Yesterday, at 9am, my Aunt Karen passed away. She entered a coma like state the day before. We received a phone call around 6am that she had taken a turn for the worse. When my parents and I arrived, she was struggling with her breathing, sounding much like a coffee maker or percolator.
My mother was at her side the entire time. My Aunt had made my mother promise that she (my mother) would tell her when it was time to go. After getting permission, the breathing became less strained. As her pulse began to grow fainter, we prayed around her, and I traced the sign of the cross on her forehead. She took three gasps of air, squeezed my mother's hand tightly, and died.
According to the nursing staff, by the smooth and calm look on her face, she was not in any pain. Thankfully, she had a rather peaceful end to a horrible disease. She was 52 years old.
Hospice is a wonderful organization, and the staff there have been wonderful to my Aunt and family. They have a policy of having their patients leave through the front door, just as they entered, not sneaking them out the back, but letting them leave with dignity. The staff who knew my Aunt washed her and prepared her to be transferred to the mortuary. When the undertaker arrived (old schoolmates of my Aunt and Mother), my Mom, Dad, God Mother, and childhood friend of my Aunt's escorted the body outside, along with the nursing staff in procession. My mother thought it suiting that she was being taken back to Riverside-Buffalo (the section of Buffalo they grew up in) in an old Caprice Station Wagon... just like the type my grandfather used to drive.
It's been hard at times for us, as we lost a remarkable woman, full of kindness and generosity, but we also feel a great sense of relief. Her long and painful journey is at an end. Aunt Karen died on my Grandmother's (her mother) birthday. I'm sure the party she arrived to in Heaven was like nothing we ever experienced here on Earth.
Eternal Rest grant unto her O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, Rest in Peace. Amen