization, the ’99’s, and competed in one of their Powder Puff Derbies. Mildred also enjoyed learning aerobatic flying and flew mostly over Long Island and her beloved Jones Beach where she spent much time swimming in the ocean, teaching her boy to swim and fishing with her husband either in the bays or for Stripers in the Atlantic surf.
Mildred was a member of the Long Island Art league and under the direction of Ruby Roth had one of her paintings selected for a tour of Japan .
Mildred moved to the Adirondacks in 1979 and worked at the Olympic Village during the Lake Placid Games. She enjoyed hiking, quilting, painting and taking care of her grandchildren. Mildred became a Literacy Volunteer as well as the first secretary for the Jay Entertainment and Music Society.
Mildred’s quick wit and positive outlook on life will always be remembered and will continue to be an inspiration to her family. She was a wonderful supportive mother and nurturing grandmother who’s grandchildren learned many skills and life lessons at ” Grandma School “