Tuesday July 12, 2017
This day was particularly hard. Mom was in a deep sleep, and she made strange noises. She would grunt when she was breathing, she would mumble and she was just acting so strange to be in a deep sleep. She would moan and raise her hands up as if to hug someone above her, Many times I would lean down and hug her and tell her it was OK.
It was frightening to see this and not know or understand why, or what is happening. What I now know is that those actions are very common among those who are dying They are somewhere between this world and the next. Many nurses and hospital staff say that those who are transitioning see their relatives who come to assist. When Mom was still conscious, she would talk about seeing her sisters and mother who had already passed. She would talk about taking a trip, how she was ready to go home and she knew others were waiting for her.
But no one tells you this while it is happening. No one told us that what was happening and what Mom as doing was the normal, natural process of dying. And it was terrible. It is terrible when you don’t know and your loved one is doing all of these strange things, saying strange things. We were all emotionally and physically exhausted and we were scared. Mom had been such a driving force in all of our lives, how could we loose her?
I lost track of how many times I called my best friend and my boyfriend. I was frantic and crying. I couldn’t cry in front of my father and sister, they were counting on me to be strong and ask questions and make decisions. So those were the two people I could just be me with, be scared and terrified, to not know all the answers, to admit I didn’t know what I was doing. My boyfriend would offer over and over to come down, but I told him no, there was nothing he could do but wait around and be bored. In retrospect I should have let him, to be there for me. I didn’t know it. but I needed the support only a partner can give in times like that.
The ladies from Palliative care came in that morning to asses Mom’s condition. The pneumonia was worsening, and she was getting weaker still. It had been almost a week since she had eaten and she was probably about 65-67 pounds. Her arms were just bone with skin hanging off. Looking at the pictures that were taken during that time, her wrists were the size of a 4 years old’s. Her size extra small shirt was too big and she was swimming in it. The neck was so big for her, and you could see every bone in of her shoulders and collar bone. You could actually see the tendons in some places, she was that malnourished.
The ladies told us that Mom might have another 24 hours to live. If we were lucky she might live a little longer, but that it would either be today or the next. More than anything my heart ached for Dad. They had been married for 49 years. They were the love of each others lives. Mom was his heart. I cannot express the sheer feeling of helplessness I felt to have Mom dying, and nothing I could do; And Dad so, so sad, and nothing I could do to comfort him.
That day, one of the foster children that Mom had came to see her and brought her children. It was so good to see her, but I hated that it was like this. Mom loved her so much and I know she know this wonderful girl was there. She stayed fir quite a while, sitting, holding Mom’s hand. Dad was on one side, and she was on the other. There was so much love in that room for Mom. I know that she felt it.
Mom was not talking or communicating, but she would hold your hand and squeeze it ever so slightly more tight, if you said something to her or if you were about to leave and she didn’t want you to go. So yes, they can hear you even if they cannot respond.
My sister and I found a 3 hour soundtrack of birds chirping and played that so Mom could hear them. She loved being outside and hearing the birds. We hoped this gave her some comfort and pleasure.
Dad would walk over and hold her hand. He would sit by the bed, lean in and rest i his forehead on hers and match his breathing up with hers. He would speak soft words to her and look at her so tenderly. One day I hope I am lucky enough to have someone love me like that.
Mom’s visitor left and then it was just the four of us again. The original Four-Pack that we were , as Mom called us. It was the last time we would all be together.
While Dad and my sister went to dinner ( I think), I stayed and sang to Mom. I noticed that her nails were ragged and in and shape. I knew that would bother her. She would want her nails to look pretty, as she always a lady. There would be a lot of people seeing her, and she would want to look good. And so I did her nails. And I sang to her as I trimmed, filed and painted them. I sand church songs to her – The Servent Song and Surely the Presence. Those were out favorite from a place called Honey Creek It was my honor to do this small thing for her. And to make sure that her hands were pretty for the end. Final, precious moments exchanged between mother and daughter.
I also talked to her about my favorite child hood memories. Like how she would read to me and she never made me sit till. And how she would let me move around while I was reading out t\loud to her too. How she made hot chocolate for me that time I got up after having a nightmare when I was 7. And how many times she had held me whole I cried over a boy who had broken my heart. Long phone conversations, teaching me how to attract butterflies, how to cook and how to be a good person. How she would fix my hair and make some of my favorite clothes. So many, many memories, a lifetime of them. And I told her how much I loved her over and over.
Dad came back and he sat by Mom’s bedside. The we gently moved her over to the fr most part of the hospital bed, and dad crawled in beside her and got as close to her as possible. He wanted to be close to her, wanted to be close to her presence. He would whisper things to her that I could not hear, and did not want to hear. That was private between the two of them. She was the love of his life, and he did not want to live without her. His heartbreak was tangible. He stayed there for as long as he could, crammed up against the bed rails. He gently kissed her before he got out of the bed.
A little later that night, my sister left to go home and bring her boys over the next morning to say goodbye. Shortly after that Dad went to sleep. I slept a little, but I was afraid that Mom might slip away in the night, so I checked to make sure she was still breathing about every 20 minutes.
It was a strange time. And I had gone through all the prayers of bargaining and trying to convince or even bribe God with promises of good behavior. That night I prayed for her to live, unless she was suffering. And then I asked God to lease let her go if she was in pain.
Mom is resting comfortably and is surrounded by family and so much love that it is amazing. She is still on antibiotics and doctors say that there is always a chance, so please continue to send prayers. The outpouring of love and support has been amazing and is so very comforting during this time. I am beyond blessed to be surrounded by such love and support. Please know that all messages and replies are read and treasured, even if I have not responded yet. Thank you so much for the kind, encouraging words, they not only help me, but the whole family. Thank you to my angels and visitors. My sister is here and we are treasuring each moment we have our wonderful mother. Dad is coping and my heart breaks for him. We know that God is in control and we have tremendous faith in His will. The staff here at SAMC have been wonderful and compassionate as we transition into comfort care in her final days. We could not ask for better staff. Thank you and much love to all.