MARCH 20, 2013: I wrote the following after I had been far away in Minneapolis caring for my Mom for her last 3 months and closing out her home. David and I had not been apart before for more than 2 weeks. It was the most difficult thing I have ever done. During that whole time I was blogging here at TuD a lot and many of you were essential to maintaing some semblance of sanity. I never posted it. But here we are at the 3 year anniversary and I thought it was time.....
For those of you who have followed the Story of my mother's Death by Kidney Failure, she died 3/20 at the age of 89 oh so very peacefully.
I went a few steps from living room to kitchen to fix my dinner salad, having stroked her forehead and whispered in her ear first. And when I returned in 15 minutes, she had drifted to the other side. My beloved Big Brother was a room away sorting and disposing of old family papers. I went to that door and beckoned him silently. No words were required. We bent over Mom and hugged, stroking her forehead and talking softly to her. (by the last few days of Life, the forehead was the only place to touch her that did not cause a disturbance). And then in just a few minutes, we wanted to place all the familial phone calls that are not just required, but awaited by now. Hospice had let us know a week or so ago that it would be soon, and we had laid the ground work with family, all of whom were figuring out plane reservations and the like. (Aside: this is another wondrous aid from Hospice folks!). A good example of the emotional, esoteric aspects of death interweaving with the pragmatic in a very Organic way. Daughters and nieces and, sisters and aunts were waiting and needed attention, as well as notifications to hospice......
So the death was beautiful, in her living room in a comfortable hospital bed with 2 of her 3 children in residence. It is everything we have all been striving for in the last 3 years of her failing health. And she looked beautiful, peaceful in death. I will post a post-mortem picture that my brother took. It is truly gorgeous, but I know it might disturb some.
But here's the thing---at near the 3-month mark post-death: I have an endless loop in my head of the various moments of crisis where I was alone with her (particularly in the night) and scared that I could not care for her appropriately. Not Death, perse, you see, I've seen lots of that, but "while there is engaged Life, I Will not Fail you." It was very hard and very exhausting.
From the moment I got there in January, I could see we were not far from the end. I had been on the phone with her when she had a stroke in December, at which time we had all geared up to cover her as she could not be home alone anymore. My sister and her daughter covered a couple weeks before she had to go back to work. My brother flew out from California to take over for awhile, his daughter flew out to take over from him, and I took the train out to take over for the last lap. My beloved sister was exhausted----besides working a difficult, worrisome, low-paying job, she has a first grandson of 15 months.
The learning curve was very steep for me: meds to be carefully administered, several to be adjusted day-by-day after taking her blood pressure. Continuing post-stroke exercises to help her with for at least a few weeks until they became too much for her. Coaxing her to eat----any old calories would do, she was so tiny now. How to shower her. Don't forget to leave the toilet seat up due to occasionally urgent need. How to help her change her diaper. How to keep her engaged---watching old movies and MASH, Lena Horne and Frank Sinatra, KD Laing and Tony Benett for trips down memory Lane. Quick visits from neighbors. Her niece and Great Grandson for frequent visits which would exhaust her because she lit up and came to life to see them.
......Blessings from wherever.
March 2013: Later that spring, with the help of Mom's wonderful hospice team, I located a Grief Counsellor here in Portland. I saw her weekly for most of a year and she was a big help in diffusing and channelling the horrific scenes in my head.