Strange viewpoint from a 50something

Posts tagged ‘dying’

Momma…

She’s gone.

I don’t know that I have processed it fully. My brother called me this morning to let me know she died in her sleep. I was not prepared for the news. My greatest fear has now been realized. I will not see her again in this life. My heart is heavy, those feelings of love and hurt are so thick.

After about a hundred phones calls and 3/4 box of tissues, it has been decided I will return to St Louis tomorrow. My sister is due to fly in Thursday. There’s not much else for us to do at this point, except be together. My Mom’s wishes were very clear and easy. She did it that way for us. So, we will get together as siblings and we will cry and we will remember and we will cry some more. Our time there will be limited so the task of taking care of her things… ugh… I can’t even fathom. But it has to be done. And by us. Together. Just like she wanted.

I looked at myself in the mirror a while ago.. the older me on the outside shows the signs of hours of crying with puffy eyes and a pink tissue abused nose. And deep in my eyes… I saw my little-girl self looking back asking, “what’m I gonna do now?”

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Living While Dying..

I’ve spent the last week tending to my Mom. The time has been fun and easy, as she is such a good soul. She doesn’t require much ‘babysitting’, in fact she hates the hovering! Still the most independent person I know, she insists things go her way. And as restricted as she is, she wants the last word!! Haha!! The most that I have been doing is cooking her meals and making sure her coffee maker (which is positioned next to her bed) is ready to go for the next day.

We had a visit yesterday from one of her doctors. (Who knew some still make house calls!?!?) I found out after he had left that it wasn’t a doctor/patient visit… he came and sat with my Mom as a friend. I am… overwhelmed. This man took time out of his day and came to her home, and just visited. And when he left… he hugged my Mom. In this day and age, any doctor who takes a personal interest (like this housecall) in their patients is so very rare. And you could tell, as they interacted, that his concern was genuine.

In 90% of her mind she is sure that this way of life will not last long… (and I am NOT talking about her anticipating her death here!) she is determined to live life on her terms! She truly believes that she will work herself back to life lived alone. I love her spunk and determination.. even if she tires easily she still wants to do it herself. Currently she can only move herself from bed to bathroom, and back again. Or from bed to her chair in living room. Now these excursions are not more than 10 to 15 ft, but it takes a good 10 minutes for her to recover.. the air use to just move that little bit of space overloads her very damaged lungs. She is such a trooper though… still believing that she can bring herself back. From where I sit, I don’t see how she can recover from all the damage, but I do see a woman who has great hope and faith. Talking to my sister by phone, we came to the same conclusion… it’s because of that hope and faith that she is doing as well as she is. Had she gone into some sort of care facility or senior home, she would have already given up and died. But being at home, in her own environment… that’s made the difference.
The other 10% of her mind is spent thinking of all the things she wants everyone to have. Out of the blue she will direct me to something stashed somewhere in her huge house and tell me to get it out and give it to ______ (insert name here). Nothing found is super important.. (bows for my daughter?!) but to her it’s very important! While I’m here, any request to do anything will be fulfilled. No matter how insignifigant it might seem to me, if she asks I will answer.

The funny thing about all this is the term – “death watch”. The sibs and I were told that she is going to die. The doctor explained that she didn’t have long to live. But the more I think of that.. the more I realize how stupid it is. Death watch. We are all on it. And not just for other people but for ourselves as well. (I remember when I was young and I finally understood what death meant… damn I was mad!! In my little girl mind I just kept coming back to one thought… why would people bring children into this world knowing that the end result is death? How unfair!!) So what makes this different? We are all going to die. So because of Mom’s unique situation, we are suppose to sit around and wait for her death? My Mom isn’t. And what am I learning? That I won’t either. Her inspiration is so very strong and I hear it loud and clear!!

What a turn of events… this living while dying thing.

Mom, we’re on our way…

8 hours of driving. Of wondering, speculating, crying, wishing and fearing the unknown. I went straight to the hospital where my brother met me. Never saw this before… the worry mixed with relief on his face. As we walked in, he talked a mile a minute, explaining what I was walking into. We got to her room and I peered in the window. Her frail frame laying in the bed. Angry looking contraption on her face. The tv was on and I kinda hoped she was awake, but she was asleep. Kenny and I decided to find some coffee and check in on her in a bit. Again, he filled me in on everything. Doctors, medical status, her paperwork… it went on. We cried and we laughed and we worried together for the first time in years.
Mom was asleep still when we checked on her again. I was tired. He was tired. So it was decided we would return in the morning. We got to his house and I think we were still a little wound up so we went through some of the paperwork, and the pad of paper he was reading all this overwhelming information from was in his handwriting. He has spent these last few days investigating all the medical aspects and all the legal aspects. The time he must have spent to have so much information! I was quietly impressed, and secretly relieved.
I am nervous as we drive there the next day… how am I going to handle seeing her in such a sad state? How will put on that brave face and not show the fear I feel? Every step closer to her room my feet seem to gain weight.
Deep breath, I walk through the door and there she is… sitting up, no mask with a surprised smile on her face… “well what are you doing here?” I was stunned. Kenny was stunned. Neither of us processing that she seems to be herself. Gosh I was so glad to see her! All that worrying about things unknown. It’s dawning on me, wait a minute, I had come to terms with this in my mind and now what’s this?? A reprieve? Hope? Please?
For a few days now I have seen two things… This woman, my Mom, is willing herself back to what she wants… to go home. But I also she the fear and acceptance of a life lived, of the reality of the end of her life. She knows it’s close.

My sister arrived Friday night from Switzerland. We had a telephone conference with Mom’s main doctor. Very thorough he was. With great respect, he delicately explained exactly where Mom’s health is. The beauty of the last couple days is my lovely Mom has been herself, joking and cuttin’ up. Being the sassy-self she is. The situation is very grim though, regardless of this wonderfully hopeful resurgence. Doctor tells us her choices are she goes into an assisted living facility and her medical needs will always be top priorty, they will use all means necessary to keep her alive, or she can go home with hospice, and ride out the rest of her days. Now, in either scenario, her time is (“I don’t have a crystal ball and can’t truly say how long”) really limited to just months.
After a long discussion between us, we will go in today, surprise her with Karen, and deliver the worse news anyone in any condition will ever be prepared to hear. This is where we have to be the strong adults she so diligently raised.

Wet cement will eventually harden..

I leave tomorrow for St Louis. I don’t know how I will get through today. Strange how I have written many times about how fast time is going by… yet time seems to be dragging along at a snails pace. I know I am clock watching. Hurrying time to speed by so it will be tomorrow. I need to leave… I need to get on the road… I need to see her… I need my Mom.

Every trauma that has ever occurred in my life there was a call made to Mom. Her soothing voice, her sage advice – it was always there for me to rely on. It’s my turn. The trauma is hers this time. She is coming to the last crossroad of her life. Will my voice be as soothing for her? Will I have any advice, sage or otherwise, to help her? In my mind I am coming up short.

I’ve been thinking so much about her life.. all her years. All that she has been through, and barely a whimper from her. Of all the things she has lived through, I think my Dad’s death was the hardest to endure. She was so lost for so many years after. She buried her parents and all but one of her sisters. She beat breast cancer! She has lived with emphysema for the last 15 years. And through all these events she remained independent and fiesty, she is the mainstay of our lives. A quiet woman, she kept mostly to herself in all those years, always thinking of someone else, not much thought for herself. Her giving nature and selflessness is who she is.

The family dynamic has shifted yet again. This time though it is in my direction. How will I ever be the rock that she was? I don’t know what’s in store for the next few days.. weeks.. but I feel my shoulders already drooping from the weight of guilt, remorse and great loss.

I am my Mother’s daughter,  through all these fears and tears, I will find the strength she has always seen in me.

Hurry up tomorrow.

I know it’s a part of life, but..

Ironic that it’s raining as I write today. Dreary and dank… exactly how I feel on the inside. My Mom is in the hospital in St Louis and I am here in Alabama. I just returned from St Louis last Monday and she was admitted on Wednesday. It’s bad. I am squirming like a little kid. Restless and listless. Mind is reaching back for another time while it’s also racing forward into the future of unknowns.

She has to wear a breathing mask 24/7. Communication with her is difficult in person, so I haven’t spoken to her directly. I am not doing so well with all this. Most of me wants to drop everything and drive back to be close to her. My job and a lack of funds keep me here until it is a necessity that I be there. Both my siblings are there currently, but my sister returns to her home tomorrow… so that leaves my brother to shoulder most of the stress.

For all the preparation you might do for this..  enevitable… YOU WILL NEVER BE READY!! Heart is heavy with those thoughts of being without her. Most days spent in a kidlike denial that everything’s gonna be ok. The sibs and I have had a few discussions in the last couple days that we have never talked about before –  not to each other, all together, at one time. So this it is becoming real.

I do know the last 5 visits to see her, the decline has been visible to the eye, she struggled more just moving around. Each drive home spent thinking, was this the last time I will see her? Now, she is not in danger of dying right away, but what is happening is not good. I am going to have to grow up and deal with this event without falling apart. My most independent Momma will likely NOT be able to live her life at home alone. She will be very angry when she understands this fact. I, along with the sibs, will have to make very uncomfortable decisions.

I love her. Damn this sucks.