When Mom was in her last days, I remember it seeming unreal that the rest of us would go on without her. We would, of course, but I couldn't imagine my own life without her in it, or our family life without her. I couldn't imagine what it would be like in a year, let alone ten. But here we are. Ten years. Wow.
I thought it would get to be less painful, but it hasn't, actually. Well, it's different. Not so intense, but much deeper, like a very old regret that no longer affects today but rattles the foundation a little when recalled. Tears can still come quite quickly at times though, surprising me, as if sorrow is barely under the surface. But it's not as if I walk around grieving, or even think of Mom every day.
I'm still pissed off at life for letting us down, disappointing us so hugely. Never mind that it's irrational; it's how I feel. We can talk about Mom and remember her and have our laughs and fond memories, and that's all good. I like that and like being with other people who knew her and/or loved her. Losing her made me appreciate Dad and my sisters and brothers more than ever, and know — in my bones, now, and not just in my head — that someday we'll part, too, wrenched away from each other.
Wed, May 11, 2005
She couldn't stay awake well enough to get a muffin from the plate in her lap to her mouth. Dad fed it to her by spoon. Anemic; blood transfusion tomorrow morning. Then an x-ray of the bum left shoulder.
She did manage to drink an entire glass of Ensure.
Poor sleepy thing. I kneel by her chair, caress her feet and calves. She says a few drowsy words, makes sense but so, so tired.
Scott gone back to Saskatchewan today. Lonely bed.
Sunday, May 14, 2005
Mom hasn't picked up as much as in the past after transfusions.
Monday, May 16, 2005
Went to Mom's around 10:30. She was unable to pee when she sat on the commode, or the toilet either; she hasn't since last night, and wanted the palliative care nurses called to put in a catheter. Reta is a nurse but Mom didn't want her to do it.
"I wonder how much longer I have," she said to me while this was happening. She looks pretty good, colourwise. Aunt Reta says the methodone for pain can be shutting things down.
I spent most of my time there cutting and preparing fabric squares for the quilted tablecloth Mom wants to make for Mary Jo. Came home after picking up the boys, and went straight to bed. After one hour, woke myself up crying about Mom. After another hour, woke myself up again, also crying about Mom in a dream.
Joanne Bohl phoned last night to say she and Gerald plan to come around the 13th if Mom is well enough to know them, by then. I can't imagine she'll go downhill that fast — but of course I can't, and she might. Dr. Davidson told Dad again that with the amount and size of Mom's tumour, he doesn't understand why she's still with us. And that things could go wrong very quickly. If she stops eating and drinking, Dad said, it could be two or three days only.
Mom goes to hospital for a bone scan Wednesday morning, and a shot of radiation late that afternoon. Did I mention her shoulder is fractured and there's cancer there?
Poor girl, if it isn't one thing it's another.
Mom can't do much of anything now and Reta has been taking care of her. Dad too. I go over every day and talk to Mom, help with what I can.
Biscuits! I should bake some fresh biscuits over there. Mom might like that.
Wednesday, May 19, 2005
-flowershop for two bouquets for Mom from Aunt Gladys; lily, and gerbera daisies
-home to work
-sing with ugly sisses
-off to Mom and Dad's
mom's not good
mom's not good
mom's not good
i haven't cried this way in a long time
forgot what it feels like
Saturday night, May 21, 2005
Neil and Rose had arrived. Dad was out with Karen, looking at cars, so I visited with them and Reta. Mom had been awake when they got there but hadn't stayed up long. I went and checked on her several times and spoke to her but other an an eye flutter, no response.
Dad had steaks out for supper so I came home and fed my boys. Neil and Rose called around seven when they were ready to be picked up and brought over here.
I went in to see Mom and as I looked at her — tucked her sheet up around her chin, untangled her hand from the bedrail and a bag-string threaded through her fingers, stroked her face — for the first time I thought her dying is not a long way off. It is here, or soon.
I knelt by the bed and held her hand between my two, trying not to cry. They were waiting for me in the living room so I didn't want to start. It took me a while. Dad came in to see. "Nothing?" he said, looking at me. "No." He shook his head and walked out. I composed myself with great difficulty.
I knew there is no way I can leave next Saturday for a week. No.
Unless — unless I see her awake tomorrow and she is somehow different. Reta thinks by the middle of the week we'll know whether it's the radiation that's doing this, or something else — the slide. But radiation didn't do this before. She could always wake up and respond when I spoke to her.
So — it was a knowing.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Mom is weaker today.
Reta says she may only live a couple more days.
Grandma was phoned, and Uncle Bruce, to prepare them.
Cameron was phoned and told not to wait till Saturday as planned. He and Gord decided to drive out together tomorrow instead.
Scott and Dick are organizing themselves to come right away. Scott likely would have started off tonight but is waiting to hear from Dick in the morning whether he can come now or will have to come in a couple days.
If Neil and Rose weren't in the bed in the room directly below, I'd be sobbing noisily. It is a struggle to be quiet. I wonder if I am feeling sorry for myself. I hate myself if that's what this is. I am carefully wiping my eyes with a warm wet cloth in hopes that if I don't fall asleep with them soaked in salty tears, perhaps they won't swell shut on me again.
Uncle Neil told me he cries a lot too. Rose, who has lost two brothers and her dad, says it is harder to lose a sibling than a parent. I can't imagine anything, any death, being more painful than my darling mom's — even if someone who's been there says so. Except maybe deaths of children. But then, I can't imagine losing my kids, or my sisters, or Scott. I can imagine, but not with the emotional punch. Not the same as the real thing.
I left the bottle of rose oil by Mom's bed; it's supposed to help make dying easier. When we're alone I dab it under her nose, on her sheet, on her pillow.
Her system is shutting down, they think. Rose says this is what her dad looked like just days before he passed away peacefully. Reta thinks the end will be very soon.
Mom didn't eat today. She couldn't lift a water glass to her lips. She told Reta (when? not sure, but Reta told me today) she dreamed that her friend Mary Jo was going through the clothes in Mom's closet and Mom told her not to worry, that her three girls could wear her tops and that Karen had the same size bum as her and would be able to wear her pants.
I told Reta that's funny, Mom always said Karen and Joan have no bums and I am the one with a big bum like hers.
Oh, what is going through Mom's mind as she lies there? Was it just this morning that Reta got her onto the bedside commode and Mom managed the move and the sitting there quite easily?
And yet all I see is Mom hardly able to open her eyes, and barely able to get a word out. I understand her meaning sometimes — barely perceptible — she's thirsty, her lips are dry, the noise of people talking in the rest of the house is not bothering her at all — not really in words but somehow I understand.
She drank only a little bit of water today. She couldn't wake up enoguh to take her pills. She stayed in bed. She ate nothing. She got her liquid methadone in.
Thank God for Reta. Without her, Mom would be in hospice or hospital. Home is so much better, and Reta sees no reason why we can't keep her there until the end.
It is hard to have faith that Mom is going to a better place, that she'll never really leave us, that we'll all survive our broken hearts.
I keep seeing her smiling, healthy face in my mind though, very clearly. I hope I can always see it.
Karen is quitting her job tomorrow so she can help with Mom.
For a service here in Kelowna — "for Mary Jo" — Dad said Mom wanted it — I suggested we have the barbershop quartette sing, and we serve ice cream. Isn't that so Mom? Add to that: it should be a quilting bee — and we'll have covered all the bases.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Reta's 63rd birthday
Was there today when Mom awoke and was "restless" — what Dad and Reta called restless. I call it pain and panic. Reta gave her a shot that would put her back to sleep, but it wasn't immediate. Pretty distressed; she was, and so were we.
Dad had told me earlier that Mom was awake in the morning, experiencing the same thing. She'd said, "Get the doctor to give me something."
Dad said, "You mean you just want it to be over?"
She said vehemently, "Yes!"
After seeing her awake this afternoon, I know we have to keep her asleep if we can, otherwise she may suffer and we can't permit that to happen.
Reta had waited four hours between doses, but from now on will dose her every 2-3 hours so it doesn't happen again.
What could I do? Lay my hand on her forehead, her neck, her cheek, and speak soothingly until the shot came. Try to stay calm, to calm her.
After the shot, rub lotion into her feet. It seemed to help her settle down.
I threw off my blanket and went to sit beside Dad, and put my arms around him. He said he wanted to keep her asleep; we'd all had a few good moments with her yesterday. She'd asked us girls to sing our songs for Cameron, so we did in spite of his protests sing "Cheek to Cheek" a capella for her and, though it was impossible not to break into tears here and there, we got through it — and that would be enough for us.
I said yes; now we have to think of her and not of ourselves. You are absolutely right to keep her asleep.
Later when both Dad and Cameron sat at her bedside holding her hand and crying, I put my arms around each of them and told Mom not to worry, I would take care of them. This was two different times. How I managed not to cry myself I don't understand. I have shed so many tears (fewer since Scott arrived Monday around midnight; he must be a calming influence) and I know many more are coming.
I want to just stay there now and help look after her. If she is still alive in the morning I'm going to ask Dad if I can. Reta and Dad are doing a great job but I want to be there for Mom. Just be there even if I don't know what to do. My presence has helped her before — many times in the past year — and maybe it can help again.
Dad thinks tonight might be her last night and wanted all us kids to go over for a while with her after supper just in case. I asked Emil whether he'd like to come and see Grandma one more time before she died, and he said he would. Everett, who was with Gord at his rental suite, thought not but "Tell Grandma I love her and give her a kiss for me." Gord figured it was important enough to insist he go, and he took him over, and in.
She is breathing slowly but deeply. Her pulse is strong, Reta said. But her hands and feet, though warm, are becoming a bit mottled. She hasn't eaten for days and has drank only a glass of water or so.
The expression on her face and in her eyes has completely changed. Her eye colour is different but also somewhat vacant. She responds sometimes but is not always understandable.
I think we will be relieved for her sake when she goes, now. Poor thing.
Karen sponged Mom's face with a cloth yesterday to keep her awake until Joan could get there so we could sing "Happy Birthday" to her with Mom, or around Mom's bed.
Saturday, May 28, 2005
Mom died at 12:23 p.m. May 27, with Dad on one side of her, holding her hand, and me on the other with my hand on her neck, her brow, her face. Reta was there, and Karen, Joan and Cameron came in almost immediately. It was a relief for all as Mom's breathing had been laboured for a day or two. After a couple short periods of distress on Tues. or Wed. it was obvious she needed to be kept sedated in order to feel no pain, so we gave her shots every two hours till the end. Joan and I stayed overnight on Thursday and took turns giving Mom her meds so Reta and Dad could sleep. I am so glad I was there.