A Simple(ish) Day

I have always wanted to do this.  My lovely friend Paula always does this and I enjoy reading her “Simple Pleasures” week after week…But then mom got sick.  And then she got sicker.  And then she was gone.  And nothing was simple.  Even the simpler times were too fragile for me to write about them.  Or maybe I was too fragile!  Yeah, that sounds about like me…

Anyway – I have studied for over 3 hours today.  The trash cans are rolled back in.  One kiddo is home and one is not quite ready to be picked up.  Sophie, the rescue beast is in a ball on the red sofa and I really wanted to write….so, here is my first attempt at a Simple Woman’s Daybook Post!

Outside my window…it’s fall.  It’s overcast and the leaves are covering the ground (much to my OCD neighbor’s chagrin)  Grandpa’s handmade reindeer is standing guard under the oak tree …I’m pretty sure he is watching me out of the corner of his wooden eye.  Or maybe he’s looking over his reindeer shoulder to admire the festive red and green ribbons around his neck!

I am thinking…how contented I’ve become this holiday season.  I’m also thinking about whether or not to go through the hassle of frying bacon for the burgers tonight since it’s just Murph and me and he would be over the moon for a bacon cheeseburger!

I am thankful…for my friends and family.  I may not be technically needy, but I am so grateful to know I have people I can call any time I need a verbal hug or to laugh out loud or to just take my mind off the grief I am still going through since losing mom.

I am wearing…running pants (with absolutely no intention of running), a white t-shirt and the coziest gray hoodie (it’s my husband’s), white footies and Nike sneaks.  Having a great hair day, but no one is going to be the wiser…unless the middle schoolers walking by my car took time to notice and be wowwed!!!  (HA)

I am creating…a dough ornament for my daughter.  I want her to have a cheer ornament this year and I’ve decided I’m just going to have to make it to get what I want.  I’ve never done salt dough before, so it may take a couple of tries.

I am going…Well, I was supposed to be going to lunch with a dear friend…but I got a text that she ended up in the ER with a broken toe.  She’s fine…but I was so bummed.  I’m also going to drop my daughter off at dance and pick my son up from weightlifting.  I did all my shopping and errands over the weekend, so I can stay pretty close to home!

I am wondering…if I am going to be able to maintain this high level of studying for my Exam.  I’d like to schedule it for the week between Christmas and New Year’s and so far, I am on a roll…can I keep it up!?

I am reading…the Kaplan Series 6 Exam prep manual…over and over and over.  Highlighting, notating, big stars, lots of underlined words.  EEEEEK!

I am hoping…that my kids escape winter break with little or no homework so we can just enjoy the time together.  Of course, that could be because my daughter had 2 major projects due today and my brain is tired from watching her work, work, work all day yesterday!

I am learning…that no matter how many times I watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” – I will get so angry when Potter takes Uncle Billy’s money and I will admire Clarence’s ability to not give a hoot what anyone thinks about his clothes and hot mulled wine and I will cry and cry and cry when the town shows up with money for George Bailey.

Around the house…it is a holiday wonderland.  I have been collecting Christmas decorations for as long as I can remember and it shows.  It has officially spilled into every single room this year.

In the kitchen…potatoes are scrubbed for a couple of bakers and bacon cheeseburgers are on the menu since it’s just me and the boy.  Barbeque for him and just plain for me, but with the giant honey wheat buns and the pepper jack cheese!  YUM…oh yeah, and my special spices for the burgers.

I am pondering…what to make to take to the neighborhood Christmas Eve party this year.  Something yummy.  But I dare not spend too much time on Pinterest or I will never pass my exam!

Favorite Quote for Today…“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”

One of my Favorite Things…Holiday white chocolate covered pretzels with the bits of peppermint on top…they show up in the store, they end up in my shopping cart and suddenly, they are all gone!

A few plans for this week…Studying, studying, studying.  Spending today taking practice exams on section 1 & 2, tomorrow digging into section 3, Wednesday – going Christmas shopping with my husband and then to a Christmas concert at my friend’s church, Thursday – meetings and more studying, Friday – lunch with my hubby and some holiday baking.  I also hope to get a few walks in with my neighbor – we solve all the problems of the world on our walks!

A peek into one of my days…the halls are decked!

Five Minute Friday: Dear

Hard to believe it’s Friday – I feel as if the week has flown by.  I’ve been buried in my studies for my Series 6 exams with gusto this week.  And my daughter has been prepping for her first cheer competition and my son has been trying this new thing called studying on a regular basis.  Kind of making it a habit even when a specific project isn’t due the next day.  Amazing!

So, as I was driving my kiddos home from school and we were listening to Christmas music (which I was hoping would toss me back into the mood even though it’s in the 70’s today and that makes it hard for this Ohio girl.  Shorts and a t shirt just don’t scream Ho Ho Ho!)  Anyway, we heard the announcer talking about it being Friday – and I realized.  WOW!

So, here we are.  Time to write a little.  To put the exam manual down and the estate check list of tedium and write.  Just for 5 minutes…well…10 if you factor in all this preamble stuff I can’t seem to resist.  Time for Five Minute Friday…and this week’s prompt is DEAR.

GO:

Hello DEAR!  A favorite greeting.  A perfect term of enDEARment.  The beginning of a letter.  A compliment that is rarely given anymore….but those earrings really are DEAR!  And the way I hold so many things.

I realized one evening this week how traditional I’ve become.  How certain things – especially right now with all the decorations up and the twinkly lights on – have become so DEAR to me.  Ornaments from Christmases past.  Handmade things of yarn and felt and sequins and pipe cleaners that I made from the dime store craft department that have stories and flaws and are a bit worse for the wear.  Elementary school ornaments with school pictures and glue stick marks and handwritten names in giant marker letters from my beautiful children.  The first Santa that my husband bought for me and the Baby Jesus snow globe that plays “Away in a Manger”.  The poinsettia that I made for mom and wrote about last year…

My son’s name scratched into a table and my daughter’s crayon-drawn horse on a cabinet I painted many moons ago.  The hooks that are still hanging in this “computer/dining room” that was mom’s room just over a month ago where her sweater still hangs and still smells faintly of her lotion.

I saw the prompt and felt warmth today.  Just 5 minutes ago…yes, I’m going over…the timer buzzed and I’m shutting it off!  I like the word DEAR.  All that it means to me, at least.  I suppose if I had a drawer full of Dear John break up letters, I might be headed in a very different direction right now.

But today, for me…DEAR is just darling and just what I needed to write about.

STOP

For those of you new to Five Minute Friday – please pop over to Kate Motaung’s and join us, won’t you?  It’s freeing – I promise!

Thanksgiving

My how time flies…It’s been nearly an entire month since mom passed away – right here in this room where I am now typing.  I can still feel her presence – especially in the mornings.  Probably because that was one of our special, just me and mom times.  It’s a good feeling.  A safe feeling.  Almost comforting, but not quite.  Still too much sadness to feel like a whole hug.  But I’m glad I can still feel her here.

She had been all over the house this week.  Of course.  It was Thanksgiving.  Mom may not have been your classic domestic goddess, but she could rock a Thanksgiving meal!  And she did.  For all the years of my childhood.  Even though it was just me and mom and daddy.  And sometimes Wally and Gloria, but many times – just the three of us.

And now I do the same.  A feast!  Even when it’s just the four of us.  Although this year we were blessed with my father-in-law and his wife and their leggy hound dog named Sally.  It was such a wonderful day.

The wonderful really started the day before…or maybe 3 days before when I accomplished most of the shopping before the crowds hit the markets!  On Wednesday, I only needed 2 things – cinnamon sticks and bread for the dressing.  I went with Hawaiian bread this year, instead of Challa and I think it may be a permanent change!

But the real wonderful began about 3:00pm on Wednesday when my daughter and I started cooking for the big day.  I am learning how to get stuff ready so all I have to do on Thanksgiving is pop it in the oven or into a cute serving dish.  I started this a couple of years ago and get better at it each and every year.

And this year, my daughter was all in!  She may not be much of an eater – but she loves to prep in the kitchen.  She has her own special way of dicing onions (this started 2 years ago and has become a ridiculous tradition and photo op that I look forward to more than I should!)  The swim goggle, giant knife method of onion dicing…too funny!

She tried her hand a several things this year – cutting dried fruits for the Sausage and Fruit dressing, helping me wash and brine the turkey, sautéing, zesting and squeezing oranges.  We had a blast!

And I got to share lots of Thanksgiving stories with her – stories about cooking with my mom.  The history of some of the recipes and how they have changed since I was a little girl.  And why.  We also shared a box of Archway Cashew Nougat cookies…my mom’s favorite holiday cookie.  Daddy always brought a box or two (or twenty) of those cookies home along with the turkey and fixings from the grocery store and we always managed to polish off an entire box while we were cooking!  I am pleased to say, the tradition continues!

We also made sweet potato casserole – the kind with the topping of as many marshmallows as you can cram on top in my mom’s very old, very classic casserole dish.  That dish has been at 99% of my Thanksgiving dinners.  I think it only didn’t make it to one – because it was my first time cooking and mom took full advantage of it and didn’t bring a thing except a bottle of wine and an appetite!

And on Thanksgiving, we watched the Macy’s Day Parade – just like when I was little.  And no one complained.  I used to put the parade on (because it’s tradition and I never mess with tradition!) and the kids would try and change the channel and put on something plain.  Some show that they could watch any day.  And I stood my ground.  And now, they look forward to the parade as much as I do.  They run out of the kitchen and plant themselves in front of the tv to see their favorite singer or balloon or the Rockettes…exactly like I used to do when I was little.

I will pause from nostalgia for a moment to brag about the best turkey I’ve ever made.  Perfectly cooked.  Freakishly moist.  Gorgeous and browned to perfection.  And I have no idea why…but I like to think it was mom looking down on us and sending a bit of her turkey magic.  I’m a side expert, but that darned bird and I go round and round every year.  So, thanks mom – I am certain your angel was in the kitchen keeping me from opening the oven too often and not forgetting to baste and inspiring me to buy just the right sized bird.

And so the day went.  Great family and traditions and food and conversation and wine and weather and togetherness.  Awful day for the Cowboys, but as a Browns fan, I’d rather that than a raw turkey or lumpy gravy (forgive me, all my Texas friends!)  We made memories and deepened traditions and even at this time when my future is uncertain – we found a hundred things to be grateful for.

We may not live fancy or extravagantly or have everything we want, but we have each other.  We have our health and an awesome dog and warm blankets and an appreciation of simple pleasures and twinkly lights and so much laughter in each day.  I probably don’t stop and revel in my blessings enough – but when I do…I realize what a wonderful life I am living every day.

Hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving and find time to be grateful every day for who and what you have in your life.

Five Minute Friday – Notice

Another Friday – it’s actually almost over!  But it IS Friday and that means 5 minutes of free-spirited writing with lots of others over at Heading Home with Kate Motaung for Five Minute Friday.

This week’s word is NOTICE.  I enjoy the words that can be expressed in so many different ways…I wonder which way the keyboard will take me today…???

NOTICE…GO:

I wonder what they notice when they look at me?  Those who aren’t my close friends.  The people who I see on committees and in passing at the kid’s games or schools or events.  The faces I recognize at shops and the farmer’s market and my favorite gas/coffee stop.

They don’t know me well enough to know the journey I have been on for the past couple of years.  The harsh reality of the past month.  They never met my mom, so they wouldn’t miss her like I do.

I wonder if they notice how different I am?  I wonder if they see a lightness from my new freedom from all the responsibility of full-time caregiving?  I wonder if they notice my sorrow and grief?  Do they notice that on certain mornings a peppermint mocha makes me tear up or that I don’t buy denture adhesive or adult briefs anymore?  Do they notice that I no longer have to run through the market because there is no deadline anymore?

Or, like me, are they so wrapped up in their own stuff, their own struggles, that they don’t notice anything different at all?

Life goes on.  That’s what I notice.  Life has to go on.  It’s how I was made.  My faith assures me that everything is exactly how it is supposed to be.  And that makes it okay to laugh out loud and enjoy life and praise each day.  Life goes on.  It’s appropriate.  It’s necessary.  But it’s gotten me thinking – a lot.

What are others going through that I’m not noticing?  What is their backstory?  What are they carrying and feeling and thinking about.  What are the things I’m not noticing?  I’ll probably never know.  I can look and look and still not see.  But I can be kinder.  More patient.  More transparent.  More caring.  I can offer genuine smiles and take time to speak and to listen.  I can make a point of paying attention.  A point of connecting in the moment.

I feel completely different since mom died.  I have been changed by our journey.  So many day-to-day things remind me of her.  And there are these out-of-nowhere memories that rock my soul.  Take my breath away and make me so very sad.  And then life goes on – as it should.  And probably, no one really notices a difference, no matter how much I’ve been changed.

 

Ignoring something rarely makes it go away…

What a week.  What a manic, blue kind of week.  And, other than the obvious “I just lost my mother” thing – I couldn’t quite figure it out.

The weirdest part was my complete inability to finish anything.  And sometimes start anything.  Or focus.  Or sleep through the night.  I was kind of all over the place.

I am sad.  I knew I would be, but as a classically trained “Push Through It” girl – I didn’t expect it to interfere the way it did this week.  Now, I am fully aware that we (the kids and I) are so very ready for this Thanksgiving break – so I tried really hard to push all my issues off to that.  But that just wasn’t it.

I got this idea that the pantry needed cleaning out and I would start, but then part way in – I had to just pile everything back in with only 2 shelves done.  I couldn’t get my head around it.  I decided to relax and watch a movie and got as far as the comfy chair and remote and couldn’t decide.  I just channel-surfed until I just couldn’t deal with another minute of television.  I started to deep clean my bathroom and got the ickiest part done (and yes, that is the whole under and behind the toilet thing…ugh) and quit.  I ran out of steam.

I’ve sat down at the computer to type.  I’ve picked up books to read.  I’ve opened up boxes of old school momentos to go through.  I’ve thumbed through my contacts, landing on a number that I wanted to call and somehow didn’t dial.

It’s worrysome.  I’ve made it up every morning.  Gotten the kids to school on time with full backpacks and lunch bags.  I’ve gotten beds made and some random vacuuming done.  I’ve showered and had moderately good hair most days.  And I’m so tired at the end of the day.  So tired.  And I have no idea how to explain what exactly I am doing to run out of hours in the day and to feel so exhausted…but I am.

I am pleased to announce that I think I have figured it out!

I am being haunted by the last few things I need to do to close the book on mom’s passing.  Not to close the book on grieving or missing her, but to close the book on the details of death.  So, I made a check list!

First up – call the pharmacy and cancel all her auto-refills so those voice mails stop attacking me.  Check!

Next – find a box to finish packing up all the mementos we’ve chosen to keep.  Check!

Next – write a letter explaining the things we decided to keep so the kids will have the memories and pictures to share with their kids someday.   Check!

And then – finally – the big one…write thank you notes to all the people who have helped me take care of mom.  This was the thing I was avoiding at all costs.  The thing that I kept hiding under other things.

So, I made some tea, made a fire and got busy.  I had to make a couple of calls to confirm last names and the spelling of first names, but I was able to make a list pretty quickly.  So I wrote.  And wrote.  And cried.

I am so incredibly thankful to everyone who came to bathe or primp or pray with mom.  All the doctors and nursed and physical therapist who encouraged her to fight to get back to good health.  And to every single hospice person who listened and cared and gave advice and encouragement.  And to my incredible friends and neighbors who brought food for my family so we could sit down at our dinner table without me having to plan or cook or resort to fast food.

But it was hard.  And I am worn out.  And I still have 2 more to write…but I’m out of cards and too weary to deal with it until tomorrow.  But even with a couple more to go – I can feel a weight lifting off my chest.  I was avoiding some of the final arrangements that needed to be made.  So, I guess my conscience was poking at me – not letting me start or finish or concentrate on anything else.  Not until I finished what still needed to be done.

 

Five Minute Friday – Still

I have been sitting here for several minutes, my fingers on the keys, but somehow unable to type anything.  It’s the first post since mom passed.  The first one that wasn’t written during that week.  That week while she was preparing us to live on without her.

It’s a cold morning (for Texas) and the house is tidy, but not clean.  Quiet, but not silent.  Cool, but not cold.  And I am trying to move on.

So, here I am, with so many others, heading over to Kate Motaung’s for Five Minute Friday.  Something I have enjoyed being part of for a couple of years now.  But not recently.  Not since mom got so bad.  So, I guess I’m moving on by going back.  Back to something familiar.  Something I enjoy.  Something that I don’t have to think too much about!  I like that!

Today, Kate has given us the prompt STILL.  And that’s where I got stuck.  STILL like my house in the mornings once the kids have gone to school or STILL like me – STILL here, STILL writing, STILL feeling.  Hmmmmm….I guess I’ll just type on in FMF fashion and not overthink and see what comes out….

GO:

STILL.  There’s nothing quite so still as a house that is missing a person.  An inhabitant.  A family member.  Not even when the time was right for them to leave.  Whether that be go to college or their new home or to heaven.  No matter that the life they have now in the arms of Jesus is far better than the existence they had on this Earth, in this house for the past few months.

The stillness is overwhelming.

And the strange thing is – I don’t dread it like I thought I would.  I sit in it – eyes closed – ears listening – mind and heart wide open – ready to know what comes next.  Ready to receive a blessing.  Hear a message.  Be inspired for this new chapter.

Sometimes I find joy in the stillness.  When I know 100% that mom is whole again.  That she is “in a better place” as we all say over and over.  When I feel assured that everything we did was the right thing for her.  For our family.

Sometimes I find sorrow.  I miss her.  It’s that simple.  She was my mother.  She was my purpose.  She was my mission for these past several years.  And I miss her in the stillness of the mornings.  I miss her over every cup of coffee and every episode of Ellen and every country song.

Sometimes I find promise.  Of the next thing.  Of a return to a more “normal” life for my family.  Of an opportunity to use this experience to change my life’s path.  Of God’s goodness and love and faithfulness.

Whatever the stillness brings – I know I need to embrace it.  Trust it.  BE in it.  I am tempted to fill it with noise and cleaning and chocolate, but an experience as precious as these past few weeks with mom deserves respect and honor and meditation and prayer.

So, bring it on!  I will do my best to honor her life and passing by being still and by staying open to the lessons that are there in the silence.

STOP

 

 

 

The business of letting go…

The morning after Mom went to heaven to be with Jesus and Daddy and Bagel and her brother and sister and so many others she had been calling for over the past few weeks.  It still doesn’t quite seem real.  And there are still things that need doing.  Papers that need signing and arrangements that need arranging.  But on this first morning without my mom… the world was silent.

The house is so quiet.

The kids and my husband are still asleep.  For a few minutes, the only sound I heard was the sound of the super-special air mattress that hospice sent for mom.  I guess I should have remembered to turn it off last night.  But I didn’t…

I came downstairs and my entire life seemed changed.  Was changed.  In usual fashion, I got right at it.  Pulling linens, bedding, towels, rugs, etc and loading up the washing machine.  Sanitizing trash cans and door knobs and the walker and other bits of things lying around.

I ran out of steam and made coffee.  That made me cry.  Mom loved coffee.  It was a common theme in our morning conversations.  A topic we could both count on for a shared laugh or contented sigh.  I’m really hoping there’s a diner in heaven with really great, non-fancy, old-fashioned coffee in a medium-sized white mug.  And lots of the ‘pink stuff’.

I am still incredibly weary.  But I can’t sleep…that’s pretty common, I would guess.  And as strange as it may seem – I feel the need to record what took place last night.

Because I think it was rare and special and sad and beautiful and powerful and something I may never experience again.  Because most people die of something.  A car accident.  A heart attack.  A stroke.  Cancer.  And I guess mom did die of something – Alzheimer’s.  But because it’s so invisible and because there is no cure and because there is no hope and so little that can be done past a point, it looks like nothing.

After we finished with all the bizarre juggling of kids into costumes and to parties and putting candy into bowls and setting up chairs to be ready for the neighborhood trick-or-treaters, my son and I took turns passing out candy and being with mom.  Too many people, voices actually, got mom’s breathing in distress.  So we took turns.

And then when the chairs were put away and the candy had been passed out and my daughter picked up, we all took a turn sitting with mom.  Her breathing was so quiet and had slowed back to what seemed like a ‘normal’ resting pace.  Her eyes were closed and her mouth just slightly open.  And her skin was getting smoother and smoother.  I believe it was all the moisture leaving her extremities to get to her heart and lungs so she could continue to live.  It was if I could see her appearance change minute to minute.

The nurse suggested we all get something to eat or drink and take a little break while mom was resting so peacefully, so we piled pillows and blankets and stuffies on the couch and cuddled together.  I immediately fell asleep.  It was the first time in a week that I felt comfortable resting because I knew someone was with mom.  And I thought we might have one more day…

Less than an hour later, the nurse came to get us and said “It’s time”.  And it was.  Mom was dying.  We stood with her and held her hand and told her how much we loved her and without a sound or tremble or gasp, she took her last breath.  She never opened her eyes.  She never acknowledged that we were there, but I feel certain that she knew.

The nurse left us alone with her to say goodbye.  The kids each took a private moment and I took … I have no idea.  I didn’t cry.  I didn’t really say anything.  I just prayed and held her hand.  I said goodbye and felt sadness and peace at the same time.

The rest was a hazy, blurry, groggy mess of phone calls and nurses and funeral people.   My husband was a rock.  My son was all cried out and went to bed.  My daughter and I didn’t quite know what to do with ourselves.  We have been busy caring for mom day and night for the past few weeks and now it’s over.  She is whole again.  She is independent.  She’s going to take care of us now.

Somewhere around 3:00am we went to bed.  And I slept.  Deep, deep sleep.  Till my internal alarm clock told me it was time to get up and check on mom.  And it hit me.  So it was pointless to try and go back to sleep.  And here we are.  I have to get my husband up now, because (of all things) we have to take his car into the shop this morning.  Because life goes on even when you feel like you couldn’t possibly get off the couch ever again.

Bye mom.  I love you.  We love you.  We will miss you so very much.  It’s been an adventure.  A wonderful life.  A privilege and an honor and blast.

Mom’s Journey Home, Part 4

It was on this day – mom’s last day – that I realized how dependent I have become on writing.  When I just couldn’t figure out what to do.  When I needed to do something, but didn’t want to leave the room.  When I felt like my heart was breaking.  I needed to write.  I guess that’s why the world has so many wonderful journals and collections of letters and other written documents to give us insight into our history.  It’s therapeutic.  It’s comforting.  It’s productive and busy and conversational and heartfelt.

I wrote two posts that day, her last day, that I am combining here.  It is personal…perhaps too personal.  But this process of journaling has never been about writing the easy stuff or editing out the uglier parts of Alzheimer’s.  It’s always been about sharing our story – a story so many others go through every single day in their homes and in memory care facilities and nursing homes and hospitals.  Alzheimer’s stole my mom’s ability to function.  To remember.  To enjoy life.  To feel safe.  It stole her memories and history and points of reference.  Ultimately, it stole her from us too soon. 

It is the most vicious disease.  That does the most terrible things.  That cannot currently be cured.  But family is family and love is love and God is good and mom’s story, along with all the other dementia sufferers in the world, needs to be told.  Maybe just to assure someone else.  Or to make me feel better.  Or (in my perfect world) to continue to create awareness, that will create a grassroots movement, that will create funding, that will create resources for caregivers and a cure for all forms of dementia…

Day 4 of Mom’s Journey Home

It’s time.  Maybe today.  Maybe tomorrow.  But it’s time.

Mom threw up a bunch of bile this morning and never woke up.  I cleaned her with gloves on.  For the first time, I felt like I needed gloves to clean my mother.  I didn’t know what it was or if it was dangerous.   I’ve never done this.

And I kept apologizing to mom.  Which is weird, because my mother would have been wearing gloves the entire time.  Mom was a “better safe than sorry” kind of mom.  So smart and so practical.  Two traits that have escaped me on occasion.

I called the nurse.  They have a care meeting and then she is coming by with the RN to see what’s going on.  Michele is on her way too.  This clean up is more than I can do all alone.

Mom hasn’t said a word today.  Hasn’t made a sound.  Even when I was washing her face and shoulder and moving her arm around.  Just silence.

And she hasn’t opened her eyes.  Yet.  I did just change her pain patch yesterday, so maybe that’s part of it.  I hope so, but that black bile has me scared.  And preparing.  For the thing you just can’t prepare for…

And it’s Halloween.  And my daughter has a party to go to and a costume she has been working on for a week and this is probably her last year to go trick-or-treating…and that’s probably selfish, but if she has to pass, I don’t want it to be on a holiday…

Part 4…continued…

I’m so sad.  The crisis nurse is here now and that means the end is near.  Nearer than I hoped.  Nearer than we want.  And I knew it.

Michele came by to get mom cleaned up and she was so docile.  Hardly made a sound through all the washing and moving and changing and pulling and combing and lotioning.  Just closed eyes and a limp body.  So tiny.  So frail.  And a new pressure sore on her heel.  Never a good sign.

So, I pulled up a her walker (which serves as my chair so I can get right up next to her) and the hospital table to finish up the Box Tops that I needed to have postmarked today.  (forgive me PTA, but these will be late) and I talked to her.  Talked about Box Tops and volunteering at my daughter’s school and about the dates and the counting and the value and the people.  Talked about the day.  Talked about Halloween.  Talked about the past year and a half with her in our home.  As part of our family.

And then the nurses arrived.  They checked and listened and touched and conferred.  And they turned to me with faces full of sad, inevitable news.  And I started to bargain.  Please, is there anything you can do so she doesn’t die on Halloween?  Is there any way she can last until tomorrow when my entire family will be home?  Is there any chance she could make it at least until I get my daughter to her Halloween party, because if she passes, she won’t go and she has been looking forward to this for so long….????

There’s no way of knowing.  It’s between her and Jesus now.  So, I went to get the kids out of school.

They called the crisis nurse.  I had no idea what a crisis nurse was.  I had no idea there even was such a thing as a crisis nurse.  They stay.  They come when the time has gotten critical and they stay.  They never leave mom’s side.  They watch and make notes and translate the death process.

Jesse came about 3 or 4 and he is wonderful.  He is calm and pleasant and has a Jimmy Stewart quality about his voice.  He has been explaining everything to us.  He has been so good with the kids in getting them to talk to mom and be with mom.  He has made it possible for me to get Peanut ready for her party without having to worry about watching mom every second.

We went in once she had her costume on and her hair done to show mom.  She opened her eyes for the briefest moment and said “oooooh” and smiled.  She even reached out her fingers to touch the hot pink tulle.  That was perfect.  It gave P the okay to go and have fun with her friends tonight.  I wonder how much kids can process about the stark reality of what is going on?  Especially when mom has been a version of this for more than a week?

Even I’m holding out false hope for a miracle of recovery or a long, lingering goodbye.

My son, who is in charge of passing out candy, came in to give mom a hug and she sighed.  That kind of sigh that is full of contentment.  And reached her fingers up to touch his shoulder as he held onto her.  Another beautiful moment.  He cried.  He’s not ready either.  He has always been her comfort.  The gentle boy who sits with her and plays video games and talks and talks and talks and makes her feel included in some magical world of Madden or Mario cart.  He even made a Mii for mom on the Wii.  She’s “G-Peg” and she’s a hot commodity in the Home Run Derby!

And now we are waiting.  The night crisis nurse is on her way.  The trick-or-treaters are getting much older and fewer between.  The neighborhood boys are tossing a football in the dark.  The neighborhood adults are stopping by to offer their prayers and positive thoughts. and a crock pot of killer chicken tortilla soup (thanks Cheryl) that saved my overall well-being.  I realize that for the past two days I have existed on $1 drinks from McDonald’s and tiny candy bars meant for Trick-or-Treaters.

I’m sitting one room away from mom.  She seems to breathe easier when it is very quiet.   I drift in and out of her room as quietly as I can.  I want to be right there, but I don’t want to upset the peacefulness that surrounds her.  I want her to rest.  I want her to be comfortable.  And I need for her to wait until I pick up my daughter….I need for everyone to be home to say one last goodbye.

The night nurse is here and she is serenity in scrubs.  Her voice.  Her demeanor.  The way she lays her hands on mom to care and check and monitor.  She is honest.  Very honest.

The kids are home now.  We’ve set up blankets and pillows and stuffies and jammies in the family room.  We take turns being with mom.  I am trying to explain the unexplainable.  They are so brave and strong and vulnerable and gentle and sad.  Sophie is keeping watch under mom’s bed.  She refuses to leave her side.  I can’t tell what or when anymore.  I just know that mom is ready…

 

Mom’s Journey Home, Part 3

The third day of the last week.  Reading this I can remember vividly the fear.  I can see my son’s face as he is almost shouting at mom to please drink something.  I looked up to see the sadness in his eyes and it broke my heart.  I remember standing with him, holding on tight as my daughter came in and joined us, Sophie right at our feet.  We just stood there and cried together while I stroked mom’s arm and they took turns squeezing her hand.

I believe this week was a bargain between mom and Jesus to help the kids gradually deal with her passing.  A gift to two beautiful children to have plenty of time to say goodbye.  To have days to give extra hugs and say a thousand “I love yous”.  To prepare themselves and to ask questions and to start to understand that letting go is completely different than giving up.  To experience something so rare and so precious and so real.

Here is Part 3 of Mom’s Journey Home…

Scary start to the day today.  Mom threw up in the night.  Not a lot.  But it was dark and that is scary.

I mixed some of the frozen Boost with some coffee ice cream – used to be her favorite.  And I think, maybe, her stomach couldn’t handle the dairy.  Of course, it could be something worse, but I’m going with lactose intolerance.

I got her cleaned up as best I could until Michele got her and we could get her bathed and changed and get her bedding changed out.  She was so out of it this morning.

Her words are quieter and quieter and fewer and fewer.  I didn’t think I would ever miss hearing “Donny” 500 times in a day – but I do.

She is still drinking water, but has forgotten how to use a straw.  I have to put some in the end of the straw and put it into her mouth.  Sometimes, just the action of that cool water hitting her tongue is enough to make her suck on the straw.  And then I can give her the cup and she will drink.  Other times, she just lets the water fall into her mouth and she swallows.  Usually, she makes that contented face that lets me know she was thirsty, but couldn’t remember how to ask or how to drink, but “thank you so much for figuring it out and getting me something to whet my whistle!”.

She no longer reaches for a warm washcloth to wipe her face or hands.  She used to love that.  Even just yesterday, I could see the comfort of that warm cloth in the way she held it to her face and hands.  Today, there is no recognition that I am even washing her face.

She has refused to eat all day.  Not one bite.  She may not be talking or moving much, but she can clamp those lips together like nobody’s business to let me know she does NOT want any applesauce or pudding or ice cream or anything else.  My favorite part of today was when she opened her eyes and gave me a “Leave me alone, for goodness sake” look.  I gave her high praise for that!

Well, it’s night time and I am pretty worried.  Mom has now stopped drinking anything.  She is not talking and is sleeping all the time.  She woke up briefly when my daughter came into her room in the bright pink shower puff costume that we made her for Halloween.  Even mom couldn’t ignore all the pink!  She gave a small smile and a barely audible “ooh”.

She also smiled and sighed when my son came in to say goodnight.  He always gives her a hug.  She liked it.

But no matter what I say or how loud I say it, she is not responding.  Not opening her eyes.  Not turning her head or raising her eyebrows.  Nothing.

And Sophie is worried too.  She stays right by mom’s bed.  And sometimes right ON mom’s bed.  If I leave the room and don’t block her entrance, I find her laying right by mom – not quite touching her, but as close as a dog can get without making contact.

It’s between mom and God now.  I will continue to hold her hand and do whatever I can, but I don’t think I can get to her anymore….

Mom’s Journey Home, Part 2

The second day of the last week.  It really was a wonderful day.  We all had time to sit with mom and talk to mom and fuss over mom.  She was still alert, but not agitated.  She still needed our help, but didn’t seem to mind as much…I took pictures of the kids (including Sophie) with mom this day….I’m so thankful that I did.

Happily, mom was still with us this morning.  She was peaceful today.  She still complained during bathing and changing, but that is to be expected.  The ‘crazy legs’ have settled down and for the first time in – well, since I can remember – she is not cold.  She doesn’t want the blankets pulled all the way up to her ears.  Just a sheet and that super-soft, light blanket.

She is back to using names to communicate, but she is quieter today.  It’s almost like she’s accepted the fact that this is how she is going to talk to us, so why fight it and end up with a dry, scratchy throat.

She stayed in bed again and we didn’t even roll out into the living room today.  We listened to music and I sang to her while I folded laundry.  I would pull it out of the dryer, all warm and toasty and pile it on the end of her bed.  That way I could see her and she could see me.

Keeping her upright in bed is getting to be more of a challenge.  She tends to lean.  The muscles in her neck are stiff, depending on which side she slept on and getting her straightened back out is a process requiring much patience and planning.  But once I get her upright – I figure I’ll make it as easy on her as I can by standing or sitting at the foot of her bed.

I really should always fold laundry to music.  It goes faster and when you have an audience you are trying to entertain, it seems more fun.

I have no idea if she could even process what I was saying or doing or singing.  The quietness is disturbing.  So unlike mom.  But I figure it’s best not to take a chance and go “on with the show”!

I remember how frustrated I was during mom’s numerous stays in skilled nursing rehab facilities when they would put patients in their nightgowns at 5:30 or 6:00pm.  I felt like they were rushing them so they didn’t have to deal with them.  But this week, mom has slept in until 9:00 or 10:00 am and is ready for bed by 6:00 or 7:00.  And she naps much of the day.

And, for some reason, I’ve stopped pushing.

I’ve given this a lot of thought.  I’ve gone back and forth on my decisions.  I’ve tried to ‘pros and cons’ this to death.  But, the truth is, it feels like if I push – it will be for me and not for mom.  It feels like letting her rest is the right thing to do.

I was so surprised when the nurse came this week and said how strong her blood pressure and oxygen levels were.  And how clear her lungs.  I expected a bout with pneumonia or off-the-charts blood pressure.  But no, she is stable.  And quieter.  And peaceful.

So many things to be thankful for…and so many reasons to be scared.  But she is sleeping now and so should I.

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