My mother, Jeanne B. Olin was an earthbound angel, before she left us the morning of April 19, after complications with pneumonia. It was a cold and rainy morning, filled with tears and sadness, but the peace that filled the air around her was like an umbrella of light, love and renewal. My sister and I credit this to one wonderful angel that came to us the night before: Anna Hogan.
Mom was in great pain, struggling desperately for breath, unable to communicate, eat or drink. Our worst nightmare was taking place in front of our eyes and we felt helpless and unable to bring her any relief or comfort, until Anna Hogan arrived. She walked into Mom’s curtained-off room, smiling gently through the rain still glistening on her face. Calmly and succinctly, she reviewed Mom’s situation, symptoms and final requests, making it a point to learn the essence of our relationship together. Janet, my sister, told her of Mom’s secret desire not to “die in front of her children”. After hearing all she needed, Anna stood and softly explained what was happening, what we should expect and what needed to be done for Mom’s comfort…and our own.
“Your mother has been a proud woman all her life…in her appearance, the way she lived and how she raised you. It is bothering her to be untidy…to be losing control… and she doesn’t want the image of her death to be the last image you have of her. Let’s give her the dignity she deserves, as the living, loving and beautiful human being she is…while she is still here with us.”
With that, Anna directed me out of the room, while she and Janet freshened Mom up every way they could. Instantly you could see the difference it made to Mom… and us. Mom’s breathing calmed down, her fever lowered; the pain seemed to have eased. Peace was returning to the room.
Then Anna explained that Mom’s vitals were waning and how all systems were shutting down, one-by-one. Reverently she said, “Jeanne is now dying. She may hold on for two more hours or two more days. It is hard to tell. But I am fairly certain your Mom will not pass in your presence. So for her sake and your own, you should prepare your final goodbyes to her now, just in case.”
We all prayed together, cried together and said our goodbyes together, before hugging and driving off separately into the night. Hours later, just before dawn, while Janet and I were driving back, Mom peacefully passed away…the way she wanted…quietly in the presence of her friends at CenterPoint.
Anna was right. She knew Mom’s heart…and ours. Like an enlightened spiritual guide, she led us through this foreign journey of death and dying, much like an experienced caddie at a golf course you’ve never played before and only get one chance to get it right. We weren’t afraid of the situation; we just didn’t want to make any mistakes that could be avoided for Mom’s sake…her comfort…her last chapter.
So today, from our family, to Anna Hogan and her family in Quincy: Thank you Anna! for being our Angel…and our Mom’s.
Anna Hogan is a veteran nurse and hospice attendant at Big Bend Hospice in Tallahassee. Jean Olin lived in Quincy. Rob Olin and Janet Olin live at St. George Island.