Two Sunday's ago, July 4th, I had the last really coherant conversation I would have with my mom before she died. She had been crying for hours and my dad called and asked if I could come over and talk to her. When I got to her apartment, she was on the couch sobbing. "I just want to go home" she said. I inquired as to what she meant by home, although I knew exactly what she meant. She wanted to die and be with her mom, brother, and the daughter she lost 42 years ago. She told me she didn't want to live "like this anymore." By that, I knew that she no longer wanted to be stuck in a body that didn't do what her brain told it to. But she was conflicted. "I just don't know what to do, I don't want to leave you kids." The sadness she was feeling was palpable and overwhelming. She was clearly tormented between staying in a body that was failing her so that she could still be with her kids or giving up and deciding to go home. I told her that she didn't need to make a decision right then and that she could take her time. I was hoping that with a good nights sleep her thoughts would be clearer in the morning. I let her know that we were honored to care for her and that she wasn't a burden to any of us. "But what am I supposed to do since I can no longer take care of myself?" "Well Mom, just live the best life you can with the abilities you have" was my reply. I climbed in bed with her, wrapped my arms around her and told her we were having a slumber party, and eventually she fell asleep. I will treasure that conversation for the rest of my life. In the few days that followed, it became clear that she had made up her mind and had made the choice to go home. The following Sunday we held her viewing. For a fiercely independent woman who raised 8 children, alone many times as my dad was staioned over seas in the military, depending on others for all her daily needs wasn't an option. I wish she were sitting on my couch again and I could sit next to her and feed her breakfast. What a joy and a pleasure it was to help care for her in her final weeks.
Yesterday (Sunday again), me and all my siblings went through mom's belongings. Dad is moving next door to a smaller apartment and wanted us to come and get whatever we wanted. After sifting through boxes and boxes of craft supplies, yarn, crochet hooks, knitting needles and a few drawers and a closet of clothing, I came away with things that are priceless. A garnet ring that Dad gave Mom when I was just a small child (I share the same birthstone), the light blue sweatsuit that she wore to the quad's birthday party the Saturday before she died (it hasn't been washed and it still smells like her), her tattered shoes with holes in the soles that I bought her for her 72nd birthday, her winter jacket that she never took off because she was always cold, and the photo album she had kept of me from childhood until now.
Next Sunday, we will finish moving Dad from the apartment he shared with Mom to the one next door. This has been so difficult for ALL of us. I'm praying for strength, understanding, and the ability to listen more than I talk. I miss her. Dad misses her. All my siblings miss her. I guess we have some adjusting to do in order to find our new normal. We need time. Time doesn't heal, it's what you do with that time that heals. We will get there...slowly but surely, we will get there.
Mom & my brother Terrance at the quads birthday party.
On July 8, 2010 at 11:38 pm, Mom returned home. She left in the way she did most everything, with love, grace, and a peaceful heart. During the day, all of her children and nearly all of her grand and great grandchildren had a chance to visit with her and say their good-bye's. We all spent many hours looking at old pictures, laughing at outdated hairstyles, telling stories and listening to the children play. This was the kind of day Mom really enjoyed. As the day wore on, Dad became quite tired and decided to go to bed. At about 10pm he went through his usual nighttime routine of brushing, flossing, dressing in his pajamas, saying his prayers and climbing into bed next to Mom. Sandy and Stacey continued to check on Mom every 15 minutes in order to give her a little extra morphine to keep her comfortable. At 11:30, Stacey returned from their room and informed Sandy that Mom's breathing had changed considerably. Sandy went back to check on her, sat next to her and told her that it was OK to go home now. With my father sleeping right by my mother's side, she slipped out of this world and into the arms of those who have been awaiting her arrival. I can only imagine the joy felt on the other side of the veil as someone who is so loved was greeted by her own mother, brother, daughter and grandson. We had her for 72 years, now they get to keep her for eternity.
Mom, we love you and will miss you every day of our lives. Thank you for teaching us to love, thank you
for being our mother, and thank you for touching so many people.
Yesterday, I had the honor of meeting with my sister's to dress Mom for her funeral. Today, will be her viewing and tomorrow, her funeral. None of this seems real and I just keep wondering if I will wake up and the sadness will be gone. But, like every other painful experience in my life, something good always comes of it. God knows what he is doing, and He knows better than we do what we need to truly be happy. For now, I will grieve but I know that some day, I will see the wisdom and know why she went home now.
As a young adult, I saw both of my parents bury their own parents. If things work the way we think they should, we will all witness the death of the people who gave us life. It's just the natural progression of time. I never spent any time contemplating the event as it was something that would happen when I was "older." Somehow, I thought that when I was "older" I would be ready and saying good-bye would not be so difficult. After all, I had watched my own parents go through it and it didn't seem that bad. I thought maybe it was easier because it was expected, and they were older.
We put my sweet mother on hospice care two days ago. Yesterday, the doctor visited and said that she felt mom would be gone in a week or two. I have cried every day the last week or so since it became obvious that mom was not going to get better. This is not easy. I have a broken heart. I will miss her. There are those on the other side who are anxiously awaiting her arrival, I feel their presence when I'm with her. Her own mother, and my sister Debra who died shortly after birth, have been frequent visitors. When she is ready to go, she will be escorted well.
And I will be sad...and officially older.
Where did the last 8 years go? Or for that matter, the last 21? Today is our 21st wedding anniversary...And I still love the guy! I'm so glad I married Jeff, I couldn't have asked for a better husband!
This picture was taken close to midnight on July 2, 2002. I was (once again) hooked up to an evil drug called Magnesium Sulfate in an attempt to quiet my pissed off constantly contracting uterus as my doctor tried to buy the babies as much time in the oven as possible. I had already been in the hospital for almost a month and this was my third or fourth time being treated with the drug from hell. A man who hates women must have invented that drug, or at least that's what I thought back then. I was miserable and sooooo ready to be done being pregnant but I knew that having the babies this early (27 weeks 3 days) wouldn't be in their best interest. So, I followed orders, stayed in bed hooked to IV's and monitors, and tried to keep my spirits up...Doesn't that look like a happy face to you? I was wondering how much more I could handle, I was really feeling like I had nothing left to give. Couldn't sleep, breathe, walk, couldn't see my own feet. Heck, I could barely wipe my own @$$...well you know.
But, I was doing something VERY important....Growing our children!
Remembering that made nights like these suck a little less.
I didn't know it then but, this proved to be the last of those miserable nights.