When I got so depressed that I left TuD and everything, this blog series disappeared. I believe it might still be helpful and supportive of our community values. TuD was with me every step of the way. I could post at 3AM, 3000 miles away from home and find comfort. She died peacefully on 3/20/10. I will repost the diary of her death for a few days....
A shaky start to the day with Mom determined to transfer from bed to bedside portable commode but going dead weight in my arms---involving her voiding her bladder on my foot and the bed.
But, by gum, I managed my first hospital-style bed-change. Only a few “dyslexic moments” as I had to pause to be sure I didn’t roll her the wrong way right off the bed!.....But follow-through from last night’s seizure and triage visits, continued seamlessly with hospice folks today. Bev first for a comforting couple hours of practical assessment and get ready for next stage.---ordered up the hospital bed on the spot that was installed in the living room by 3PM. Laura the social worker with whom I feel a deep connection through the shared experience of lost babies and kindness stopped by to pick up medicine/grocery receipts which Allina can re-imburse us for and Helena and Paula will look at Fort Snelling chapel and get an invoice which is the other re-imbursement we can get. But she stayed for several hours and petted and comforted Mom while I tended to getting the bed positioned and took a short walk. These folks are very serious about supporting families in any way that presents itself......
Mom was distraught at times about a bed taking over her beautiful living room. I assured her that Paula and Helena and I would re-arrange the furniture under her supervision! Paula and I planned that out tonight and Helena and Daniel are coming out Sunday to implement The Plan!
Anyway---I arranged for beloved old family friend Perk to come over and carry Mom from her bed to the new hospital bed in the living room. She was charming and embarrassed---I had to be sure her hair was combed, etc! She settled in, we raised the head and pointed out the birds feeding on the deck that I had been working to attract (saw our first cardinal today!), pointed out the TV for MASH episodes after a few days of MASH-withdrawal symptoms, and a smile played at her lips. Pretty soon she was engaged with Perk and even remembered wife Mary’s name!
Then Paula and Helena arrived (no baby—Helena wanted a chance to be just with her Gramma) and Mom got REALLY engaged. It was a wonder to see. I had put one of those mini bottles of champagne in the fridge, we broke it out and stood around The Bed toasting it’s launching---no we didn’t break a bottle on the headboard! Mom giggled and laughed and was Very Present. She is now, of course sleeping the sleep of the near-dead, but wow what a treasure.......Perk took some photos and sent them to you all on the spot.
I’m sleeping on the couch because I can’t be sure she won’t get it in her head to Bolt and fall off the bed, guard rails, and all----can’t hear her from other rooms.
The important thing is that with yesterday’s falls and triage nurses and transitional physical difficulties, The System is working smoothly. Hospice Folks---Amazing people, full of compassion and love and respect for a sacred process......Enough.....more soon.....J
P.S.....Conversation with Bev----I commented that I had observed that all that is Alive wishes to Keep Living. So dying is hard work.....I told her about old kitty Goose who, wrapped in a towel, and placed on the floor while I called the vet to say we were bringing him in now for euthanasia, crawled on his elbows (a seizure having taken out his back legs) to a food bowl and stuck his nose in it. Bev told a story of a favorite old horse with heart problems who finally lay down and couldn’t get up, but as the vet approached was stretching his neck to reach for tufts of grass to eat......Mom is having a very busy night tonight and, tired as I am, I can’t resist listening in---we’ve ranged from addressing Aunt Alice (aka Icky Aunt Alice” to “ I need you to do ????? (couldn’t catch it) My name is Pat Rahders and I need you to do it now” to what is that bubbling sound do you hear it too? to Lois Heim ??????ears all the time (Lois Heim (artist whose work Mom has in abundance) and ear ache? huh? to oil in my (her) ear for earache---but of course that is how she soothed my endless childhood earaches. Wow. This is fascinating. The brain is roaming through 89 years and pulling up things that are not really random. If I can survive the lack of sleep, I will keep listening in. She is working hard even while she sleeps and it is truly amazing.....ohoh...back brace just got mentioned Huh?.....Enough again. There is more, but enough for now, though channeling the Non-Linear thoughts of the dying is profoundly fascinating......Be well all.....J
Tonight’s theme is compassion manifested as physical, tactile tenderness, body to body. This kind of tenderness surrounds Mom right now. I suspect in the last hours, it may not be appropriate because she is trying finally to let go---to release her tethers to the earth. But right now, it is incredibly moving to witness the daily interactions that soothe her failing body.
Saturday, it was Home Health Aide Holly (say that fast 10 times!) who bathed Mom and washed her hair and changed the sheets (my earlier attempt was not too bad, actually---amazing---(probably helps that I’ve had it done to me). The hair washing was technologically brilliant, albeit simple---so often best. Like a little rimmed, blown up swimming pool for elves---with a hose that comes out and drains into a bucket. Mom’s head rested comfortably on the blown up rim. Not a drop on the bed! The bathing with a soap that doesn’t need to be rinsed, one part of the body at a time, Holly talking softly and lovingly to Mom (and me, of course) the whole time, checking to be sure nothing hurt and nothing was too cold. Changing the sheets so carefully but it’s obvious by now that Mom is getting exhausted, albeit endearingly patient. A new lotion to help with itchy skin that develops because the kidneys can’t get rid of toxins anymore and they rise to the surface (mostly thighs for Mom, occasionally arms and today scalp.) The ancient body itself so frail and yet so beautiful in its integrity, every bruise and wrinkle earned through active engagement with the world and her loved ones.
I hold her and pet her frequently too, but this we can take for granted. There’s not a one of us who have loved her for a lifetime could resist that connection.
Every day or two one of our open-hearted hospice team is here. Bev, Laura, Tanya---each has her own individual way of instantly connecting with Mom as they arrive, touching gently always. But somehow never intrusively for folks who do not know Mom well. From the first, they Got that this was a woman who cared about guests in her home profoundly and we all felt good when Mom began to realize these folks did not demand she play hostess. I am always moved to see them with her.
Tonight Ginny was here. As always she helped me get the practical chores in order—making up Paula’s bed with clean sheets for Wednesday, washing the new extra long sheets that Helena and Daniel got for the hospital bed. Giving me space for dinner and reading in my room, the first decent walk in a week, a shower. But she also slid right into—oh I see, things have changed and new interactions are required. She sat with Mom and massaged her arthritic hands and chatted with her when she would be present a bit (please know that her Presence is less day-by-day now). And also when she is present only in her own mind---which seemed to involve rush-hour traffic at one point! Fun to loop around that train of thought with her. Tenderness. Tactile tenderness. I am honored to bear witness to it from all these good souls who have only known our Mom a little while. I will always remember how Ginny had my back and Mom’s whole body! for the long night of the falls and seizure-type thing. And how Triage Nurse Linda came not once, but twice to get things settled. She had never even met Mom, but knelt by her bed and Connected immediately with a gentle touch and a soft voice.
Onward......Love to all..
Hospice says tonight or tomorrow. My sister is here. We keep vigil. Our brother comes in tomorrow. Others next week......The stars are exquisite. After she passes, we will sit for a few hours with her before getting on with the business of death. Want to be sure her spirit has passes, as well as her body.....
The picture is of me assisting with what turned out to be her last bath on the morning of the day she died.