The Healing Process
It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. Let’s just say, it’s been very hectic these last few months. So many things have happened and I’m now ready to get a little more caught up and share some things with you all.
As most already know, my mother passed away on May 5th. It’s been very hard for me since her passing, more than I could have ever imagined. I had the most amazing relationship with my mom, I just didn’t realize how amazing until she left this world. I hope to have and cherish the same kind of relationship with my own daughters someday.
I’m told healing is a process. But, does one really heal completely? I am not sure yet, but I write this about my Mom and me, hoping that it helps me heal. That I find comfort by sharing her last few weeks on this earth with you.
The last few months of my Moms life, were spent in and out of the hospital. She would have these episodes of not being able to breathe, results from COPD and Lung Cancer she was diagnosed with four years earlier. She was also having issues of not being able to stand and walk much, results from the Bone Cancer she more recently developed. The cancer was much more aggressive this second time around. She had gone 4 yrs, longer than we all had expected. I thank GOD for every extra day he gave us with her.
The doctors had warned us that it would get worse from here on out. There was no good news. All we could do from here is try to make her as comfortable as we could. My mom was probably the most independent woman there ever was. It’s probably where I get it from :-D. It was devastating for her not to be able to do things for herself, much less for anyone else. Before she was sick, my Mom would not sit still for 5 mins, just how she was.
The downhill spiral started on April 23rd. Mom was not feeling well earlier in the day and at 1 am she went into cardiac arrest. My brother called, he was crying. I knew then, this was very, very bad. By 1:30 am I was out the door and on my way to her. That was one of the longest drives I ever had in my life. Jack stayed behind to tend to the girls. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at the hospital and wasn’t sure that my girls were ready to see what was happening to my mom. I was afraid for them, for me, for all of us. I wasn’t ready to let go, not yet.
I got there and my brothers Johnny and Edwin and Mom’s best friend, Peggy, was there with her. Just watching her. She was in a coma, and hadn’t woken yet. We didn’t know if she was going to. All we could do was hope and pray. I wasn’t sure if we should tell her we love her and tell her it was ok to go, or beg her to come back to us. I knew she had suffered so much and for so long and she was ready to be with Pop. She missed him so much. What was the right thing to do? I wanted to be selfish and say, come back Mom because we were not ready. I was not ready….
Around 6 am, she came out of the coma. We were so excited and happy. She was like “what’s happening?” Later in the morning, she looked great, her color was returning, she was talking some. It was amazing how she pulled out of this. The doctors were amazed too. We were stunned…but happy. Deep inside though, I prayed that this was a good sign of good things to come. I remained optimistic.
Since I knew Mom was doing better, I headed back home so that I could help my daughter prepare for her Senior Prom that evening. It was hard to decide where I should be at that evening. My brothers took care of Mom so that I could be with my daughter for her high school milestone.
I returned to my Mom April 26th. We had a family meeting with the doctors that afternoon and decided that we, and my Mom, were ready to move toward hospice care. No one wants to admit they are ready for this. I didn’t look at this as if it was the end; I looked at it as if we were preparing her for her journey to see her maker, then her beloved husband Jessie.
We were not avid church goers; Mom believed you could worship God anywhere, anytime. My Mom believed in God and everything that surrounds him. She may not have spoken about it much, but she did. She had decided she was ready to move forward.
When I left on the 26th to be with my Mom, I hugged and kissed Jack and my girls and said, my Mom needs me and I need to go and not sure when I would come back. I just knew I couldn’t leave my Mom and knew that time was near. My job was gracious to let me work remotely from my Mom’s home as long as I needed.
I spent the night with Mom at the hospital. Since Mom was officially on hospice, she had been moved to treatments with morphine as part of her care. She took some breathing treatments with morphine as well, which meant we couldn’t be in the room while she took this; the side affects were not pleasant for us.
I brought my laptop, worked and sat in the chair most of the night while I watched her rest. She seemed so peaceful. Yet, hearing her breathe and sleep, it was scary. There was a moment, I did get scared as I watched my Mom, I called my brother Johnny around midnight. I knew he was so tired from taking care of Mom, working and everything else already, but he still came and stayed with me at the hospital with Mom. Comfort was setting in. That morning, Mom was feeling pretty good, not sure what gave her a spark of life, but we took what we were given and enjoyed every moment.
April 27th. More of the family and friends came and visited with Mom. We knew we were going home just didn’t know when. When everyone left, it was just me and Mom. Johnny and Ed went to Mom’s house to get everything ready for her arrival. We had hospice come out and set up her new bed and everything else we needed.
I took the opportunity while we were alone and got my Mom to let me record a video of her while she was alert and her happy go lucky self. She was not sure because she was wearing a net cap on her head (her hair was falling out from the chemo treatments) and didn’t think she looked OK. She was beautiful I told her and away we went. I got to make two videos. It’s so hard to watch them today, but knowing I have them, gives me some comfort. I may not always feel that comfort as I watch, but it does help in weird way.
We finally got to take her home later that afternoon. We learned that she was able to take the ambulance home instead of the car. She was happier with this choice. She was so afraid of how the trip would be sitting in the car. At this point, it took a lot out of her to just sit up in bed.
We finally got her home, moved her into her room and into her new bed. She was happy to be home, and we all could see it.
The nurses came out and helped us with her daily routine of meds and care. I was scared that I would do or give the wrong medication. There was so much to give and at different times for different things. I had no idea of everything that was involved….none.
But between, me , Johnny, Ed’s wife Joyce and Peggy… we got it and moved forward.
Nights were restless, she wanted to sit up and get out of bed. She would get so tangled up in the bed rails. I helped push her legs and feet back so she could sit cross legged how she likes. The morphine would cause her to do things that I wasn’t sure if I should be scared or what. My mom was always a heavy smoker, smoked since she was 15. She finally quit when she had no choice within the last year. Since being on the morphine, she would think she was smoking, even though she was not. She sits up in bed, rocks some and would be smoking, holding a cigarette that only she could see. She would ask for the ashtray because she didn’t want to drop her ashes. We would pretend to be holding it and she would smoke away. It was a habit of hers that could not be broken. She pretended to smoke til the day she died.
April 28th -29th Not sure which days, but Mom’s sister, Virginia had came and stayed with us a few days to help out. She would sit with Mom and they would talk about going gambling in Bossier City. My mom loved to gamble when she could. I would tell her that she gambles with her Rat Pack group. She would laugh and say “Yep!” Peggy, Virginia, Ann and Alice, they were her gambling friends…her great friends.
April 30th. Mom was awake and alert. She has the most sparkling green eyes. (I can still see them to this day). She was having a good day and was I happy to see this. I was finally getting the routine going. The nurses would come out everyday and help me with whatever I needed to get done. The hospice nurses were awesome and I don’t know how they do the job they do. They take care of people, knowing that they all will eventually pass away. It’s tough….
Days were long for me. I was seriously lacking sleep, I would try to take naps when I could, but Mom wouldn’t have it! Plus, I was afraid I would miss a moment of her being awake. I slept in the same room with her. I was never more than a few feet away. When she would have her restless moments, I would have to work hard to get her to lie down. I knew it was the meds that was doing this to her.
May 1st. It was a long night, she was restless, but didn’t do a lot of waking. Morning came and mom didn’t wake up like she had been. I just knew this was it. Nurse came and did her assessment and said that she had begun the stages of dying. Stages? I have been reading the book that hospice gives you that talks about the stages and what to expect. Maybe I wasn’t ready to see them, but the stages had already begun and I just wasn’t ready to recognize them. I was devastated… we knew timing was close, but didn’t know if it was days or weeks.
We were preparing for the worst. We had gone to the funeral home this day and made all the arrangements in advance. No way was I going to be able to do this when the day comes. I didn’t want to.
Later that evening, there were still no improvements, nothing. As she slept, we played some of her favorite gospel music. She loved Elvis Presley and many others.
May 2nd Mom woke up like nothing had ever happened. She must have just gotten well rested because she was very alert and wanted to get out of bed and drink some coffee and eat some breakfast. These were signs that I loved to see. I was seeing more of my Mom than the disease and medicine that had taken over. Aunt V fixed her some eggs and she ate all of it. Probably the best she had eaten in the last week or so. Up until this day, she hadn’t eaten much. We were giving her any kind of soft food that we could give her. She wasn’t able to feed herself much so we would give her what we could, she ate what she could. Prior to today, she wasn’t eating, thinking it was another sign of the “stages”.
As we later learned, this episode was called a “Rally”, where one suddenly improves.
We got her out of bed and put her in the wheelchair and took her to the dining room to enjoy some coffee with all of us. By this time, we were so ecstatic, we had called the entire family and said they need to get over here and see Mom. We were all there, us kids, the grandkids, Mom’s sisters and brother, the in-laws, friends, we were all there. Mom looked amazing and she had life in her eyes, her sparkling green eyes. I have some pictures and video of that morning. She was talking to all of us. She talked about going gambling one last time, yes, gambling. I told you she loved to gamble, her favorite pastime with her friends. There was a moment where she was loving on Jack, and saying how much she loves him. Mom told me right then at the table, if he wasn’t already taken, she would have to make move on him. She was something else that day, she was Mom.
I tell people, if you were not there or haven’t seen the short video, you would not believe it. I have never seen anything like it. I had no idea what to expect when they talked about Rally’s or if it even really existed and really happens at all. It did and we were grateful and blessed for the day we had. But at the end of the day, I knew…the old saying, it gets better before it gets worse and I didn’t want this feeling to go away. I was happy for this day.
May 3rd She didn’t wake like normal. Maybe Mom had a little too much excitement on Saturday. So we thought she was just exhausted from the day before. As I was doing her medication, I noticed some things were changing on her. Even when the nurse came out she noticed some changes too. The biggest one was “mottling”, it was getting worse. Mottling is when the skin gets spotted and blotchy, it is another sign that death is imminent. Parts of her body were getting cool and with the mottling, it was nearing.
Mom sleeps most of the day, we continue to play her music and let her rest. I rest some…but hard to sleep and not cry knowing death was coming. Was I going to feel peace? comfort? sadness? angry? I don’t know what I was expecting. I just know I am not ready.
May 4th Nights have been long, Jack and the girls have been up for the weekend and went back. I was so glad that they were here and was able to see mom in the good spirit as we all witnessed. I was so praying for that same spirit to return today. I was missing Jack, Shelby and Nicole. I was missing my mom.
Mom was not doing well today. We were seeing more signs today. I was going through the book reading all I could. I was intrigued with the process but wasn’t prepared for it to be my mom. The “death rattle” had started. We thought we heard it the day before, but wasn’t sure. I was sure today was the end. She was one step closer. How could I hold her back, I didn’t want her to move closer. My selfish side was kicking in and I was doing everything I could to keep her alert, talk to her, move her, shake her, and let her know I was here and that I wasn’t leaving. It wasn’t working; I was being defeated by God.
Peggy was with there with me today, kept me company. She loves my mom so.
The nurse came by and did the daily duties with Mom. We gave Mom a bath, washed her hair. Her hair was so thin from the last chemo treatments. It was still pretty with the grey that blended in with her natural coloring. I would brush it til it was just right. I would just talk to her, even though I knew she wouldn’t talk back, but I knew she could still here me, somewhere down in there.
As night falls, she continues to be restless.
May 5th Moms stirs around some this morning, restless still. I was alone with her this morning some. The nurse came out and did the usual routine. Mom sat up and would try to talk, I told her I love her and she told me she loves me too. She lay back down, she didn’t look good. Something had changed, she was changing. Maybe I knew.
Her skin color had been changing over the last few days. The mottling was getting much worse, she was continuing to get colder, and her posture was different. I couldn’t put my finger on all of it, but I knew something was happening. Peggy agreed with my observations, something was not right. I called my brothers and told them I thought they better come home now.
Edwin and Johnny arrived and we just talked to Mom and did what we could to get through the day. More of the family came later to visit.
Mom wasn’t really responding, she would just mumble some words and her eyes would stay closed most of the time. Mom’s breathing was changing and it was scaring me. We each took some time to be with her, finding that peace we need knowing that she would soon be gone. I called Jack and told him I think today is the day.
Mom would open her eyes and look up at the ceiling, at one point she was trying to reach for something. Was it God? Was it Pop? What was she reaching for? Who is she trying to talk to? I had read in the book I was given that they would do this. I was frightened but yet calm. I knew that she was seeing something that she wanted. She was getting ready to go to her new home.
Mom took her final breath at 4:25pm that day. I was devastated. I felt like my life ended with hers.
May 7th we had the visitation this evening. There were so many friends and relatives. She was so loved and will be so missed by everyone. It is still so painful, it’s like I am living a nightmare and can’t wake up.
May 8th Day of the funeral. The service was beautiful, the flowers, plants everything. Mom was beautiful.
My oldest daughter Nicole read a poem that Jack wrote for my mom. Home at Last.
It was hard for most of us not to cry, some did, I did. Nicole did a wonderful job reading the poem. She wanted to do it for her Ma. My children miss their Ma. We all miss her so much.
Aug 31st It’s almost been 4 months since she has passed away. It still feels like it was just yesterday. I can’t help but wonder if I will ever get passed this stage. I feel like I am stuck in between and can’t move forward. I am sure time heals, but how long? So much has happened with our family since she has passed on. I can’t fill her shoes and keep us all together. I can’t help but wonder if our family will ever be the same again.
I miss my mom more than I can ever express in words. I love you mom.