It has been a week and a day now since life as I know it changed dramatically. It has taken me this long to decide if I was even going to share the events, and how much I’d be willing to let others see and know. Originally this was far more detailed regarding the events of April 28th, but I learned several years ago that just because I needed the therapy of putting things into words does not mean they all need to be published or shared. I have edited this and opted not to share some details.
Friday morning, April 27th, came with a crazy rush of final boxes being packed, movers wrapping up and carting out our possessions into a truck, unloading of said truck and cars full of those things, cable, new furniture delivery, and finally quiet settling in over the chaos. Me and mom were out of the Diva Den and into our apartment.
While waiting for the movers to load up everything, my youngest brother stopped by to give my mom communion and pray with her. He regularly did this when she could no longer attend church. It was a beautiful way to close the chapter of that great house and home, and begin a new journey. My niece captured the moment they lifted their heads from their individual prayers at the car. Mom was already in the car waiting for my niece to take her to the apartments to wait for our life’s material odds and ends to arrive. What we didn’t know was that this was the beginning of two journeys. One for me, and another for mom.
In a previous blog post last year I had talked about life being a journey down a road with different turn offs, and as each of us reached the spot where we saw a gate with our loved one or friend’s name, we had to leave them there and continue on without them. They entered that gate, exiting the earthly path and entering the spirit realm. We all knew the gate we were approaching, but we didn’t realize that around this bend it would appear.
A week before our moving date, mom and I were sitting in the living room in our arm chairs, just talking about life, the future, how funky she had been feeling that day, how weak she was, and how nothing she could eat sounded good. She got up to get some pudding, walking into the dining room. Seconds later I heard a horrible sound of things crashing to the floor and looked up to see mom had collapsed into a heap knocking things off a side table and was against the wall. I yelled her name and was at her side, still yelling “mom, mom!” to a blank, fixed, lifeless stare. My heart skipped a beat, I thought she had passed away. And just that suddenly she blinked. While she was coming back to me I moved her off the items she had landed on and started assessing if she had been hurt. All the while she was confused and disoriented. She realized she was on the floor but had no recollection of what had just transpired. The last thing she remembered was sitting in the chair.
I got her up into a chair, took her blood pressure (it was a low 88/49) and got her some water. Once she felt okay to move I took her up to my room, put her on my bed and sent texts to my sister and brothers. I didn’t realize this was the beginning of the end, and would prepare us for what was to come.
She was horribly weak all weekend, and the nausea she has fought with for a year would not let up. Her sister Mary arrived the next morning for a scheduled visit, and her other sister, Jean, came that night to spend the night with her, and the next day while I went to work. During that time we devised methods for her to get around for what she needed without a major risk of her falling and getting hurt. At the time I was still thinking it was just fainting from weakness.
Throughout the week leading up to the move she regained her composure and felt great. Weak as a new born kitten but feeling good. My aunt came back for the day Wednesday and helped her continue to pack her things for the move. Thursday when I came home from work she said she felt better than she had in weeks. The STNA in me joked “easy mom, maybe this is the rally before the end!” I see it all the time with hospice patients, right before they die they suddenly are full of life and make you wonder if they were misdiagnosed! Hunger returns, LIFE seems to return, and then just like that they are gone.
Friday she was feeling so good other than still extremely weak. We got moved in, had pizza for lunch during the crazy flurry, and once things were settled she came up to our apartment from my sister’s (sis is one floor below me & mom). I put away as much as I had energy to do, then we all had dinner via Door Dash delivery from Chipotle to kick off the new home of the former Diva Den members. We opened a bottle of wine at the end of the evening, and mom made a toast, mentioning in it that she wouldn’t be around to write this next chapter with us. It caused a check in my gut, a hiccup in my soul, but I didn’t realize how prophetic her words were to be. Before I could drink my wine I got a text that my new bedding was delivered to the old house. To avoid it being pirated off the porch I went to get it. When I returned my sister had gone to her place with my niece, drop-over tired. Mom wanted to watch an episode of NCIS with me but I couldn’t get the Chromecast working. We sat and talked instead. I’m so glad we didn’t get to watch the TV and just enjoyed our time. Then, like every night, we hugged each other, told each other we loved each other, and went to bed.
Saturday morning while she was still asleep I started putting things away and cleaning up. She came out later, dressed and sat at the dining room table while I was putting away dishes. It was hard for her, she expressed how she hated that she was so weak and couldn’t help me. I assured her again, as so many times this past month, that I didn’t not mind at all, just keep me company. I told her one day I’d very much miss being able to take care of her and just have her there to spend time with so she should just relax. At one point she stood up and tried to push her chair in and couldn’t, she got frustrated that she was suddenly so weak not she couldn’t even move a chair in to the table anymore. I noted her speech was a tad slurred at times, but wrote it off to the blood pressure still being rather low and the lack of energy and stamina. I now think I was just in denial.
All that day something just didn’t feel ‘right’ in my universe. Something was totally off and I couldn’t put my finger on it. My cat could sense it too, though I didn’t realize it, I just assumed she was all freaked out over the move. She found a place to hide, under the bathroom sink, having pried open the door of the cabinet and refused to leave getting upset if you attempted to bring her out, so I just let her go. I should have recognized the feeling, I have had it at work, seen residents reacting to it (dementia residents are very sensitive to things in the spiritual realm around us and when death is in the building they are all a hot mess). My cat felt death and hid from it, but I still wasn’t recognizing the feeling for what it was, too preoccupied with things that I was doing.
My sister came up and said we needed to go grocery shopping, so I got a list from mom and we headed out. Mom was sitting on the couch where she has been most of the day. We would later learn from her hospice nurse friend who visited that afternoon that she could sense something was off with mom but could not put her finger on it.
In the grocery store I could not focus on the shopping, I just wanted to be at home. Little did I know that while we were shopping, all of 10 minutes after we left, mom would take some pics of the apartment, go to the bathroom, and as she was exiting the bathroom she exited this earth. No suffering, just gone in an instant. Less than 15 minutes after our departure my niece found her much like I did the day she collapsed, only this time life did not return to her beautiful eyes. She would attempt CPR, with the help of 911, the medics would also make the effort, but mom had been in heaven before she was discovered and wasn’t returning to this earth.
Mom had prepared us for the past 8 years, as she fought this damn cancer, for this day. She made sure it was all done, so we wouldn’t have too. Her words came back to me from the previous night’s toast….she really wasn’t going to be here for this chapter. She made sure we were settled in our new homes, she knew my brothers would be there to help finish cleaning out the house and sell it, but she would be in her new home in heaven. Not a single thing of her own did she unpack, she spent less than 24 hours in this apartment, a guest rather than a resident.
4 days later we had a beautiful memorial mass in mom’s honor. Even in death she was the most giving of souls, having donated her body to the UC Medical School. We’ve received word she was assigned to a student who will further their knowledge with the help of her body beginning July 1st. When finished, they will cremate her remains, return her to us, and we will bury them in the same grave as her mother. That could be weeks to a year or more.
The cat left the cabinet after the funeral home removed my mom’s body, only confirming for me her sensitivity to what we could not see.
Me? I’m wading through emotions, sailing uncharted waters without much of a clue. My faith is solid, so I spend time in God’s Word and prayer, and now anchoring in my work. Just working through the stages of grief for now, no rushing it just riding each wave as it comes.
Mom is on her journey on the other side, experiencing the joy of Heaven and being in the presence of God.
I’m on my own journey now, learning to navigate life completely solo, something I’ve never done before.