Wednesday 21 May 2014

She's Gone

My mom passed away suddenly on May 13, early in the morning, before Dad and I went to visit. Her vital signs were fine at shift change. An hour later, the nurse found she was gone. I was so shocked, I thought it had to be a joke, a terrible joke. Of course it wasn't. In the end, despite those conversations about "goals of care" Mom went on her own timeline, or rather God's. She couldn't be resuscitated because the hospital staff didn't know she was dying. They think she went quick. My God, I hope so.

The last week has been a blur. I felt like I was at work again as Dad and I were in meetings all day for days planning the funeral. Then there was the flurry of preparations, like baking, making a collage and receiving visitors. Mom was a wonderful baker. In her honour, friends and I baked cookies, biscuits, loaves and squares for the visitation Monday night. My cousin flew up from Delaware -- well, you can't fly out of Delaware, but that's another story -- and my godmother, who was Mom's best friend, and her daughter, who was Mom's goddaughter, came. Mom's family wasn't able to come, but sent flowers. 

There were a lot of flowers. Beautiful arrangements and sprays. Vivian of Vivian's Flowers on Merivale Road did a terrific job, even when her supplier sent the wrong colour snapdragons and the holiday weekend made replacements impossible to get. I found myself taking pictures of the arrangements. I was compelled to. Do you know why? I felt I had to take pictures of the flowers to show mom, since she wasn't there.

There were more photos, of the casket, of Mom. Dad wanted me to take them. So I did. I am trying to do all I can to help a Dad deal with Mom's death. Oh those words are so hard to say -- "mom's death." So final.

Without Mom's family, I wasn't sure what or who to expect at the visitation the night before the funeral. We did it for us and for tradition. My friends didn't let me down. Old friends, co-workers and neighbours came, people who have helped support me in my illness. New and old neighbours of Mom and Dad also came.

The funeral was yesterday. It was harder. A smaller crowd, but a good crowd nonetheless, came to support us. Sweetie, the Bean and I did readings at the funeral Mass. I could barely read the last few lines through the tears. I thought I could do it easily enough. I was wrong. I don't think I'll do it again.

Now, like finishing cancer treatment, I need to find a "new normal," one that doesn't involve getting to the hospital every day to visit Mom. I will call Dad every day. I will helping deal with mom's will and finances. We will have to go through her clothes and effects. Then there is the question of how long he keeps the house and the job it will be to downsize, particularly to a one-room retirement home suite. So, it isn't really over. In fact, the grieving has barely begun.

Sunday 11 May 2014

A Bittersweet Mothers Day

Any Mothers Day that I am still here with the Bean is a good one. She is eleven now, and coming into the years when she really, really needs a mother. I am grateful to still be here for her. But my own mom's difficult state makes the day bittersweet.

Last night I was instructed not to get out of bed in the morning but to just call, or ring my bell. Sure enough, Sweetie and the Bean made me breakfast in bed. This year, it was more sophisticated than most. She made me a cheese and tomato omelet. Plus juice and tea. There must be tea. I think our dearest memories of our mothers involve tea. There were presents too. A gift certificate for a pen I ogled recently. A writer needs a good solid pen, not the one I liberated from the hotel last weekend. And a Pandora charm. Not the bracelet I tried on or one of the hundred charms I had marked off in the catalogue, but the one the Bean chose -- because Mommy likes pearls. It is beautiful. (When we returned from Montreal last weekend, she and I spent an hour combing through my jewellery box and trying on dresses. We spent a lot of time on the pearls. My little Bean pumped me full of confidence in my appearance, something cancer has tried to take from me.)

I have some time to write now while they walk the dog. I am mentally preparing for the trip to the hospital. Mom has been moved out of ICU to the Acute Monitoring Area so they can continue to watch her oxygen desaturations. She is in a private room due to an antibiotic-resistant infection. We appreciate the privacy, particularly as my brothers were here yesterday and the room was crowded. 

She still isn't able to communicate with us. We can only guess at her level of consciousness. And yet we had to have another conversation last night about our "goals for care." What happens next time she has an infection and goes septic? Do we treat with antibiotics? Do we treat her low blood pressure, requiring an ICU admission? Do we ventilate her if necessary? None of us ever imagined she would be brain damaged and paralyzed. What would she say she wants? To slip away peacefully or to die trying? Do we use medical interventions because they are available? Must we? Should we? Her last words to us were to request all possible treatment. "I want to live." Does she still? And who am I to decide? 

Have you talked to your parents about their wishes? Have you considered your own? Have you considered all the options? Or put it in practical terms? Have you decided when your quality of life determines its value?

Thanks to cancer, my brother and sister-in-law and my Sweetie and I have had to ask ourselves these questions. We know the day is likely to come when further treatment will not buy us another day to hug our children -- which is all I want in life, I suppose. I haven't answered all the questions yet. For today, I will go to the hospital today, hug my Mom and drink a cup of tea. And be grateful she is still here.