It's impossible to say, given her lifelong strength and determination which has been pitted against the vagaries of a brain tumor slowly squeezing out cognition and challenging body function.
And so we who love her fiercely (each in our own particular way) sit vigil. We count breaths. We rub Vitamin E on her lips and swab her mouth with glycerin. We talk to her. We comb her hair. We scratch her back the way she used to love. We pray with the priest who missed just one beat when we confessed she wasn't officially a Roman Catholic, but she was catholic in spirit. We rub lotion on her arms. We look at pictures of her giggling with delight over her grandchildren and her greats.
Does she need us here? Doubtful. She has always been strong and independent, resourceful and private. An Army nurse in wartime, who tended poor souls released from concentration camps and cared for burn victims. A sister. A mother of three boys, now men with families of their own. A student of thrift who spent money reluctantly and saved money religiously. A quilter. A walker. A modest woman who was more interested in helping than being helped. In listening than in talking.
Do I need to be here? Absolutely.
She is my mother-in-law, the woman I met the day her son and I told her we were having a baby. Not something she necessarily wanted to hear from a child still in college, but news she met with grace and warmth. She welcomed me that day, some 37 years ago, and she, a woman who was not known for her displays of affection, made clear she loved me every day since then.
What can I do for her now? I can talk to her; I can tell her I love her. Can she hear me? Doubtful. I can rub more lotion on her arms. I can straighten the sheet that covers her. I can hold her while the nurse swabs the blisters forming from too long in bed. I can comb her hair. I can squeeze her hand. Does she know any of this? I can't know.
But I do know this: I know it matters to me. I accept that my vigil here is as much for me as it is for her. I love you, Roberta Joan Brady, and I am honored that you loved me. That is more than enough.