My mother’s first attempt at dying, the first I knew of anyway, occurred on February 5, 2011, nine days after her eighty-ninth birthday. I was working at my sister’s design firm in Grand Rapids, Michigan, making extra cash to keep my struggling Los Angeles snack food business afloat. My bachelor life made the journey back and forth between the Pacific and the Lake Michigan coasts easy, even for weeks at a time. I had no children and few responsibilities outside of work, but that all changed when the call came.
After several days of little change, we all came to terms that our mother was leaving us, comforted only by the fact that she appeared to be in no pain. We kids took turns sleeping next to her, just in case. Though Mom spoke no words, she responded to touch by squeezing our hands, shifting her body, or moaning softly when we touched foreheads. On the rare occasion she opened her eyes, she focused solely on the upper corner of the room. Was someone beckoning her? She wouldn’t say.