She went into the hospital on Tuesday to get help for some anemia issues that were taking their toll on her energy and were affecting her breathing and her lungs. I'm so grateful I talked to her that morning - and nothing n particular, I can't remember what we discussed- it was just a casual chat.

That night she had a heart attack, but was stable soon after.

Her lungs and heart had clots which we didn't know about, and they put her on oxygen and found she could not live without it at this point. We hoped to get her to a state where she could live with full time care in her home, even if it meant a day or weeks. The day after her heart attack, I was able to talk to her. She was so adamant that I 'hang tight' and that she was going to be fine.

She kept repeating, "Don't worry, please don't worry, I'm going to be fine." I was emotional, cried, and told her "I love you, Martyn loves you," and she said she loved us too, but went on, "I'm going to be OK, don't worry."

I told her I wasn't ready to lose her, and she said she wasn't ready to go. And she meant it.

Always the mother.

I hung up the phone and had the hope of a ten year old when they hear their mother say it is going to be OK. I wanted it to be true. But I felt the ground leave, I felt my heart swept up into my throat. I felt strange.

And I cried, and got angry with the Sky, and God, and the Universe.

"Damn you! She just got settled, she is having fun, she wanted to see us! Give her a month, please, a month!"

Even the shepherdess needs a mother.

My mother had lost my father five years early in home hospice when he was 83. She lived alone in their Minneaolis condo, suffering through a bleak winter, and then she moved to California to be with my brother. She had found a lovely little bungalow rental on a golf course in Santa Rosa, 5 minutes from my only brother, and was enjoying golfing and getting to know the area. She'd been in California a couple years. She still drove her little green vintage VW convertible. And she loved knowing Martyn and I were two weeks from coming down again - when we'd do what we always do - share wonderful meals and chats around the same dining room table we'd had since I was a baby.

There was no trauma that night for her, and the next morning I went riding to relax. Upon returning, I had a call from my brother who had a more dire outlook from the doctor. She wanted no heroics, and her choices were looking like a bleak two: take the oxygen off and die, or leave it on and die in a week or two. But the doctor also said, "We won't have the conversation with her yet, because there are some good signs too.Let's just wait a bit."

When I asked my brother if I could talk to her, she waved her hand as if to say, "Not now, later". I felt she was detaching, but now I think she was still convinced she could beat it if she just kept the oxygen on.

Even though a day earlier she seemed able to pull it out, giving me her "Sit tight" command, I decided to drive down from Oregon to California on Saturday, the quickest I could line up farm help and vet care.

The same time that day I was figuring out how to leave the farm, she was dying. As one of my closest childhood friends said,

"She went out being Kelly, she didn't want you stressing about getting there and driving 13 hours and that was her final motherly gift to you."

I take great comfort in the ICU nurse telling of her last moments. She had the attack with the nurse present, and it was not violent. On pain meds, it lessened any intense pain. The nurse gave her water, helping her hold the glass. The nurse asked her,

"Are you done [with the water]?"

and my mother said, impishly, calmly, "Done, Dunn and done."

And she died, with a smile on her face.

Her last three words captured her North Dakotan humor, explaining she was done with the water, her name was Dunn, and she was done - with life. The nurse said she was clear and coherent about what was happening, and not panicked. I believe until that last moment, she tried to beat it, and wanted to beat it, and thought she'd beat it. But her body couldn't beat it. That last second, when she knew, she just faced it, and went, just like my mother handles all adversity.

She could have lingered, could have stroked - so many things. So I am grateful. I have no regrets. We lived our love out loud in actions.

Would it have helped her to have her here one more day, or month? I guess not, but it hurts me to know she didn't plan on dying. But who does?