The whole process was surreal. She was in a nursing home and had a stroke. We didn't want her to be alone, so I offered to sleep in a hospital bed next to hers until she died.
That week in the room with her was strange. She was non-responsive. I feel like I slept in the valley of the shadow of death. And you know what? I feared no evil. There was no evil, only death and dying. Death is not evil, it is just relentlessly sad.
My Mom was a devout, old-time Catholic. She once told me that the Prayer of St. Michael the Archangel was her favorite prayer and she wanted it read after she died. Within minutes of her last breath, I googled that Leonine prayer (written about 1886), stood up and told my siblings I was going to read it because she asked.
I was not the least bit familiar with this prayer. When I started reading it aloud I was a bit spooked, but I soldiered on. My siblings looked at me like they thought I'd lost my mind. Perhaps I had.
"Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen."
It seemed like a magical invocation. I was calling out the big guns, the ultimate bad ass, an angelic warrior named Michael! In doing so, I made a plea for her safety on that journey only the dead will take. Honestly, I don't think I COULD have read it out loud if I had been in my right mind.
Turns out Archangels have job descriptions. According to Wikipedia:
"Michael is the angel of death, carrying the souls of all the deceased to heaven. In this role Michael descends at the hour of death, and gives each soul the chance to redeem itself before passing; thus consternating the devil and his minions."
I didn't know this until today when I looked him up. My Mom would have known and believed. At the end, she deserved better than me, an agnostic drama queen.