My mama when she was in her twenties/early thirties....wasn't she beautiful?
This time two weeks ago, I was in the ER with my mother. I didn't expect her to live 24 hours. However, God was gracious enough to give me about 120 hours with her.
On that Monday morning she woke up in the ICU by 5 am and the nurse helped her clean up. Mom said that was the first time in ages that she'd been able to sit up without being dizzy and her head hurting. I washed her hair with these neat shower cap like caps that had no-rinse shampoo in them and then attempted to detangle her waist length hair. After about 2-3 hours of trying to comb her hair, we were both ready for a break. Mom said she was going to read her book ("The Journey" by Billy Graham) and try to take a nap. I was going to run to CVS to pick up a couple things and then go home for a few minutes to take care of the pets. I was gone for about 4 hours. When I got back, I discovered her ICU room empty. Her nurse said she was getting a echocardiagram. It was another half hour before Mom was back in the room and settled enough for visitors. My two BFF, who are twins that I've known since I was one year old had came to visit along with their older sister and grown niece. Mom was happy to see them and smiling. The only thing different was that she seemed to have a sore throat. I didn't think much of it because I felt like I was getting a cold.
After my friends left, I tried again to comb her hair. I was very tired with my feet hurting and Mom was getting mad because I couldn't get the knots out. At 10:00 (three hours later), I finally finished. Mom was still mad at me and I was getting upset with her. I almost went home for the night, but then I overheard the nurses talking. I finally figured out that they were talking about Mom.......she was getting worse. Something had changed with her heart. I stayed the night again and they came in several times to check her heart.
The next morning, her doctor pulled me aside and told me she thought that day (Tuesday) would be Mom's last day on Earth. They thought she may have had a heart attack (heart enzymes were up, but just a little). The doctor said Mom's sore throat was the beginning of her body shutting down. They started her on Morphine that day. She was out of it most of the afternoon.
The next day, I woke up at around 4am. Mom was still asleep so I went to the restroom and out to the waiting room to talk to my brother. I get back about 4:30 to find Mom awake drinking orange juice. She had a big smile on her face and said she'd had the best dreams.....she'd been dreaming of riding on clouds. Later that day, she was moved to a regular room so family could visit more comfortably...even moving the second bed out. Mom was on a low does of morphine at the time....out of pain, but she could still communicate. Three of my aunts and a cousin came back to visit. Mom wanted to talk to one aunt in particular and was waving her hand at the rest. My cousin said, "look she's waving at us". I replied that I thought she wanted to talk to Aunt Jo Ann alone so the others left the room. She told her younger sister Jo Ann that she loved her and that she was going to be okay because she was going to go to Heaven. I cry just typing that because it was just so sweet. Mom got many visiters that day---sisters, nieces, grandkids, and of course her kids. After the evening service that night, my friend Mary who's the wife of my church's pastor came back to visit. Mom could still whisper so they had a talk. Mary asked Mom if she wanted the pastor to come see her when he got back that night from Ohio or wait until morning. He had went there for the college he teaches because he thought Mom was going to be okay, but when he found out she was getting worse he'd cut his trip short. Mom nodded when Mary said "come as soon as he gets back" and Mom whispered and told her to bring Daniel who is their 23 year old son who has Down's Syndrome. Mom was all smiles when they came back at 1 am. She called Daniel her grandson and said he was beautiful.
On Thursday morning, Mom requested orange juice. She was "NOP" or "nothing by mouth" due to her swallowing difficulty. My sister got permission for Mom to have a little bit. THen Mom told her that it wasn't cold enough and it needed ice. I woke up a short time later. I told Mom that I had to go home real quick to take care of the furbabies. Ginger, the dog, hadn't been outside in over 24 hours....Mom opened her eyes real big hearing that. Then she told me that she wanted her necklace w/ my dad's picture back on when I got back (I'd been wearing it during her hospital stay). I came back two hours later and Mom was out again. She was unable to communicate the rest of the day and appeared to be asleep. That evening two aides had come in to turn her over. They were discussing which was to turn her and Mom turned herself to one side. The closest aid said "I think she wants to be on this side" and Mom reached out towards her. That showed me that she was aware of what was going on.
That evening Aunt Jo Ann said she had a feeling that Mom was going to pass that night. At 2 am, Mom was so still that I thought she wouldn't live to see daylight. God however, was gracious again and let me talk to her one more time. At 7 am I wake up and so does Mom. She asks for water and I dip the little sponge in water to wet her mouth, but she wants a drink. We got permission for her to have as much water as she wanted. I got to tell her one more time that I loved her and that even though I complained I was glad that I got to take care of her. She nodded that she understood and tried to tell me that she loved me. She was getting very aggitated and the nurse said that sometimes people hang on to talk or see someone one last time. I asked Mom if there was anyone else she wanted to talk to. I named my two nephews who were out of state...she shook her head. She tried to say "Aunt" so I started naming off my aunts...I was afraid she was wanting to talk to my aunt that was in IL in a coma. When I got to my Aunt Rosie, Mom nodded. I got her phone number and called her. She talked as I held the phone to Mom's ear. Mom tried to tell her that she loved her. The nurses had to give her a does of Adavan later to ease her anxiety....she was shaking like a leaf. Then they got permission from the doctor for a morphine drip. Mom was out for the rest of the day.
At about 8pm, we could tell that she was getting closer to Heaven. Her breathing became more and more erractic. My BFF's brother had mentioned earlier that day that when their mom died they were singing hymns around her. That sounded so peaceful and hopeful. Plus, I knew that Mom wouldn't want everyone just starimg at her and crying. I asked my BFF Lula if she knew all the words to "When We All Get to Heaven". She didn't but she called her sister who had a hymn book at her house. Lula's BIL brought it to us. Mary, Bro. Bill and Daniel just happened to show up a few minutes later so Mary and Daniel sang with us. We ended up singing for nearly two hours.
Shortly after 11 pm, my aunts decided to go home and get some sleep. Lula and I were sitting on one side of Mom's bed and my oldest brother on the other. My sister and I noticed that Mom was swallowing something that she hadn't been able to do earlier. The large lump in her throat appeared to be moving lower. At around 11:30,
it was just my two brothers, my cousin, Lula, and me in the room. My sister had just stepped out to use the restroom. I picked up the last taco that Lula had got me. I heard Mom take a breath, but didn't hear anything else. I drop the taco and turn to face her.....she was gone. It's like she was waiting for us to stop focusing on her.
One of my brothers didn't come around as much as Mom wanted him to. Once she said "he doesn't care", but looking back I think it was too hard for him to see her like that. He did apologize for all the trouble he'd put her through. He was a difficult child and never grow out of it, just got into bigger trouble I guess. He got upset with me on Friday moring because Mom wasn't on any type of IV for hydration. I told him that I had nothing to do with it, the doctor didn't ask me. I told him to talk to the doctor himself and he said "I'm sure you already told the doctor what YOU want". He got a whole mess started because Mom never appointed a POA, but we found out that Mom herself had talked to the doctor and did not want an IV or any life-prolonging procedures.
The past week without Mom has been hard, but not as hard as watching her die. I know that she's in Heaven with my dad, no longer in pain. I think she must look like she did in the picture above once again.
Lessons learned from these two weeks: Never take anyone for granted, tell loved ones that you love them, make sure you have a living will.