Looking Back

From an email I sent Husband two years ago (he was out on the boat for a six week detachment at the time.  He was flown off the aircraft carrier on emergency leave two days later):

Hi Sweet.I’m starting to wonder if I should make the Red Cross call now. I will certainly check with Laura (hospice nurse) on Monday. I realized this evening how little Mom is taking in. She’s had less than five teaspoons of water today and only a teaspoon and a half of strawberry smoothie to eat. Her body is shutting down. I think the process of dying has begun. Would they be able to do anything if I did call? It’s all just such a horrible guessing game.

I’ve been doing all I can to do “Mom things” with Mom. I put on Conway Twitty and Willie Nelson for her to listen to. We watched While You Were Sleeping. We always used to watch that movie together. We watched it so much, that I got tired of it and wanted to watch other things instead, but she always wanted While You Were Sleeping. Now I’d watch it with her 10000 times if she could just be ok. I put in “Smokey Mountain Singin” and sang along like we would do on the drives down to college. Tonight, to get C down to sleep, I sang her hymns and sang them to Mom too, and I read her scriptures tonight–the one she’s requested for her service.

Carolyn and I took a walk today. I needed to get out, and I’ve been trying to give Carolyn at least a few doses of normal here and there. We walked up and down the lane a couple of times. She liked it. I’m worried about her. There is so much BIG STUFF going on around her. I know she is more aware than we know, and I know that my inattentiveness is confusing to her. She’s clinging, but I have to put her down so many times to tend to Mom, or even just to wash my hands for her safety, Mom’s, and ours.

I gave Mom a bed bath today with a little bath kit that you warm in the microwave. She actually responded a little when I washed her legs. She said it felt really good.

She’s not even responding to Carolyn anymore. A lot of times we can’t rouse her to get information that we need–like… Mom, can you eat?

I called Ken and Ellen last night. I got to talk to Uncle Ken for a bit. Uncle Ken reminded me he’d been through this with Grandpa. He didn’t say much… but he really comforted me.

Still self-medicating with too much sugar. *sigh* Probably why C is so wired. I will try not to be the 400 lb. woman when you get here, but no promises.

I need to get back to Mom so Dad can go to bed. I’m sleeping in her room tonight, so Daddy can get a decent night’s sleep. We’re to the point that I don’t want to leave her alone. I’m afraid she’ll slip away and I want someone THERE WITH HER.

Melody came over to see Mom today and check on us. C LOVES Melody. It was the first time she’d held her and Carolyn just got really quiet, and really happy, and beamed up at Melody. Melody said she believes babies can see things that we can’t, and she thinks C is seeing angels hovering over Mom…

So back to today, we’re staying busy here, and I feel pretty upbeat most of the time despite the upcoming anniversary.  But I do keep looking back to two years ago. 

I have happy memories of those days as well as excrutiating ones.  I think of wrangling up a guitar when Uncle Ken was visiting and all of us singing songs for hours.  That was one of Mom’s very favorite things and she passed the love on to me.  I think those were probably her happiest moments in the last couple of weeks she had with us. 

I think of giving Mom bed baths and rubbing lotion into her feet.  I think of holding her hand.

I think of the stifling heat of July in Illinois.

I remember the moment when I realized Mom hadn’t had more than two tablespoons of water all day, and it hit me that the end was coming fast even though the doctor had told us we might have 3 months left with her.

I think of her calling Carolyn ‘sugar plum’ in some of her last lucid moments, and lighting up just as she always had at seeing her.

I think of playing trivial pursuit with Mom’s best friend and Mom still knowing all the answers…  and then I think about 48 hours after that when she slept most of the time and woke up only long enough to say, “We have a dilemma.”

I think about driving to the pharmacy in the middle of the Trivial Pursuit game, speeding all the way there, and all the way  back because I couldn’t stand not being there.  I couldn’t stand the thought of stealing moments away from Mom when there were so few moments left.

I think of oral syringes with liquid morphine and Ativan, and mouth swabs to keep Mom’s mouth moist.

I cherished that last week and all of the little things I could do (not that I did much in the grand scheme), because all of those little things–rubbing lotion into her feet, giving her baths, singing hymns, giving her medicine–those were all some of the last ways I told my Mom I loved her. I said the words too, many times.  But I smile at the memories of doing those things because they were ways to say those words in a language I knew she could still receive.

As I was holding Carolyn’s hand and snuggling with her singing lullabyes, tonight, I realized that a part of me is still in Mom’s room with the hospital bed and the oxygen machine.  I still see it all so clearly.  I still feel the sensations on my skin and in my body.  I still smell the smells and hear the sounds as if they were happening around me now.  A part of me is still sitting by the bed, holding Mom’s hand, or bouncing Carolyn next to her.  Part of me is still there waiting on “the watch.”

And part of me forever will be. 

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One thought on “Looking Back

  1. “I think of oral syringes ansd liquid morphine, and Ativan, and mouth swabs to keep mom’s mouth moist.” I feel like I could have written this whole post. My mom would reach out to my son during lucid moments, and he would reach back out to her. I’ve been having a hard week, I must confess to you, and reading your blog makes me realize I am not alone in my grief. Isn’t it weird how things will be fine, the death will be in perspective, and then WHAM! something will remind us of our moms and it’s like she just died instead of it being a few years ago. It never does leave, does it? I wish it never happened. I wish our moms were still here.

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