26: Drop a Dime

26: Drop a Dime

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels and Miracles

Drop a Dime

The tie which links mother and child is of such pure and immaculate strength as to be never violated.

~Washington Irving

My mother lay on her bed, silent, breathing quietly and peacefully in her morphine-induced coma. Lymphoma was ending her life. As I sat next to her, I took her hand.

The part of me that wanted this over, wanted her to leave our world and therefore her pain, wrestled mightily with the larger part that couldn’t imagine life without my mom. Although it seems trite to say that we were best friends, it was nonetheless true. She and I had a bond beyond mother and daughter; throughout my life she had been my mentor, my shopping companion, my greatest fan and my support. There was no topic that was taboo between us, no conversation that we felt compelled to avoid. We laughed shamelessly when we were together, forgetting the politeness that normally checked our attitudes, and finding fun in the mundane. We simply enjoyed each other’s company.

She had been suffering from a form of dementia for a couple of years; one that violated her short-term memory but allowed her personality and long-term memory to remain intact. And then she was diagnosed with a rare lymphoma. An intense, difficult chemotherapy was offered to possibly prolong her life and she was involved in the decision to decline the treatment. Mom shrugged, “We all have to die sometime; I want to live until I die.”

I travelled to my parents’ house the day before Mom’s birthday. The plan was to stay the night and decorate the house for her party, which many of our extended family members were expected to attend. But that evening, when Mom labored to her feet, Dad and I exchanged glances as her once normal gait became a shuffle. I pulled him aside and shared my concern: “Either it’s reached her brain or she’s just had a stroke.”

We helped her into her bedroom. It was the last time she would have to climb the short staircase.

I slept on their couch that night, with the intercom nearby should Dad need help. Mom had come down with a painful case of shingles and was on regular medication so I heard Dad shut off his alarm during the night and say, “Come on, baby, here’s your pill.” The love and affection was so clear in his tone. They had been together since Mom was fifteen and Dad was seventeen.

The next day, Mom’s loved ones surrounded her bed in celebration of the seventy-five years she had graced the earth. With assistance, she enjoyed opening her gifts.

I had to return home that night, a ninety-minute drive away, since my husband had just set out for a long-ago-planned camping trip and we have many animals in our family. But the next day found me back and my husband returning home, as it had become apparent that Mom was dying.

I entered her bedroom, unable to hide my shock when I saw the sudden decline in her condition. “I love you, Mom,” I managed to say through the knot that was now in my throat. She smiled, “I love you too, honey.”

She looked at me in earnest, “I am not afraid,” she whispered, clearly but with decided importance. With lips pressed between my teeth to quell the quivering, I nodded my reply.

The next couple of days were fraught with the difficulties of navigating the health care system. It seemed that the normal resources for the dying were not available to us. Even hospice had too many people to deal with. Mom’s doctor was on vacation and his replacement was gone for the weekend. Our community nurse was also on vacation. Thankfully, before she left, she placed a standing order for morphine injections if needed. As it became more and more evident that Mom was becoming anxious and feeling a lot of pain, we called in that order.

Once the first dose of morphine was administered, Mom relaxed and slept. We became acutely aware of when the next dose was needed so that the pain and panic would not upset her again.

Early on the third day after her birthday, Mom took her last, peaceful breath, as her husband and many of her family were near. We all said our goodbyes, cried our sadness-filled relief, and then one by one, we went downstairs to make coffee and phone calls.

I returned, alone, and sat next to her. As is often the way with grief, it held itself at bay, allowing me to process all the other information and emotions. “Mom, say ‘hi’ to our twins for me. And Mom, when you come around to visit, drop coins, especially dimes, so we’ll know it’s you.”

Shortly thereafter, the dimes began to appear. Our oldest son, Jordan, found them in hallways, at the bottom of the outside steps of a building in which he’d just applied for a job, which he got, and at a movie theater.

I was telling a dear friend about the experience, via telephone, when I looked over at Mom’s old typewriter table. A lone dime was sitting there. Another dime presented itself on a table in a hotel in which I was hanging one of my photo-art pieces.

A few days later, on the birthday of our youngest son, Ben, I took him for lunch. Afterward he called: “Um, I just thought I’d tell you what happened. I went to Rucker’s to play some DDR. I’d done a few dances and was getting pretty thirsty so I decided to play one more and then get a pop. I put in the token and nothing happened, so I pressed the release. Out came $1.75 in quarters, plus one dime.”

My dad and I found two dimes at the funeral home as we were making arrangements.

On the morning of Mom’s memorial service, my cousin, Rhonda, and I stopped at the drug store. I’d hoped to find a dime that day, but hadn’t. As we waited for the cashier, there, on the counter, was a dime. I pointed it out to Rhonda and the puzzled cashier said, “I just found it on the floor, right where you’re standing, so I put it there.” When I told her the story, she shivered, and said, “Take it.”

I wore one of my mom’s small purses to the service. It had room only for some much needed tissues, my driver’s license and my keys. When I got home and emptied it, out dropped a dime. “Well done, Mom,” I chuckled.

It’s been nine years of living without Mom, and the dimes are found less frequently. But, when life throws struggles my way, a dime appears, the darkness lifts, and with deep gratitude to the soul who wove her essence into my own, I smile and say, “Hi, Mom. And thanks.”

~Diane C. Nicholson

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