Tag Archive | mother and daughter

Aftermath

“What do I do now?” I asked.

The hospice nurse gently explained the next steps she would take: contacting her hospice company and the owner of the care home to inform them of the death, waking up the caregivers to let them know as well. “And then we will need to contact” – she consulted her notes – “the Neptune Society. If you want to make that call, it’s your right. But I am happy to call them for you, if you prefer.” Yes, please. You do it. Thank you.

I sat down on the other bed and listened as she made the phone calls, offered the few pieces of information she needed and didn’t already have at her fingertips. When she finished the last call, the nurse told me it would be 60 to 90 minutes before they would come to collect her.

She asked if I wanted to remove Mom’s wedding rings from her finger. We had tried to do it earlier because her hands were starting to swell and the nurse was afraid we wouldn’t be able to get them off later, but it had proved too difficult and I was afraid of causing her distress. We were beyond that now, so I nodded. Would you do it, please? Thank you.

She carefully worked the engagement ring from Mom’s finger and handed it to me. I slipped it onto my middle finger, next to my sterling silver owl ring. The wedding band was still getting stuck at the knuckle and I told her to leave it. “In 55 years, she never took those rings off except to clean them. Maybe she would want to keep it on.”

The nurse then left the room to give me some time alone, to say goodbye. “Take as much time as you need,” she told me. “Just come and get me when you’re ready.” I stood beside Mom’s bed and told her everything that was in my heart, and I cried until I felt done crying for the moment. I said a blessing over her, the one that begins “May the wind carry your spirit gently…”

I went out to the dark living room and sat with the hospice nurse for a few minutes, but it felt wrong to leave Mom alone — even though I knew Mom wasn’t THERE anymore — so I went back into her bedroom. I sat on the other bed and just looked at her, so still. Her jaw structure looked odd, and I realized it was because we had removed her dentures. I kept thinking that I saw the sheet move, as if she were breathing… and it was unnerving enough that I had to go over and put my ear to her chest to listen for any signs of breath or a heartbeat. Silence, of course. A fly had gotten in when we opened the sliding door earlier, and it kept landing on her. After shooing it away several times, I finally pulled the sheet over her head. I stayed with her.

It was 2:45 a.m. before the mortuary people (a man and a woman) arrived. The gentleman told me that because she was being cremated, they had to remove the wedding ring. I nodded and looked away. A few moments later, he put the delicate white gold band into my palm.

When they had her wrapped up and loaded on the stretcher, the hospice nurse held out her hand to me. Holding hands, we walked behind the stretcher out onto the patio, past the garden and around the side of the house. The moon hung in the sky, round and nearly full, reflecting brightly on the clouds. I caught my breath at the beauty of it. I wondered if Mom was seeing it too.

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The Final Chapter (part 1)

The final chapter of her story began on Tuesday, September 18, when the nurse practitioner came by mid-morning. “We need to talk,” she told me, motioning for me to follow her out of the room. My heart was in my mouth as I followed her into the lobby and sat down on one of the leather sofas. The lab results showed that my mother was no longer in stage IV chronic kidney disease — the illness had pushed her into end stage, which meant her kidneys were failing.  The antibiotics had also failed to clear the pneumonia from her lungs. The NP told me that they could try IV antibiotics for the pneumonia, but it would mean keeping her at the SNF for 4-6 more days and she wouldn’t necessarily recommend that.

I shook my head. “No. I want her to go home.” We talked a bit more and agreed that the best plan was to send her home to her board and care home with palliative care. The rest of the day was spent talking to different people about hospice care options and getting things in place, so she could go home as soon as possible. I didn’t want to use the “H word” in front of her, so I talked about it as home health care. Every time I said something about going home, she would smile and say “Good!”

Whenever I needed to leave the bedside even for a few minutes, I would ask her if she needed anything before I stepped away. One time when I asked that, she replied “Nothing you can give me.” With a smile in my voice, I asked lightly, “What would you ask for if I could give it to you?” Her answer hit me like a punch in the ribs: “Freedom from pain.” I kissed her forehead and told her she was right that I can’t give that to her, but God can and we can pray for that.

Wednesday I signed the paperwork with the same hospice company that is caring for Mom’s roommate, and we arranged for a Thursday discharge. I don’t think she ate anything solid on Wednesday, but she did drink two Boost shakes over the course of several hours. I stayed with her until 10:00 p.m., to see that she was clean and comfortable before I reluctantly left to get some sleep. At that point I still thought she’d recover some ground once she got home to a safe, familiar environment. I thought we might be on a palliative plateau for weeks or months.

When I arrived at the SNF around 7:00 a.m. on Thursday, her breathing was so labored it frightened me. Her chest heaved with every breath and she had spasms of coughing that made her whole body shake. After one of these spasms, she looked at me and said grumpily, “This isn’t worth it.” She was too weak to try to eat, but she thought the orange juice looked good. I gave her two sips and she promptly vomited all over her pajama top. I pressed the call button, a CNA arrived to help get her cleaned up, and we gave her some water to rinse out her mouth. “My body doesn’t feel right,” she told me.

I found some worship music on Spotify, songs that Mom would recognize from church, and put my iPhone beside her pillow.  I sat beside her bed crying silently and praying the same three-word prayer over and over: NOT YET, GOD. Overnight I’d gone from expecting that she would get better, at least temporarily, to frantically praying that we could get her home before she slipped away. I couldn’t let her die in that nursing home.

The transport arrived at 1:00 p.m. to take her home.  I walked beside the stretcher to the ambulance, kissed her goodbye, and told her I loved her and would meet her at home. When they wheeled her in to her familiar room through the sliding glass door from the back porch, I was waiting for her. Mom was awake and coherent. “Do you recognize this room?” I asked her. “It looks a little familiar,” she murmured. Then her eyes fell on my dad’s picture in a frame on top of the bookcase and she smiled. “There’s Bob’s picture!” I squeezed her hand.  You’re home now, Mom. Everything is going to be OK. She must have sensed that because, almost as soon as we got her into the newly delivered hospital bed, she seemed to relax and was breathing more easily.

The hospice worker who did the intake told me they would be providing 24/7 nursing “due to her change in condition.” The first nurse arrived around 5:00 p.m. to take the night shift, and I was able to go home to feed my cats (and myself) and call my sister, who had arranged a week off work and booked an early morning flight on Saturday. Then I went back to sit with Mom. She was awake when I got back because she’d thrown up again and the caregivers had to get her cleaned up and change her nightgown, but she soon dozed off again. The nurse had given her a low dose of morphine (“comparable to taking Tylenol with codeine,” he told me) for her pain, which made her drowsy.

I decided around 10:30 p.m. to head home and get some sleep, so that I could spend more time with her when she was awake. She’d been sleeping peacefully most of the evening, but a coughing fit woke her briefly. I moved to her side, squeezing her hand and kissing her forehead. She looked into my eyes and smiled weakly. “Good girl,” she whispered. “You’re a good girl.”

Last photo 9-20-18

 

 

 

Mother’s Day 2018

We had our Mother’s Day brunch last Sunday, which was also an early birthday celebration for Mom AND a celebration of my niece Sarah’s college graduation, which had happened the evening before. My sister and younger niece (Sarah’s mom and sister) were here for the graduation, and of course they wanted to see Mom while they were in town. So we had a lovely girl’s brunch at a favorite restaurant, and it was really special. An added bonus of not doing it on an actual holiday was that the restaurant wasn’t crowded and we were able to linger over our French toast and conversation.

Family Brunch 05.08.2018

Three generations of strong women

I shared a nice, low-key Mother’s Day with Mom today. I took her to church as usual, bringing her back to the care home for lunch, and then I came back IMG_1270a couple of hours later with a bouquet of roses and a card. The owner of the care home always makes a fuss over holidays, and the dining room was festooned with “Happy Mother’s Day!” balloons. Mom’s roses joined two bouquets already in the center of the table.

Once she’d opened her card, I suggested we play Scrabble, which is always a fun way to pass an hour or two together — and it makes conversation easier. The staff helped us get set up at one end of the dining table, and we were almost finished with our first game when the owner came in, bearing an elaborately decorated chocolate cake from Porto’s bakery. Since I was there, she insisted on cutting me a generous slice, despite my protestations that I’m avoiding gluten. (Mom got most of my cake as well as her own, but she can use the extra calories these days.) We played two games; I won the first and she won the second, both with very close scores. It was a nice afternoon.

As I was leaving, I hugged Mom and told her I was glad we could spend Mother’s Day together. She replied, “Spending it with you is the whole point. You’re the one who made me a mother.” Every year when this day rolls around, I wonder if this is the last one I’ll get to spend with Mom. I’m grateful for another Mother’s Day together.

Mother's Day 2018 Selfie

Obligatory Mom’s Day selfie

 

Field trip!

Happy to report that Mom was feeling quite chipper when I visited yesterday morning. We took a “field trip” to a local park with a large man-made lake, where she enjoyed the fresh air, the relaxing scenery, and the many varieties of birds. I pushed her wheelchair on the paved path all the way around the lake, which was good exercise for me. lol And a little challenging when we came to this rustic wooden bridge…

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… but we bumped our way across without incident, though I was grateful that her chair comes equipped with a seatbelt.

I had wanted to get a photo of Mom feeding the ducks, but she wasn’t keen on the idea… and then it turned out that the ducks weren’t keen on the grapes I’d brought to feed them either.

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Except for the mallard in the center, these are actually coots, which aren’t ducks at all.

 

There are SO many birds living around this lake! We saw two kinds of herons, a red-tailed hawk, swans, several breeds of geese and ducks, seagulls, and dozens of the coots.

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The swans were Mom’s favorites

 

Halfway around the lake, we stopped (for me) to rest and sat for a while enjoying the sunshine. The air was full of birdsong, and I counted at least seven different songs in addition to the ever present quacking and honking of the water fowl.
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Though she was ready for a nap by the time I got her home, Mom enjoyed our field trip a lot. As we move into a season of warmer (but not yet hot) weather, I’m hoping I’ll have more opportunities to take her on outings like this. It was good for us both.

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Thankful

Thanksgiving was a little different this year. I’ve had to accept the fact that the days when I could have Mom come and stay with me for an entire holiday weekend are over. The seven steps into my building are impossible for her to manage now. My best friend graciously offered her ground floor apartment for our co-hosted Thanksgiving dinner this year, and I was thankful that Mom was able to join us for the meal. Mom usually enjoys our lively gatherings, but wasn’t feeling very sociable this time. She was too tired to even concentrate on working a crossword puzzle and barely stayed awake long enough to eat. I took her back to her care home before dessert had even been served, but I saved her some pumpkin pie.

I brought the pie over today, right after lunch. Mom was, again, almost too tired to eat, which worries me. As I said to her, “It’s not like you to be uninterested in PIE!” She did finally finish her small slice, then almost immediately started dozing in her recliner. I sat with her for about an hour, watching figure skating on TV and chatting a bit when she woke up long enough to remember that I was there.

They’re tapering her off the supplemental oxygen during the day, per doctor’s orders, and her saturation has been staying around 94-95. But when I checked it today, she was only at 91. I sure hope this isn’t an indicator of fluid building up in her lungs again. Thankfully, we see the pulmonologist for a follow-up chest x-ray this coming Wednesday.

Despite the changes, I am deeply thankful that Mom is still here with me and that we were able to share Thanksgiving dinner.  I don’t know what Christmas will look like yet, but the only gift I need is to be able to share it with her.

Thanksgiving 2017