Saturday, September 16, 2017

The End of Our Journey Together

  I'm sad to post for the last time tonight. I started this blog with a purpose for mom's family, because I knew this day would come. When we would have nothing left but memories and we would need a little help to say, remember when mom.........

   I want to thank you all of my readers who have encouraged me with the words,....I read your blog. There's something supportive about that comment that I will miss after today. Thank you for caring about my parents and our family as we have walked this difficult journey.

  On Thursday Larita, Angie and I never made it to Pop's house to work cleaning and sorting. I had a crazy pile-up of stuff to do. Like canning 5 bushels of apples into sauce and clean at Pop's house, and keep an eye on Mom.

  So I called Angie and asked her to please go see Mom and start without me, so that I could get my applesauce operation at home off to a good start. Meanwhile some Good Samaritans in the form of my niece Janessa and my daughter in law Anna came to help Phebe who I knew would be up to her neck and should not be left alone. I was so grateful for their help.

  I then headed in to see Mom. Angie and Larita were there as planned. Mom seemed to be holding her own. She was not taking anything in by mouth at that point, but she would still look at us and follow us with her eyes. We sat and visited for awhile. I still had the house on my mind and felt I should go see to it. Around noon Larita called my attention to the fact that while mom appeared to be looking at us she wasn't really focusing at all. I stopped to look and realized she was right. Just an unfocused stare. But then minutes later she followed again. Angie and Larita walked out then and I intended to follow them out but I stopped, knelt beside Mom's bed and talked to her. Not knowing that this was the last time that she really would zone in and see me. I have no clue what I said to her.

  When I walked out I was suddenly overcome with the conviction that the house was of no consequence. It could wait. This very well might be the last day I could spend with my Mom.

  So I called Larita and told her what I felt and she agreed, so I ran home to check on my crew and turned around and went right back to Mom. When I got back she wasn't focusing at all anymore. The nurse came in and said she felt that Mom was uncomfortable and agitated and she advised that we should give her a drug to relax her. After listening and observing Mom I recognized that she was turning her head from side to side and showing signs of pain and anxiety. Her breathing was really fast at that point as well. So I agreed to the medicine.

  Almost immediately after the drug she relaxed and slipped into a coma. Her breathing had a bad rattle until they came in and repositioned her. So we spent the day there. Watching her breathe fast and realizing that this was really going to be the end. The staff at the Nursing Home was very supportive and kept us supplied with coffee and snacks. They made sure Mom wasn't in pain or uncomfortable as far as was possible. I called Darwin and told him about the rattle in Mom's breathing so him and Eunice came in and I took a quick run home to take pizza to my applesauce crew. Galen and Donna came while I was gone then.

  Things seemed to stay pretty much the same with Mom into the evening. After supper a lot of the grandchildren started to filter in until the room was filled and then we sang and it was beautiful. I wish I could remember all the songs we sang, but it ministered to our souls and if Mom could still hear I hope it helped her journey as well.

  Darwin was sick with sore throat so they went home at midnight to get some rest. That left Angie, Clifford, Larita, Carrie and I there to watch through the night. Angie was like a sentinel, never allowing herself to sleep a wink lest she miss Mom's passing. I was so tired from getting up early that morning that I finally succumbed to sleep after committing it to the Lord.

 I know this is a long post.......bear with me, it was an equally long night.

  I think I slept for an hour when Angie woke me saying that she thought Mom was having periods of Apnea. But I couldn't see it, her breathing had probably slowed some, it was much more shallow at that point.

  So I sat in a huge recliner in her room and watched her until my eyes could not stay open and I dosed again. Around 3am Larita and Clifford came back in the room and wondered about leaving or not. Larita really didn't want to leave but we all knew it could drag into the next day and so they reluctantly decided to leave.

  Soon after they left, around 4am Mom's breathing noticeable started having periods of apnea. I called Darwins again and let them know and Angie and I pulled chairs up beside mom's bed and held her hand and watched and talked. The moments of watching her not breathe were kind of suffocating. I felt like I just needed to breathe for her.

  Darwin's and Emma came and we all sat around her bed and talked about Mom and Pop and seeing Jesus and how glorious it was going to be for mom to be free of Dementia. We sat there for a full hour and at the last her breathing just slowed down to longer and longer periods between shallow breaths and than three very small widely spaced breaths later, she was gone. At 6:40am

  Everything happened so fast after that. There were tears, but also rejoicing. I found a dress to send with her to the Funeral Home and Darwin, Eunice Angie and I sat in the family room and did some planning while the CNAs prepared Mom's body to leave. I can't say enough about how grateful we all are for the nursing staff at the Home. They had so much compassion and cared so well for Mom and us too. So grateful.

  I was so tired.....

  There was so much to do, at home, planning and I went to my parents house. While I was there I was overwhelmed with a sense of loss. I went to find white clips for Mom's veil and she always had quite a stash of hair accessories. While I was going through that stuff I realized that I was remembering mom as she was before her Dementia.

  Then I made a new discovery.......I'm grieving for two people in the same body. The mom I loved before Dementia. The one that was always there to talk to and have a good time with. The one who loved my children. The one who could rattle off the ingredients of an Apple Pie in an instant. The one who loved to cook, loved to eat out and go shopping. The one who loved to give gifts and never missed a birthday. The one who let me come to her house to sew because it was hard to get it done at home with the kids underfoot. The one who believed in me. the one whose eyes lit up when I walked in the room.

  But I also loved the other one.... The one who needed me. The one who didn't know who she was anymore. The one who needed reassurance. Who needed her hand held. Who needed someone to come visit in spite of the fact that her eyes no longer lit up when I walked in. The one who needed us to give her dignity when she no longer had it.

  I loved them both....

  The sweetest most recent memory I have of Mom was about 3 weeks ago. She was sitting by the window in her wheelchair. I walked in and said hello and gave her a warm hug across her back and she leaned her face against mine. It felt like affection. I think we ministered to each other.

  On Sept 5th I went in to see her by myself. She was in bed, but she was awake and paid close attention to me. I talked to her about Pop and that he doesn't come to see her anymore and why he isn't coming. Then I left, she seemed perfectly fine, but then I don't know everything.

  I missed my turn on Saturday then to go see her because of other obligations. So then the following Monday the 11th Phebe stopped to see her. When she came home she told me she was horrified about how bad Grandma looked. She said she thinks Grandma is dying. That was the day the Nursing Home called and wanted to meet on Tuesday the 12th.

  When I stopped in to see Mom before the meeting. I couldn't stop the tears. She had drastically changed from my last visit. The rest of the story is history now, but I thought back to my last visit when I had told her again about Pop. Did it sink in that time that he wasn't coming back and she made up her mind to go to him?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

More On Mom

   Yesterday was a full day. I met Larita and Angie in the Nursing home to see how Mom was doing. When we got there her breathing was very labored, but they soon brought in oxygen and there was a noticeable difference. She relaxed and even looked at us.

  We left then because Larita had come to help us go through things at the Pop's house because Darwin's are remodeling and there's too much stuff in the way. We worked until about 3:30 and then ran in to see mom again. She was much the same.

  I had asked the nurse for sponges that we could moisten her mouth with and Angie tried using a straw to drip water in her mouth. But since she can't swallow it just made her cough and make choking noises. She has a lot of phlegm down there.

  At this point no one knows how long it will be till she is gone. It has only been a little over 2 months since Pop died so I'm tempted to think maybe she did realize he wan't coming in anymore and she lost her will to live. Although in reality the natural progression of Dementia is that in the last stage the brain breaks down to the point where they forget how to swallow. Which is the stage my mom is at

  I have long dreaded this stage of Dementia. Knowing all along that it would come to this and we would have to watch her slowly die. My prayer for her is that she will go quickly and peacefully. My comfort lies in the fact that Dad is waiting for her on the other side. I can see him now. Waiting with eager anticipation.

  Darwin sent me this song couldn't be more fitting.

"Send Your Best Angel For My Momma"

Would you please send your best angel for my mama?
I don't want her to make this journey all alone.
Would you send the same one you sent for Daddy?
To make sure that my mama makes it home.

When it's time for you to call my mama,
Would you please take special care with her?
And dear Lord, would you let her die easy?
She has suffered so much here on this earth.


I know she'll be a perfect angel.
She has been a perfect mama to me.
And when it's time for me to come to join them,
Lord, just send that same angel for me.
And I believe He will.....(this phrase is spoken)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

It's Time To Come Back

  The blog has been calling me. It's time I come back with the continuing story of  Mom. We now have a rotating schedule between us local of Mom's kids so that she gets a visitor everyday. It's not etched in stone, but we know if we skip a turn one day we better not skip the next one. We have a guest book there that tracks our progress.

   Even though Mom seems largely unaware that Pop no longer comes to see her. It does seem like not having regular visitors may cause anxiety issues.

   I like to take her on little wheelchair journeys through the nursing home and out in the courtyard, if she happens to be in her wheelchair already when I get there. I don' t know if she likes it or not, but I do. It makes me feel like I'm doing something for her. So now I push my Mom out on the very same halls that I used to push my Dad in on.

   It doesn't seem like Mom changes a lot. Her stares get blanker and her reality dimmer, but in very tiny, minuscule increments. A few days ago the nursing home called and notified me that her lab work is showing that she is dehydrated. For right now we are choosing to have the nursing staff make an effort to get more fluids in her, hoping to avoid a hospital stay for IV treatment.

  A few days later now........the Nursing home called to set up a meeting to discuss Mom's care. Steve and I were there a half hour early, so we spent that time with mom. She was noticeably worse than shen I was in a week ago. I had missed my turn on Sat because of other unforeseen obligations.

   Last time I was there she was in bed but she woke up and looked at me. She knew I was there. Today she was laying in a fetal position, her eye that I could see was half opened, but she didn't stir or respond to me at all, even though I talked to her, held her hand

and rubbed her back. The only time she reacted at all was when I turned her music on. Then she moved around a little, but still didn't respond to me.

  After our meeting we went to see her again and she was in the dining room, but she was sleeping in her chair. I don't think they will get her to eat anything.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Old People Are a Treasure From the Past

    I have been avoiding coming back here.

   The biggest problem I face is that I am at a loss for words. I can't seem to come up with the right ones to describe how I feel. Does it make sense that I feel like my emotions are frozen?

   I miss my Dad, most of the time. But sometimes life becomes so normal that I almost forget that he is gone. Until I go to his house. Then it hits me full in the face. The house is empty. There's stuff there. His cane, His papers, his phone, his van is in the driveway with the air slowly leaking out of the back tire. His flowers are still blooming. Like they haven't been told that there is no one there to bloom for.

  I want to go back soon and face up to myself. To clean the house again till it looks as close to normal as it can, because I know most of it has to go. I want to spend a day there by myself and be sad. To say a real goodbye and not be hurried by the details of life like I have been since the day he died.

 Going back to the nursing home to visit mom without him the first time was hard, really hard. I could still envision the back of his head while I pushed him in the wheelchair. I could replay our conversations in my mind as we went. I could still hear his agonized cry when we left again, telling me how hard it was on him to see mom that way, and to recognize that she almost never knew him anymore.

  I think that was when he gave up on living. He knew that she really didn't know. He knew that we would keep going and keep caring after he was gone, and so he was ready. This world was too much for him. He was tired and wanted to be done here.

  I overheard him one day telling Angie that he loves his children but there is no love that is quite as strong as the love of a companion. He was missing mom's affection. It is no longer there. She cannot give it, because her brain doesn't remember.

  Old people have become a treasure to me. I love to see the white hair, the crinkles in the faces, the hands with brown spots on them that still show remnants of strength.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

More on Dad...

It has been too long since I posted. Much of our focus has been on caring for Pop, since Mom's needs are being met at the nursing home.

  I will try to get you all up to date.

  After one week at my house and two at Darwin's we decided to give it a shot to let Dad go back home so that he could sleep in his own bed. He seems to be doing fine with that. I felt like he never totally relaxed at my house so when he went back home I think we were both relieved.

  So now Angie and I take 3 days of the week and split them up to be responsible to take him in to see mom and then make sure he gets supper. Darwin's take three days as well. He eats lunch at Darwin's most every day and then on Sunday we take turns again.

  His biggest health issue right now is shortness of breath and his ankles and feet swell up very bad. He gained 14lb in fluid weight since he left the hospital. So the DR. put him on a fluid pill and when I took him back to the DR a week later he had lost 4 lb of fluid. They did a blood test and found that he is very anemic, so then on Wed I took him to the hospital where they admitted him as an outpatient and gave him 2 units of blood.

  I didn't check in with him today but he was more alert and talkative on the way home when I picked him up after his transfusion, so I am thinking he may have more energy for awhile.

   Life at it's best is unpredictable........

  As I was typing these words my phone rang. It was my dad's phone number on my caller ID, but when I picked up it wasn't his voice I heard but Ellamae's saying Grandpa was in intence pain and they had called the ambulance.

  I got there on the heels of the ambulance, she was right, he was in extreme pain. At the ER they gave him 12ml of Morphine before it let up but then it was still almost more than he could take.

  They did an xray and found he had a perferated bowel that the DR said would take emergency surgery to correct. He wanted to transfer him by medflight but the weather was so bad that they had to use ground ambulance.

   We ran home to change and get more clothes because I anticipated a long hospital stay. Darwin's opted to stay home because they have so much going with the Haiti Benefit Auction coming up this weekend.

By the time we reached the hospital at LaCrosse Pop was unconscious and barely breathing. It was hard to believe when they told us it would be only minutes until he was gone. We stood there beside his bed Steve and I and held his hand. His breathing slowed way down and his heart rate was dropping. Steve prayed a short simple prayer asking God to take him into glory and then he was gone.

  It's all so fresh right now as I write. I know there will be many sweet memories and tears, but for now, I'm just so glad I could be there as he left this old world behind. Just as he was longing to do and begging God to take him home in these last few weeks.

  Till we meet again Pop.......I look forward to seeing you on the far side of Jordan. I love you. You finished well. Rest in peace.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Update On My Dad

    Last Tuesday I brought Pop home to our house to stay for a week. He can do a lot for himself. But he still needs someone to make sure he eats right and takes his meds, and he needs to be reminded to keep his feet up. He still has a lot of swelling in his feet.

    On Wed. I took him to see the DR. He seemed to think Pop is doing ok. He does have Pulmonary Hypertension. The Doc said this means he has high blood pressure in his lungs, even though his blood pressure otherwise is ok. They have him on an expensive blood thinner because he has the potential of developing blood clots in his lungs.

    For an old man who just got over a pretty bad illness we did an awful lot of running around this past week. The same day I took him to the Dr. we also stopped at Wal Mart. He wanted to go in and ride one of the electronic carts. I'm going to be very careful not to repeat that scenario anytime soon. He totally freaked me out with all his close calls of plowing over other shoppers and crashing into displays. Oh, my! I was caught between bursting with concealed laughter to having a heart attack.

   I took him to visit Mom three times during his time at my house. It was heartbreaking everytime. He tries so very hard to connect with her and get her to acknowledge him, and then when we leave it is so hard for him to go and leave her behind.

   He is spending this week at Darwin's house.

   I have been feeling an awful lot like Solomon when he wrote Ecclesiasties. Watching my parents age and realizing that we are only 30-35 years behind them. To be honest it depresses me. I echo Solomon's sentiments. Depending on which translation you read...King James says All is vanity and vexation of spirit. New Living Translation says, Life is meaningless.  But then I also believe his end conclusion, Fear God and keep his commandments, this is the whole duty of man. And since I have been very confused in years gone by about being obedient to all God's commandments because people often add a lot of rules I thought I would clear things up with God's final say.

  Romans 13:10, Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God's law.

    Just when I start getting depressed about the cycle of life then I get blessed by having my grandchildren show up at our door over the weekend and then this week from Tues until Friday.

  Their fresh, sweet, young faces give me courage to believe and keep on going. They amuse me  with their funny little ways and make me laugh. 

My newest delight with this little one is that she sings with is absolutely heart warming.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Warrior Rises Again

   The last few days Pop has showed a lot of improvement. He has been through a lot in the past 20 years. Each time he has a crisis we this the end of his journey, but each time he has rallied again to continue on. Each time he loses some ground but he has a determination that always has gotten him back on his feet thus far.

   I personally thought forsure he couldn't weather this one out. Monday was his worst day. Roger's and Maynard's came that night. The next morning Clifford's showed up as well. We all spent the day there together. He was pretty confused and didn't talk unless spoken to. I kept giving him water because I thought there was no reason he should have to be dehydrated on top of everything else. Darwin took care of his personal needs and Ella Mae kept her eye on him.She makes an excellent nurse. I get a huge kick out of hearing her boss him around, now that he is getting better.

  The first two nights were really rough for Darwin and Eunice. The second night he kept trying to get out of his recliner but he didn't hardly have the strength to stand. So they asked Steve and I to come stay with him on Wed night. Before we went over I told Steve now he will talk to you if you talk to him, but he won't initiate conversation. Boy was I wrong. He had improved enough that he was talking and telling stories by then.

   We slept on the couches with one eye open to keep tabs on him, but other than getting him drinks and calming him when he dreamed he fell in a bulk tank full of milk, he really was no trouble at all.

   I went back yesterday afternoon and he wanted me to write a tribute for his friend Marvin Hosteler who had just passed away. He had written most of it already but it was mostly unreadable. So I helped him with that.

  On Thursday evening, Darwin and Eunice took him in to the nursing home to see mom. It was very hard on him that mom didn't seem to know him.

                                                            Arriving In Mom's Room

She Doesn't Seem to Remember

Back at Darwin's that same evening Luc and Anna stopped in to see him, Here he is talking to Raelynn, his great-grandchild

 Last evening he told Darwin that he would be able to take care of himself during the night. Darwin should just go to bed. So Darwin took a trusty baby monitor and headed off to bed. Pop was true to his word and did fine. In the morning he took several walks from his chair around the island in the kitchen and back and gave Ella Mae orders for breakfast which she made and promptly ordered him to eat at the table, which he did.

  Interestingly, he has no memory of Roger's and Clifford's being there to see him on Monday and Tuesday. I really think he rallied because of all the TLC he got at Darwin's house and the interaction with the family.

I took Merry in with me to see mom on Friday morning. She rewarded us with big smiles for Merry.

The plan for my dad right now is that Darwin's and us will take turns by the week to keep him at our houses. We all agree that he is not able to stay at his place by himself anymore.