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.

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Hi Mom

Today would be my mom’s 87th birthday.

She isn’t here any more – we lost her at the age of 80 to complications from pancreatic cancer. She hadn’t even started her chemo/radiation yet.  Once night she complained she wasn’t feeling well. Later that night, she woke my dad and told him to call the doctor.  He left the room for a moment, came back and she was gone. Blood clot in the lungs was the informed guess from her physician.

When she died, it was like the center of our world went dark.  For my father, 82 at the time and with myriad health issues, the sun had ceased to shine when his wife of 61 years left him behind.  For us, it was simply astounding.  Mom was the strong one, the capable and steady one.  My father was battling so many health woes – cancer, CHF, kidney failure (caused by the cancer treatment!) and all of the minor ills that come with these major deals.  Mom was his caregiver; the keeper of binders full of test results and physician notes, the one who handled his dietary needs (considerable, for a dialysis patient), kept all of his doctors straight, doled out the drugs.  Sure, my brothers and sister and I helped but she was the rock in the center – all-seeing and all-knowing.

Time to step up.  The next year became a whirlwind of cleaning out, organizing care, communicating with everyone and the very difficult task of helping a truly heartbroken old man find a way back to living again. We had Dad for another 2 1/2 years before finally losing him to a stroke.

I think the crazy whirl of activity helping put my dad back together – and keeping him that way, at least while we could – in some ways blunted the grief I felt for my mom.  Yes, when it first happened and the shock passed, I sobbed. I found myself in tears at the oddest moments for at least a year.  I also found myself on an anti-anxiety medication, but that’s a story for another time.  I expect that some day I’ll have to finish my abbreviated trip through the grief process for Mom.  Days like today, her birthday, and the feelings that have come over me in waves today make that apparent.  It’ll come.  In the meantime, I miss you Mom. I still need you.

My mom at age 78, with her new kitten CoCo.  Coco now lives with me.

My mom at age 78, with her new kitten CoCo. Coco now lives with me.