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Image I kiss my mother gently on her forehead.

Sometimes she stirs, wakes up momentarily and says, "Hey baby!"

Other times she just sleeps, unaware of my presence.

Visiting mom every weekend in The Heights nursing home in Gonzales is something I've done for more than a year now -- and off and on for more than three years as she had been in and out of the facility multiple times since 2009. But she's in for good now and we both know it.

She turned 80 in January and the flowers and balloon I brought her were still on her dresser when I visited last weekend.

The days I catch her awake, our chats are usually brief. She rarely initiates a conversation and her responses are short. Sometimes the television is on, more often it's not. Our mutual love of watching the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves, are an activity of the past.

The spark is gone from her eyes, replaced by mostly vacant, sometimes confused stares.

But I sit with her for awhile. Talking about my life, my job, sports,the news of the day, whatever comes to mind. She might acknowledge me. She might turn over and go back to sleep.

Visits I used to look forward to when she was at home, and even at times when she was more alert in the nursing home, are now bittersweet.

In December at the nursing home staff's suggestion, representatives from Hospice of South Texas began visiting mom, too. They call me regularly with updates. Mom seems to get invigorated by their visits, I am told, especially when they wheel her out of her room for the Sunday church service and singing, another activity she enjoyed regularly when she lived at home.

I am grateful for Hospice. They are offering mother comforting words and a hand to hold. Hospice helps. Even when I can't.