Three years and coping

It seems a little surreal and hard to believe that today marks three years since mom’s been gone; seems just like yesterday and an eternity at the same time. I received sweet texts this morning from my daughter-in-law and friend, and phone calls from my daughters. I’ll visit mom later today and go to minyan tonight even though I went last week for her yahrzeit, the anniversary of the day of death in the Jewish calendar.

I went back into my email correspondence with Ted, trying to find something. I often referred to Ted as “T.” in my writing, and came across L’s exquisite eulogy that so embodied the essence of mom.

During the heavy grieving period we all cope differently. For me, it was wearing mom’s clothes and using her nail polish on my toes so when I looked down at my feet it was like looking at hers. And today, I’m wearing one of her sweaters and a pair of sandals that I bought with her.

A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of mom or tell her how much I love her. As Ted so poignantly and elegantly told me as only he could, “nothing dies that is remembered.”

In that case, mom is very much alive in me … and always will be.

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Remembering the past, embracing the future

It’s quite amazing the strides I have made in my grief journey. This time last year I would never have believed that I could be where I am today.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I was experiencing signs that that I was moving on from grieving. There have been other signs, like this bamboo plant of mom’s, which is not doing well. Despite caring for it, it’s dying. And every time I pass it my heart sinks a little, like I’m losing a little bit more of mom. But it’s a sign to me to continue to move on.bamboo

But on March 5 we were blessed with our beautiful and precious first grandchild, William, and mom was blessed with her first great-grandchild.baby will sleepingThese past two years have been a struggle but, life is getting better.

Driving as a mental hazard

Driving has become a mental hazard for me. This is the time I mostly reflect and think about mom — the good times but mostly the last couple of months of her life when things started going downhill.

Nearly five-and-a-half months later I’m still playing out various scenes in my head, wondering if I took appropriate action when I noticed changes in mom’s condition. I know I did – taking mom to the doctor, hiring aides and then increasing their hours for more care, stopping by on my way to work, stopping by on my way home from work, and then finally planning to work remotely from her room to be with her and to observe her, but that never happened since she wound up in the hospital. If I know, deep in my heart, that I did do the right things, then why do I still feel this way?

The signs of behavioral change were there – hygiene accidents, forgetting how to answer the phone (but not all the time), giving her a toothbrush and gently redirecting it from her forehead to her mouth, telling me “I’m not a dirty person” when I tried to get her to wash up for bed one night, telling me one evening that she bought the place where she was living for me. These are the scenes that keep playing out in my head, scenes that I can’t seem to kick.

We never talked about death. We never really openly talked about Alzheimer’s – I always referred to it as dementia (which it was) – except for the times she wondered, “why me?”  I was afraid. I was afraid  to say she had a brain disease, but she knew her dementia affected her speech, memory and handwriting. Did she know she was dying? I didn’t really think she was dying, at least not yet. I know Alzheimer’s is a fatal disease but I never looked at it like that with her. Was I in denial?

I think it’s time for another visit with Dr. R.

The grieving process

This past Tuesday evening I had my first grief counseling session with a counselor from hospice. I did a lot of talking and crying, so much so that I could barely breathe from swollen sinuses. So did the 90-minute session help?

Grieving old man

Image via Wikipediahospice.

I guess so. It certainly didn’t hurt. What I already knew about myself  — guilt I’m feeling, second-guessing of things I did or didn’t do — was just reinforced. In short, as a quasi-perfectionist, I’m being just too hard on myself. I know this is something that I need to work out and over time I hope to.

 

 

The long good-bye comes to an end

I was finishing drying my hair when the call came on Friday, Feb. 10, at 8:34 a.m. Mom passed away peacefully at 8:30 a.m.

I was expecting to get the call on my cell phone. It came on our land line. As my husband handed me the phone he said it was hospice. I was told she quietly passed after her vitals were taken when drew her last breath. Through my tears I cried, “But I wasn’t there!” I was assured she wasn’t alone and went very peacefully.

I quickly finished getting dressed, called my brother. M. called the kids and T. I drove as carefully as I could under the circumstances. I called my cousin H. in Poughkeepsie to give him the news. He and mom were very close, like the brother and sister neither had. He calmed me down but also choked up a bit as well.

I walked quickly into the facility. The curtains to mom’s room were drawn. As I walked through them there she lie.

It was very difficult to look at her head on but I did only once. This is not how I wanted to remember my beautiful mother. Just the day before I asked the aide if she would turn her the other way from me during her re-positioning because I just couldn’t look at her that way. She understood.

I started sobbing as I sat down on her bed. I put my face next to hers and felt the coldness. I kissed her. I stroked her cheek. I laid down next to her for a couple of  minutes hugging her closer to me. I noticed she was still wearing the “Loved” bracelet given to her by her beloved T., which she had never taken off. I gently slipped it off her wrist and put it on mine where it will now remain.

I didn’t want to let her go but it was time and there was lots to do and to prepare for.

I went to the nurses station and told them I was ready for them to call the funeral home in charge of her arrangements. I asked them to tell me again the sequence of events. I needed reassurance. I spoke to the chaplain as well.

I said my thanks and left.

T., along with the rest of us knew this day was coming yet when it comes you realize you are just not ready. My husband told me T. was naturally upset, broke down a little and asked him to recite the Shema three times with him, which he did.

My brother was catching an early Saturday morning flight. The funeral took place on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 12. It was the coldest day we’ve had thus far and my mom hated the cold. The irony.

 

The long good-bye continues

Mom has defied the hospice staff so they have stopped predicting, although today there are very much telltale signs of which I will not go into detail.

She has now lapsed into a coma and is resting very peacefully. I told my brother to make plans to fly down tomorrow, which will mark three weeks – just as Dr. K. predicted on Jan. 20, but later in the day told him to hold off until I call him. Dying is not a precise science.

Mom’s fortitude is quite amazing. What many don’t know is that both my mom and grandmother had a stubborn streak. Not a big one, but enough of one.

The ever wonderful Dr. K. called hospice today to see how both mom and myself are doing.

This last week has been particularly emotionally draining on me. I even left about an hour earlier than I normally do. I simply cannot see mom like this. This is  definitely not her as I remember her nor do I want to remember her this way

So please forgive me, mom. I might get in a little later than usual tomorrow. I know you would not want me to suffer like this and it is just too painful for me to see you – my beautiful mother – like this. I know you know I will love you forever.