Did you ever think to yourself, if only I had done this? I should have known better. Why wasn't I there?

There are so many forms of imprisonment. But the harshest form of prison is the cell we condemn ourselves to. We become our own judge and jury. The sentence is life. No parole. Throw away the key.

The self-imposed demons that inhabit our minds monopolize our abilities. Instead of living in the world around us, we live in a world of our own creation. And time stands still for no one.

My heart was bleeding and my soul ached for that golden opportunity to change the natural course of life's events. An opportunity that could never have been.

My heart was bleeding and my soul achedI wanted to be free of the thoughts that kept me in bondage, but I didn't know how to let go. I couldn't talk about it. I was so ashamed. I have always believed that releasing your secrets set you free, but I was afraid of the price, I was afraid of being judged.

Today a dear rabbi called to say hello. Though it is Sunday, and he may not be in his office, he thinks of me. I met this rabbi many years ago, when he was making his rounds at a hospital and he stopped in Mother's room to visit, may she rest in peace. The wonderful rabbi has continued to do his best to guide me in the seven years now since Mother has passed. I must say I have not always made this task an easy one. Today seemed as if it was going to be one of those days. But something different was about to happen. Neither one of us could have ever predicted the outcome.

A few minutes into the conversation I began to speak about my Mother. I miss her so much. The Rabbi said, "Edith, you're still grieving for your Mother and it is killing you. I don't know what I can say to you anymore. I don't know how I can help you with your grief."

"But, but Rabbi, it was my fault Mama passed. I... I didn't check the nasal cannula. I should have."

This was the one and only time I asked the nurse to do it. Mother was on her side as I was dressing a wound. I provided all the medical care. The nurses would only assist. Whenever Mother was on her side, it was important to loosen the nasal cannula from around her neck.

Mother wasn't feeling well and it was taking me longer than usual. I got nervous that I was keeping the nurse too long, so I was rushing and didn't check for myself if the nasal cannula was loose enough. I kept asking the nurse, "Are you sure you checked the nasal cannula? It isn't too tight?" She kept smiling pleasantly and repeating, "No, it's fine."

Mama had already lost all colorThen the time came to turn Mama over. My world collapsed! Oh, my G‑d – the nasal cannula! It choked her! But the nurse looked at me and said she was fine. I just looked back at her in utter disbelief. Was she blind? Mama had already lost all color in her face. I had to keep repeating to her, "No, no, look at Mama! She is not breathing!"

A couple of minutes passed. It felt like an eternity. I just stood there. My heart was pounding. The world felt like it had come to an end. The nurse finally realized what had happened. She started screaming for help. Staff came running with a crash cart. One injection after another they gave Mother, trying to restart her heart again. All in vain. It was too late.

One nurse tried to escort me from the room, but I wouldn't leave. I'll never forget her face. She couldn't look at me. I just paced back and forth and kept repeating "chemical code," which meant they could give Mother drug injections, but no heroic measures were to be taken. No CPR, no respirator. Mother had not wanted to live as a vegetable. No one ever thought when the time came I would have the strength to follow through with Mother's wishes, but I never doubted myself for a second.1

Finally, I agreed to sit outside the room. The nurse called a dear friend of mine. We barely talked, but it was comforting to hear his voice on the other end. Mother's attending doctor came out of her room with tears in his eyes. Though I knew the answer, I still asked, "Did she make it?" He just shook his head and walked away. He was in too much pain.

I screamed so loud my voice echoed through the corridors. I took the phone and threw it. I went back in the room and sat down next to Mama. I kissed her. My sweet, beautiful, Yiddishe Mama. I sat down and held her soft hand.

Just then the chaplain rabbi appeared. I asked him to call my rabbi. We spoke briefly to make arrangements. He has always been a man of few words. Though now as I held the phone to my ear, there was mostly an awkward silence. He too was mourning for me, but I understood. I knew he felt my pain.

The nurse asked whom she could call. I asked for Mother's two regular doctors. They dropped everything and came to be with me. The first one arrived and sat with me over an hour as I told him what had taken place. He agreed with me it was pointless to do an autopsy. I knew this was not allowed in Judaism. It was time to let Mama rest. The next one, who had been by our side for many years arrived, his eyes sad, and asked me if I was okay.

My rabbi interrupts my memories, "Edith, I know all this."

"Rabbi, how can you tell me it isn't my fault?""Then, Rabbi, how can you tell me it isn't my fault? Mama choked to death. How can this be G‑d's will? I know it was an accident by the nurse, but I knew better, Rabbi. I have no peace. I didn't protect Mama. Mama was on her side, I was changing her bandages, you know I never let them do anything."

The tears were streaming down my face. I was crying so hard I don't know how the rabbi could make sense of my words.

"Rabbi, I should have checked it. I should have."

"Edith, you gave Mama a thousand more days then she would have ever had. You took wonderful care of your Mother. Edith, I believe it was your Mother's time. Your Mother was suffering."

"Yes, Rabbi, I know Mama needed to rest, but not like that."

I couldn't hear him. I just kept on crying.

Then all of a sudden my rabbi said, "Edith, stop, stop. I want you to repeat a prayer first in Hebrew, then we will say it in English. 'Baruch Dayan HaEmet. Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the universe, the True Judge.' Edith, if you truly believe in G‑d, then you will know it was His doing."

"Rabbi, when I go to the cemetery to visit Mama I ask for forgiveness."

"You don't have to, Edith. Don't ask anymore. There is nothing to forgive."

Something happened. I felt different. It was instant. For the first time since my mother passed, I could finally breathe. I was free.

I still miss my beloved mother, but I miss her differently now. Peacefully.