But their closest time was over the last three years, when she lived in my home. Having grown frail and mostly blind, my mother couldn't quite manage on her own anymore, so she moved into an apartment in my house. She still insisted on preparing her own meals and shopping for her favorites: ice cream, brownies and frozen enchiladas. She got to know all nine of her great-grandchildren (the youngest born just before we moved back to Colorado this past summer), and each of her grandsons came to see her in Boulder before she died.
She spent her last days in a nursing home after breaking her hip in October. But her spirit never changed. I visited her every day and she always had a smile for me -- and a list of treats she wanted me to bring her: more brownies, Christmas cookies, a hamburger and fries. But nothing ever tasted quite as good as she remembered, and she began to whither away.
I spent the last 16 hours of her life at her bedside, stroking her forehead and holding her hand. Her beautiful eyes were wide open, but she couldn't talk. But I knew she could hear everything around her. When visitors commented on how beautiful she still was with her bright eyes and flawless, unlined skin, she'd lift her eyebrows as if to say, "Really?"
Finally, I told her that her husband and children were waiting for her, and that my little sister Wendy had been waiting so long to see her mommy again. She exhaled one last time, and she was gone. It was serene and affirming -- and filled me with a sense that death is not so scary after all but the culmination of a life well-lived.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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