A Walk with Mom: Day 3

Thursday June 30th, 2016

This was the day that Mom was released from the hospital.  They checked on her early in the morning as the doctor made his rounds.  He said they would release her that afternoon.  I was praying that they would continue to keep her so that maybe she would have a chance to get better.

I talked with the doctor and asked about Mom’s nutritional status.  I asked them to explain to Mom what would happen if she continued to not eat. They said she would not heal, her health would continue to go down hill and she would die.  I was adamant about her listening it the doctor, because I still thought that it was her choice to refuse to eat, that it was her fault.  I found out later that it was not.  I asked them to prescribe an appetite stimulant to help her get back into the habit if eating.  And they did.

I listened closely and took notes for her aftercare.  What to expect, what to have her do, what to watch out for and when to call a doctor.  And off we went to go home.  I remember them telling her that she would have to consume large amounts of protein in order to heal and survive because she was so malnourished. She would need protein shakes every few hours. And a product called Rejuven that is for recovery in tough nutritional medical situations.

I remember getting her settled in at home. She was so tired that she just wanted to sleep on the couch and recover. While she was asleep I went to get her prescriptions filled, and went to several drug stores to gather Rejuven, and all the protein shakes, powders and bars that I could find, which was not easy.  First they lived in an extremely small town.  Second Mom hated anything sweet.  So it could not be chocolate, could not be peanut butter, could not be vanilla, strawberry or any other pleasant tasting thing.  And it could not be too thick or grainy (all her requirements for her to consume the products).

Do you know how hard it is to find flavorless, high protein products?  Everything that had adequate protein, calories and nutrients had some kind of sweet flavor.  So I tried to get what seemed would be the lessor of all evils.

I brought all of it home and as instructed I fed her every few hours when she would wake up, or when i could wake her up.  And she truly tried the best she could.  She understood that she had to do this in order to live, so she choked down the disgusting drinks I made for her, already high in protein, made higher still by the extra powders and potions added to them.  Sometimes it was Enliven with extra protein powder.  Sometimes it was Rejuven with extra supplements.  She would drink them, smoke a cigarette and go back to sleep.

I would keep track of her vitals and take her temperature, blood pressure, pulse and check her MAP.  They were all over the place, up and down.  I started researching what that meant, then I started researching what happens and what to expect when death is near so I knew the signs. They would not come that day.

I told her I loved her every time she was awake, and I would try to talk about good things and wonderful memories.  I tried to get her to talk, but most of the time she was just too tired.

I would take care of Dad too, making sure he ate and had what he needed.  I would make the coffee, sit outside with him on the porch.  Fix dinner for him.  I would hug him and try to tell him it was going to be OK, even though I wasn’t sure of that either.  But I didn’t have the heart…I wasn’t brave enough to say that of which I was afraid.  It was as if I said it out loud, it would become real.  But somehow if I could convince Dad, or at least make him feel better, I could do the same for myself.

And I prayed.  And I cried.  And I prayed more. I prayed for Mom, I prayed for mercy. I prayed for wisdom, strength and courage.  I was lost and had no idea what I was doing, or if I was doing it right.  I had no idea if I was making good decisions, so I just prayed.

A Walk with Mom: Day 2

Wednesday June 29th, 2016

Mom went into Surgery early that morning.  They took her for prep at a little after 5am. She came back a little after 7am. They said she did good and her coronary artery was “as good as new.”  But they warned her over and over that she would have to consume large amounts of protein in order to heal from the procedure.  If she did not, she would continue to waste, not recover and she would die.

She nodded her head and obediently said that yes she would eat.  I begged them to give her an appetite stimulants, and they did.  I did not know that by then it was too late and looking back, probably did more harm than good.

Dad arrived shortly before she came back from surgery and I sat with him while he worried.  I worried too, silently praying that she survive the procedure.

Looking back, I am not sure why they decided to do the surgery on her, other than they said that she would likely have a stroke at any given second.  But she was less than 75lbs at that point. The staff was very concerned though. They never said anything but their expressions said it all.  They had that concerned-not-sure-if-she-will-survive-but-Ican’t-say-anything look that hospital staffers get in situations like that.  They checked on her constantly, taking her vitals, writing on the chart, their lips pensed as they checked her circulation and oxygen levels.

I don’t remember much more about that day. It is a blur of taking care of both Mom and Dad, making sure they both had what they needed.  I remember calling my then boyfriend several times in tears, terrified of loosing Mom. He was kind and compassionate then, and listened to me sob, listened to me talk about Mom’s condition, and reassured me that it was going to be OK.,  he asked several times if there was anything he could do?  Or if I wanted him to come down.  I told him no, because really, there was nothing to do but wait…and take care of two elderly people.

How much he helped and how much I appreciated him, he will never know.  I had no idea what I was doing, other than watching over her. But I knew that more was coming, but I didn’t know what.  There was this foreboding that was inescapable. Just hearing his voice, hearing him say it was going to be OK, whether it was really true or not, was so comforting. No matter how strong we are, we always need love and support.

I had a lead ball in the pit of my stomach and a pounding headache the whole time I was there.  There was a dread in my soul.  I had not slept at all that night. Maybe on some level I knew that she would never recover,t ah she would not ever be herself again.

I felt angry,  scared, terrified, depressed, needy, and very aware that I was in charge, and did not want to be. I wanted to crawl into my boyfriends arms, be told that mom would be OK, wake up and know that she was back to normal.  I wanted to see her smile, laugh, get stronger and be able to live a better life.

To be the watcher is a privilege.  Because you are being trusted to look after the best interest of the loved on there.  That doesn’t just mean making sure that the pillow is fluffed, it means talking to the doctors, nurses, making sure you understand all the instructions, what every is doing, what is in the IV, what medications and precautions are being given and taken. It’s calling other family members and keeping them up to date on how things are going.  It;s doing research to make sure that everything is being taken seriously and nothing is being overlooked.  it is something you do for those you love.

Dad and I ate dinner that night and for the first time, he admitted he was scared.  I told him I was too.  We sat there for the next few minutes, in silence, eating Bar-B-Que.  He left again to get home before dark and i stayed with mom.  She had been sleeping most of the day, only waking up a little.

I prayed she would survive through the night, and set my alarm to make me up every 20 minutes so I could check and make sure she was breathing. I had nightmares when I did  sleep.

 

  A Walk with Mom: Day 1

I am going to do something that I have never done – I am going to write a series.  This will be simultaneously cathartic and extremely difficult. I am going to chronicle what is was like taking care of my Mom from a year ago today, June 28th to July 13th when she passed away. Many things that will be written have not been shared before.  I am doing this for myself and for the benefit of anyone else who might be going through the same thing. So here goes…

Day 1

Tuesday June 28th, 2016

A year ago today my mother went into the hospital and never recovered.  She had coronary artery disease and her artery was over 95% blocked.  She kept putting off going to get it fixed, said that she didn’t have time.  The last discussion we had about it was that she refused to get the procedure done until after the family reunion, which she and Dad were hosting.

She was so weak and frail at the reunion that she could barely walk, barely move, barely function.  She was suffering from excruciating pain, and when she fell, she struggled to get up she was so weak, but refused to let anyone help her.  So we were forced to watch as she squirmed on the floor.  It broke my heart.

She was 75lbs when she went into the hospital.  She had been wasting away for three years, and now it was at the critical stage.  She refused to get help so all I could do was watch her get smaller and smaller, knowing what happens to the human body as it slowly starves. what I would find out later was that she had severe COPD that had never been diagnosed, which often leads to failure-to-thrive.  She was at the point were she had Marasmus.  She would eat maybe a few bites a day, if that.  What we did not know at the time, is that she had refused to eat for so long, that her body had lost its ability to synthesis protein, so she literally could not eat by that point.

I met Mom and Dad at the hospital.  I was to watch over her, stay with her while she stayed in the hospital to make sure she was OK, had some company and was being taken care of. I arrived and she was even smaller than she had been the week before. Her arms were maybe four inches around in diameter.  She was so weak that she could barely speak. And she seemed melancholy, like she knew something that we did not.  Sometimes she looked so sad.

At this point her mental state was much like that of a child.  And she would look at me and ask simple questions and smile at the answers.  She was amused by small things, like the pen that one of the doctor was holding, or a tie he was wearing.  As the doctors spoke I could tell that her once sharp mind was baffled by what was being said.  She would look at me with big scared eyes, and I would smile and reassure her that it would be OK. She would look at me, wide eyed and nod, her vulnerability nearly palpable. Sometimes I ssw glimses of rhe old Mom – sharp mind, quick wit and talkative. But she was just so exhaustrd from malnutrition that her thinking was not clear most of the time.

I would gently help her sit up, or get comfortable. I made sure she had enough blankets and arranged her pillows so she could sit and see the TV. I got her water and sometimes coffee. I did for her as much as she would let me, her being so independent.

She would pick at the covers, takw them off, tjen want them back on. She qoukd cinstantly re arrange them. Ahe would pull at her IV tubes, or keep picking at the IV entry on her arm. She would ask if it was day or night, ask what day it want to k ow when she was going home. Want I did not know was that she was going through what is called terminal agitation or restlessness. I also didn’t know that it would get worse. I would try to keep her from fidgeting, or pulling put her IV. I was patient, and just kept telling her no, you can’t pull that out, you need to leave it alone…she would smile and say ok, just like a child.

I went to the store to pick up a blanket, , pillow for myself and a little stuffed animal for Mom – an owl with big eyes.  When I gave it to her, she just beamed like a child, and stroked it.  I told her the owl would watch over her with his big eyes, and make sure she was safe.  She just smile and stroked the little stuffed toy with her thin hands.

She had sores in her mouth from the effects of severe malnutrition. She could barely stand anything in her mouth.  I called one of my best friends who has worked in a hospital all her life, she told me what to get. Every few hours I would have mom rinse her mouth with this solution, and she did so with trust and hope of getting better.

I called my friend back later that night to thank her, and she listened to me sob for about an hour as I told her Mom’s condition and my fears about her dying. I wasn’t prepared for this. I was alone. How could I handle this alone? I was so scared. I ran back to the hospital room and threw up several times.  I threw up through out the night as well.

Mom was so small, her waist was between 16-17 inches, as best as I could tell.  When I would hug her, it was like hugging a 4 year old.  That was how tiny she was in diameter.

Dad and I stayed with her that afternoon, Dad refusing to believe how serious her condition was.  She needed to eat, but she really wasn’t that bad, he told me over dinner, even though I could tell he was a worried. I could tell her was lost as well, and I tried to comfort him too.   We are and I talked about everything that might make him smile.  I asked him questions, asked how he was doing.  Dad, always being stoic, said he was fine. He was of that generation that didn’t talk about feelings or admit fear of any sort.  It is hard to comfort someone like that.  But I tried.

Dad would get cold in the hospital room. The nurses said it would help Mom breath better if the room was colder.  So he would go outside to warm up.  I balanced my time between going outside with Dad and sitting with Mom at her bedside.

Dad went before dark, and left me to watch over Mom. She and I settled in for the night and I just sat with her, talked and listened to her tell me about things I didn’t understand.  I sat in the bed with her and played with some cards, watched the news, made jokes and just said anything that would make her smile or might comfort her. I held her hand, stroked her hair, told her that I loved her,  and then watched her as she slept. I just wanted to hold her and rock her to sleep until she wasn’t sad anymore.

And I prayed. Prayed that she would not stoke out, have a heart attack or die on the table during the procedure the next morning.  I didn’t sleep much that night, as I stayed awake to make sure that Mom did not die. I could tell that the nurses were worried as well, as they would come in and check her vitals every 30 minutes.

And that was the first day.  Worse was coming, I just had no idea how bad.

Today I just remember how scared, fragile and vulnerable she was.  I remember her eyes.  And I remember her voice trembling. I remember her trying to be brave, but she was so tired.

Today I am exhausted too. It has been a long day full of demanding work. I look back in that day a year ago, and how much has happened since then.  And I miss my mother. But today she sent a sign to let me and one of my best friends who has been watching out for me as of late. She is close, even if I cannot see her or touch her.

I am thankful for those who have compassion and understand what the next 16 days will be. Compassion is key, and the good thing is that it is free. It flows from God himself and is for is to give to others.  Support, kindness and love are what makes humanity work. And I have the best friends and the best support system. I am truly blessed, even through the pain and emotion of the coming days. It is something that can never be taken for granted. My Mom taught me that.

The Peace of It

And anything that disturbs your prayer, your meditation, your PEACE, must roll off you like water off a ducks back.

The last day and a half has been the most peaceful of times. And also the most fun.  That is because of two things:  First, when someone who is negative, argumentative and just nasty exits, let them.  Second, all that time and energy spent on the negative energy that person brought can now be spent on more positive aspects of life.

Over the  last 36 hours or so, I have gotten more done that in the past week.  It has been very peaceful in my house and in my world. There has been nothing but love, kindness, friendship, laughter and wonderful.

And all of us need a life less all the extraneous drama.  Some thrive on it, some thrive on bringing in to wreak havoc on others lives. Which is why we must be vigilant and very picky about whom we let into our circle.  What is the saying? Not everyone deserves a seat at your table. So you can’t let someone else disturb the peace you have within yourself.  Life will get messy for all of us at some point, and that simply cannot be helped, but we can lesson the frequency and impact if we are good gatekeepers.

These next few weeks will be emotional for me, and all the more reason to make sure that there is only love and support around me.  The first anniversary of Mom’s death will be hard, and I need all the support I can get.  There is no room for strive or unrest or unpeace.  There is no room in my life for anything but goodness, compassion, empathy, loyalty, love, and integrity.

I will follow the goodness, the happy, the wonderful. I  will soak all of the positive in like a sponge, and everything else will roll off me like water off a ducks back. Only that which is good for me, that serves me will be in my life. Because I simply do not have the emotional bandwidth for anything else.

And this summer, though it will be difficult, will also be one of the best. As I sit out on my back deck and watch the fireflies dance with joy, I am thankful that my mother taught me to take the time to sit and sip a glass of wine on a cool night.  I am glad my father taught me about watching the lightning during a storm.  Because not only are these things beautiful and add joy and appreciation to life, but you also have to take time to slow down to enjoy them.

Sometimes the best life isn’t what you can cram into it, sometimes the best moments are the ones we c slow down enough to find.  And there en-lies the Peace of it.

Getting in the Groove

There comes a point  in your life, after we have gone through a difficult or tumultuous time that you start to feel like maybe, just maybe, you are getting your groove back. This is where I am.

After a year of grieving, and there is some left still, as the first year of Mom’s death is coming up, but I feel like I am awakening.  I am tired of the struggle of rebuilding and struggling.  I have worked so very hard, emotionally, mentally, physically, to adjust to the new normal after loosing Mom and Dad.  And I have succeeded on many levels.

And now, things are finally getting into the groove of the new normal.  My career is in the groove, my house is…well, it’s getting better.  And even my personal life is getting back in the groove.  All is all, everything, except for that last 10 pounds, is falling into place.

There has been a lot of change, much uncertainty, a million tears, and too many heartbeats to even count.  I have traveled thousands of miles in the universe of my soul to get here.  I have shed the skin of the past and come out a new person, moving forward in the new normal. I know they would proud. There have been mistakes, but we all do the best we can at any given time.  And I have fumbled through but am seeing the light at the end of the other side.

I look forward to life when I wake up. I pray and mediate and read and write.  I have goals and hopes and dreams that were placed on hold.  And I look forward once again to the future and what life has to bring. I have a wonderful family, and my friends are turning into my family as well, watching over me and helping me through life. No one will ever replace my parents, but it is good to know that I have fertile land where roots will grow. Fertile ground that will grow the life I want and bare the fruits of the hard work.

And it is in this sincerest of feelings that I love life forward and move into the groove. I will follow the goodness, I will make this life wonderful in the new normal.

The Excitement of New Life

This little life of mine, I’m going to let it shine”

It has been a little while since I have written.  But I have been very busy, making this little life shine. I have been praying, meditating, sharing, laughing, healing, drinking wine, and just taking time to take care of myself and get things in order.

Miracles happen every day, so why shouldn’t that happen in my life?  That is a question that we should be asking ourselves. And instead of asking ourselves Why me?  We should be asking, why not me?  That means instead of asking why you when complaining, figure out the kind of life you want and ask why not you?  When looking at success, why not you?  When finding happiness, why not you?

Sometimes we think that we are not worthy of success or the good things in life, or we get discouraged because we have been working hard for so long.  But change your attitude and change your world.

Embrace the glorious mess that you are.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

I am a glorious mess right now.  I am still in the active process of grieving the loss of both parents.  I still burst out into tears at certain songs, smells, thoughts and memories.  That is just how it is.  And with Father’s Day coming and the first anniversary of Mom’s death, I am a hot glorious mess.  And that is OK.

But I also have many reasons to celebrate.  In finding the New Normal, which is an incredibly difficult and emotional journey, there is the opportunity to make my life exactly what I want it to be.  This time has made me reexamine many things in my life.

The result is that I saw that I was not happy with several facets of my life.  So, with prayer, meditation and and a hopeful heart, made some changes to get closer what I want, and how I want my life to feel.  It’s not about chasing that illusive thing called Happiness, it’s about creating a life that makes me fulfilled and content.

“Making a big life change is pretty scary. You know what’s even scarier? Regret.”

Changes have happened, and they are resounding in their vibration.  I am taking care of myself now and doing what I need. I have a new roommate.  The house was big and lonely.  I needed someone else there, another soul, a friendly face to see at the end of a tough day,  So one of my best girlfriends is now there.  And it has made such a difference in my mood and disposition.  To have someone who loves you, and not romantically, but just as a human being, is wonderful. It is healing.

I have also decided to take my career in a different direction and this is exciting.  I will still be writing, but more in a creative fashion. This is something I have wanted for a along time, but have not had the opportunity to take action on this.  Before taking care of my parents I was putting my nephew through college. Now, it is my time, and I get to do what makes me happy.

Another positive change is moving into the master bedroom. It is huge for me, taking over this room as the lady of the house.  Arranging it and making it mine. It is symbolic of taking control over my life and doing what is best for me.  I am the captain, the author…

Often when people go through a change they also do a massive cleaning out.  They get rid of what has weighed them down.  It could be things, people, jobs, whatever. And the result is amazing. I feel lighter, healthier and more at peace.  If I have no hope of ever fitting into it again (like my skinny, skinny pants), then it goes.  If you don’t support me, or add something positive to my life, then you go too.

Stop worrying about what you have to loose and start focusing on what you have to gain.

And there are other miracles as well that are beautiful, amazing and are still developing.  But this little life, gives me so much for which to hope, to dream, to do, to be.  I have motivation to work hard, to be my best.  That kind of enthusiasm cannot be faked either, it must come from within.  How do you get there?  Just ask yourself how do you want your life to feel?  And go after what makes you feel that way.

I want a life that is filled with purpose, service and fulfillment.  A home where my friends and family feel warm and welcome.  A job where I write and contribute to in a meaningful way.  And it may sound silly, but having a full cupboard with plenty of food for my friends, and plenty of bedding and towel for friends in case any one of them need a place to stay…that makes me feel content.

A life where love is so present, that it is tangible. And it is getting closer with every second of hard work, prayer, thoughtfulness and Faith.

And now more than ever, I have a reasons to take care of myself, to make sure that I am emotionally, physically and mentally healthy.  There are some life changes that can quickly put everything in your life into perspective.

To thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.. – Shakespeare