I have been so busy with everything, I haven't been able to post about life.
Since March, I had noticed major changes in mom whenever I was at the nursing home to visit. Everytime I went, I usually brought grapes, bananas, or bought her snack crackers and a coke. I'd even help feed her the high protein shakes they would give her. She would always eat for me, and I'd make sure there were leftovers so she could have some of the things she loved later. No fresh fruit was ever given at the nursing home, and mom used to love to eat fresh fruit. I'd have to place the fruit between her fingers so she could put it in her mouth herself, but I wanted her to do as much as she could for herself.
But then there came a time when she couldn't eat without choking. And then later she would not be able to get off a subject - like counting by tens (but skipping 90 each time) or telling the kids to "stay in the white". She liked the white and wanted to go to the white. Have no idea what she was talking about, but I agreed with her and told her she could go to the white whenever she wanted.
Hospice became involved with mom's care at the beginning of May. The nursing home saw a failure to thrive in mom (they were there everyday and saw how she was going downhill). I was grateful that they were going to be there. When they went to interview mom, the woman in charge told mom she had talked with her daughter, Julie. She asked if there was anything she wanted her to tell me. Mom replied, "Yes. Tell her, I love her."
Later, the end of first week of May, I was told that hospice would be spending time with mom 24 hours a day. Although somewhere in my mind I understood this to mean that mom was failing and they thought she might be closer to dying, somehow I managed to push it out of my mind, thinking that it wasn't going to be soon.
On Saturday, May 7, I went with the girls to see her. We got there and no hospice person was there - and I called hospice to let them know that there was no one with her. Worse, she wouldn't wake up or respond. The nursing home staff and I tried to get her awake - usually she'd wake up and say hi. She might be tired and go back to sleep, but still she'd be able to wake up. This time - nothing. They even took a washcloth and wiped her eyes and face. She had no response to it. I asked the nurses if she'd been like this previously and asked if there was anything in her file stating that she was having espisodes of not responding. They said that she was talking and awake that morning, then checked the chart, but nothing was in there about her not responding. I called the hospice nurse and told her as well.
On Tuesday, May 10, the hospice nurse (whose name is Julie also) called to say they thought mom had had a stroke. She had a weakness on her right side, but was still able to talk, although it was different due to a weakness on her left side of her face. Julie held her cell phone up to mom's ear, and our conversation went like this:
Me: Hi Mom.
Me: How are you doing?
MOM: I'm fine. (this was mom's standard answer - she could be on fire and she'd still answer "I'm fine")
Me: I want you to know that I'll be coming to see you tomorrow. The kids will be home soon, so I'll have to wait until tomorrow. OK?
Me: I love you, mom.
MOM: I love you.
I was still able to lie to myself about how bad her condition was. I mean, after all, she was still talking, right?
I went to see her the next day, and found her profoundly changed. She could no longer squeeze my hand and she couldn't respond to any questions. I tried to feed her but she couldn't eat anything - she couldn't even suck any nourishment through a straw. I think my mind was numb at this point. I mean, after all, I'd seen times when she'd have trouble doing something, and then the next time I'd see her, she seemed better. Why not this time, too?
Mom made a face when Julie gave her the medication under her tongue for pain (evidently it was truly nasty stuff, because mom made a face), then she literally tried to close her eyes shut and then rolled her eyes into her head to avoid the penlight Julie shined in her eyes to check the dilation of her pupils. There was little to no dilation. But that was the only responses we could get out of Mom.
The next morning, I was waiting for the water to heat up so I could make some coffee when I got a call from Julie. I was told that they felt mom was close to dying and I needed to get there soon if I wanted to be there.
Forget the coffee.
I called her best friend Phyllis, and she picked up mom's sister-in-law, Georgia. When I got there, mom's lungs were filling with fluid, and she was rattling when she was breathing. I didn't know if she could hear me, but told her I was there, and that I loved her. Phyllis and Georgia came later. I simply sat there, watching as they took care of mom and tried to make things as comfortable as possible for her. Again, it just wasn't sinking in... denial is a strong force we use to cope with what is going on, and I was moving in and out of it that day. I watched as her color turned to a bluish-purple in her extremeties, as the brain tried to pull all the blood to protect the major organs. After a couple of hours of listening to mom rattle away, she began to breathe more shallowly, with each breath further apart than the last. She took one final breath, and she was gone. All I could say was "I love you, mom. You can rest now. You were a great mother, and a wonderful grandma to the kids. You did all you could do for us. I love you."
Then there were tears, shock, and numbness.
I miss her so terribly. I would give anything for one more day of her wanting to be in the white again, although I guess metaphorically speaking, she is "in the white now."
I would take her counting by tens or just holding her hand and feeling her squeeze mine once in a while.
I miss her. I'll always miss her. Strangely, although a part of me grieves, and another part feels like a weight has been lifted.