And she’s buying a stairway to heaven (home hospice journey #7)

It is done.  We lost our lovely Dianne 1 week ago on Thursday, 5/16, at 10:15am.  Her passing was peaceful – far more so than we dared to hope for with a COPD patient.  She’d had a rough Tuesday night and difficult Wednesday morning but as her day progressed, she gradually slipped into a semi-comatose state by evening, with that rattling sort of breathing that means we’re nearing the end. We settled her in bed and made her as comfortable as possible and settled in to keep watch.  Around midnight, I headed off to bed with the intention of taking over in the morning and letting my husband get some rest.  Once my daughter was off to school (my son saw the writing on the wall, so to speak, and refused to leave), I got settled into place and sent Mike off to get some rest.  

Mostly I hung out bedside and got a bit of work done on my laptop.  Every so often, I’d get up to ensure she was comfortable. I noticed at one point that she was warm and a bit sweaty so took off her socks and bathed her face a bit.  I kept watch on the color of her lips and fingertips and listened to the rhythm of her breathing – mostly so that if anything noticeably changed, I could go get Mike.  None of that happened.  She was breathing one moment and the next, she wasn’t.  There was no gasping, nothing erratic, no sound.  She simply was and then she wasn’t.  I ran to wake up my husband to let him know his mother was gone.

All of the official hustle and bustle of a passing began: hospice was called, the police came, the cremation service notified.  Forms were signed, i’s dotted, t’s crossed.  Once the legalities were complete, Mike laid back down for a bit and I did some straightening up – stripping the bed, packing away clothing and supplies, that sort of thing.  

Things feel a bit unsettled.  Dianne’s wishes were to forego the whole funeral home and service thing and instead transport her ashes as a family to a park in the Bitterroot mountains of Idaho, to be scattered in a place that she loved dearly.  We’ll make that trip later this summer.  In the meantime, the healing needs to begin.  It’s a long road we’ve been on and we all need a bit of rest.  I’m so glad her passing was peaceful and serene. Hopefully she left a bit of that peace and serenity in her wake. 

Thank you all for the support and just for reading. Your presence is felt and appreciated.

Advertisements

And if you listen very hard (home hospice journey #6)

Short entry tonight. It’s been a long day.

Our journey is soon to come to an end, it seems. D. Is mostly quiet; what energy she has is dedicated to continuing to draw breath. She’s at pretty close to the safe dose of morphine, which seems to keep her fairly peaceful. My husband witnessed his great aunt’s death to the same cause – cigarettes – that was not morphine-assisted and said it was pretty brutal. I’m glad that she’s getting whatever peace she’s getting.

So, it may be tonight ( but I don’t think so, for whatever reason), it may be tomorrow but it will be soon – that I know.

When my dad died, he spent the last few days calling my mothers name. He’d had a stroke – a severe one – and this was the only word we heard from him after that. Just “Mary”, every so often, while gazing into the distance. I hope D feels the presence of those she loved waiting to welcome her too.

And now I sleep for a bit.

How everything still turns to gold (our home hospice experience #5)

It’s getting harder. Much harder.

D. is in a new phase. Her ability to draw breath is deteriorating by the day, leaving her more uncomfortable. With this discomfort comes all sorts of emotions for all involved. For us, it’s sadness, dismay and even incredulousness when she’d choose to go have a smoke even when it took her the better part of an hour to cross the room to the door outside. For her it’s mostly anger and resignation; anger when she can’t do something she wants to or feels trapped by her own body – trapped in a room, trapped by the unrelenting parade of treatments and scheduled medications, trapped by the condition she’s forced upon herself. It’s easier sometimes to be angry at us for pushing yet another breathing treatment or dose of nasty-tasting morphine than to face her anger at herself for getting her here. Or so I presume.

But even this phase has largely passed. D’s breathing discomfort has reached a point where she requires ever-increasing doses of the morphine to make breathing possible. And yeah-it seems counter-intuitive to give morphine to someone who can’t breathe but it does actually work. It relaxes her from trying so hard to inhale that she’s tense and laboring and just lets her breathe as best she can. The downside of this is her morphine intake is at a level that she’s largely lost sight of reality. She mostly knows who we are but isn’t entirely sure where she is or why we’re keeping her here. After each dose – every 90 minutes now – she has an hour or so of relative comfort and ease. Then she becomes either paranoid or angry, sure we’re up to no good. She’ll ask questions: “when do I go home?” or “who lives in this place?” Or even “who are you?”. We’ve learned to roll with these questions and answer best we can without trying to inject logic that she can’t process.

And we have our moments of fun, too. Last night, when she was having difficulty orienting herself in her current location, Mike had her at the window and was pointing out the neighborhood homes and who lived where – many of whom she’s met. At that very moment, a couple walked by, (presumably) dressed for some sort of party with shiny silver Mylar wigs on their heads. WE freaked a bit, assuming this was a very bad thing for a morphine-addled person to see. D took it in stride – it was the blinds at the house across the way that had her more concerned. (They were opened just enough for someone to watch her, she felt).

And the guy who treated our asphalt driveway (and has for years) noticed D in her room and all her medical accoutrement and brought a large bag of leaves and dried greens that he called “the herbs from Africa” and a tea made with these “herbs” would fix her up good. Seems it “cures the cancer, fixes the ‘rheumatiz’ and everything else that ails you. Mike asked what kind of plants were in there and was assured it was simply “the herbs – granny sent from Africa”. We have yet to try “the herbs” tea but maybe Mike and I will at some point. If it cures all, why the hell not? 😉

All that aside, it’s safe to say we’re on the downslope of our journey. There will be ever more morphine at ever shorter intervals. At some point, we’ll stop being able to get her to take her other pills and the breathing treatments that give her some increase in O2 intake efficiency. At some point it will be all morphine.

How soon this happens, I have no clue. It does feel like its moving faster – that the snowball is speeding up down the hill. We’ll deal a day at a time.

Thanks to all who continue to read these rambles – means the world to me. Please let me know if you want to hear more or have questions. Or if you’ve been through this, I’d love to hear about your experiences. But most of all, thanks.

And Happy Mother’s Day to D – and all of you moms out there.