Thursday, November 28, 2013

Hours. Days. Weeks.

My wedding day. My kid's birth. An encore at a Cold Play concert. A winning play in Hillsdale's CCS softball game. Last year's fireworks finale boat side in Tahoe. I have experienced all these moments in life that have been both life changing and bittersweet but never before have I seen death come upon us.

Today is a special day of Thanks. And I am thankful to spend the entire day with Mom — holding her hand through this journey. Don't read today's post and be sad. Be thankful that you are spending another day with your family, building precious memories.

Mom came home Tuesday. This time it was different. I didn't get to drive her home. She arrived on a gurney by transport. She did not say a word and did not open her eyes. When they lifted her across the door threshold I said "Mom, you are home!" and we all got an "ok" sign. I knew that meant she was happy.

Tuesday was tough. There were lots of visitors that day. Two deliveries from the pharmacy with the hospice kit and extra morphine. Two deliveries from the medical supply company; one with a wheel chair and bedside table, one with oxygen and diapers. One visit from the hospice nurse Susan.

When Veronica got the call at another client's house that Mom would be coming home, she rushed at the chance to come over and nurse her back to health. Veronica and I were a tag team that night. I will forever be grateful to her.

Wednesday I met Mom's new doctor at the house. Yes, after 11 months of having a primary who was totally not involved, we had a doctor who personally was coming to the house. I had decided I needed to ask the tough question; how much time does Mom have?

The doctor went straight into Mom's room. She immediately grabbed Mom's hand, something no doctor had ever done through this process and just watched her. She told Veronica to stop all medications other than the two that are prescribed for pain. I asked her if we could speak out in the living room.

We chatted for quite a while. Honestly it is a blur. She very compassionately went through Mom's case and said that she just has had "one too many hits". She talked me through the active stages of death and I did listen to her every word, but I can not tell you anything she said. The only thing I clearly heard was that "Mom has hours, days, possibly weeks". My heart sank.

This was the first time her fate was very clearly articulated. I asked her if I should have my kids come and see her because I told her how Mom did not allow my brother and I to be involved in Daddy's death, nor were we allowed to say goodbye at the funeral. I told her about this blog and the desire to allow my kids to have some kind of closer with their Grandma. She gave me some comforting advice. She too did not get to say goodbye to her grandparents. She said "death is really a hot topic right now. With no disrespect, people are talking about it. This is not our parent's generation when everything was private. Read the NY Times or go online on facebook or yahoo. Our generation is involved. We are facing death and allowing our kids to see it in order to hopefully one day allow them to have the strength and knowledge to take care of us one day. So you should absolutely rush them over here and let them have their peace". And so I did.

Chase wanted to know what her favorite number was? He wanted to request wearing it on his jersey this soccer season. Mom told Chase "She loves his hair and thinks he is a looker". Mom just wanted to look at Blake, and she asked him for a hug and kiss and told him to sit closer to her. Tyler thankfully flew in to town Tuesday night. She wore a gorgeous scarf Mom had hand knitted for her last Christmas. Mom told Ty how much time it took to knit it and told her she could do anything she wanted. Shawn came in with a lightbulb. He had searched high and low for a bulb that would fit into a lamp that Mom probably bought when her and Daddy got married. Mom loves having Shawn and my Brother around to fix things. She loves Shawn dearly.

Mom told my Brother that he could fix her stairway. She has no stairway. I was hanging on to her every word; looking at signs of her closeness with god. She also told us "she was leaving on a jet plane". She talked about packing and at times her arms were lifting and moving as her eyes were shut. I would ask her what she was doing and get responses like "I'm sorting through some bags" or "I'm working on a few things". It is clear to me she is very busy wrapping things up. She would never leave any loose ends for us to have to clean up.

She is in and out of it due to the strong meds and her lack of eating. But there are moments of full clarity and that is why I need to hold her hand and observe. I can actually equate to watching my kids as a newborn. You sit and watch and wait for any small sign of a smile, a gesture. The pure joy of staring at this person you have created.

For the first time through this whole journey she asked my Brother and I very clearly, "am I dying?" I paused. I looked at him. Do I say no? What will he say?  Do we lie and appease her to lower her anxiety? "Yes" we both responded, "Yes". Mom didn't skip a beat, "well, I have had an amazing life".

I stayed by Mom's bedside until late last night. Veronica made her some home made soup and got her to eat a few spoonfuls. Who knows, maybe she is planning on staying around for Thanksgiving?
The journey continues. Happy Thanksgiving my friends. Enjoy this special day.


  1. take a deep breath and god speed.
    love, pam

  2. Your family is in my prayers Betsy. Thanks for sharing the journey that we will all experience in our families. Your candor in your writing is touching and your honesty with your kids and your mom is such a lesson for us all. xoxo Sue