Sunday, April 13, 2014

10 Years part 1

It has taken me a while to write this post, I've had to write it in shifts.  I don't know why I have felt the need to share such a personal and painful period of my life, but it's been plaguing me for the last couple months.  Yet it has been therapy for me. So here I shifts, because it's the only way I could do this.

I'm really good at putting my deepest feelings in a box, a big box; like a cedar chest, and then walking away.  The box is always there at the foot of my bed.  Somedays I see it, and it'll stir an emotion deep inside but I quickly walk away and pretend it isn't there, and the thought of it is quickly forgotten.  Other days, I know it's there but I don't acknowledge it's presence.  Then there are days when I'll walk by it, and the memories are screaming at me from within and they are too loud to ignore, and I'm drawn to it.  I kneel at it and open it up and revisit some of the most painful memories, some that I have tried to bury deep within the walls of my heart's mausoleum, yet are still very much alive.  This post is one of those painful memories from a very difficult time in my life.

Reflecting on the year I lost my mother, brought back so many memories; good and bad.  The bad ones I've tried so hard to forget, but they are part of the story and they have made me stronger.

Here follows the early months of the year 2004...

This year marks the tenth anniversary of my mother's passing.  I have lived/survived a decade without my mother.  So much has happened since her death.  This realization of the length of time has had me looking back on the time that has elapsed and has caused memories to resurface; moments both happy and heartbreaking.

My parents and Michael and I on our wedding day
July 15, 2000

I remember what life was like in early 2004.  I was 25 years old, my husband and I had been married three and half years.  We were living with his parents and that was hard for us.  Not because of his parents, they are great people. (I look back and see how immature and selfish I was, and any annoyances that were caused were on my part; but that's a whole other story for a later post).  It was hard because there was so much going on in our lives and there wasn't any privacy.  We didn't have children yet.  I was working as a preschool teacher and my husband had just started working for his uncle.  I felt I couldn't mourn as I needed to dealing with my mother's illness, it was as though I had an audience, I suppose.

At this time, it was six months since my mother's diagnosis with lung cancer and chemo had seem to do  well at shrinking the tumor in her left lung but the side affects of the chemo killing her immune system caused a sore to develop on her abdomen, which required the need to postpone the chemo until the sore healed.  This put her in the hospital in December of 2003.  My last Christmas with her was a stormy day, spent in a hospital room.  Two days later was her 50th birthday, which should've been a joyous occasion; a happy milestone.  I baked her cupcakes that she didn't even eat, and I watched her as she dozed in and out of sleep, and moaned from the pain of her sore.  It took a while for the sore to heal. During that break from chemo, the tumor grew bigger than before she began chemotherapy.  Things went down hill after that.

I remember my last Mother's Day with her, I knew it would be the last one.  Michael was the one to take my mother to her chemo appointments, between my father, Michael and I, it was my husband's schedule that was flexible enough to do so.  I am very envious of this time Michael had with my mother, yet if anyone should have taken her, it was definitely better that it was him.  Because my mother had been dealing with that sore and then the tumor growing bigger, sometimes her white blood cells were too high and she wasn't able to get chemo, that's a bad thing.  So Michael would take her to Tommy's to get a burger (my mother never enjoyed that place but she'd go just because she knew Michael loved it).  At this point, my mother knew that the odds were against her.  My husband is a very good man, it was during those times in a burger joint that heaven was on earth for a brief moment.  Michael would teach my mother The Plan of Salvation, and it would bring her peace and comfort knowing that we would see her again.

I remember how she was put on oxygen, and needed a wheel chair when my husband and I took her and my father places.  My father is in a wheelchair due to polio he contracted at seven months old.

Before my mother's diagnosis, spending time with my parents had been fun.  We'd take them out to dinner, or walk around the mall, go see a movie.  But things were obvious different.  We still went out to dinner but my mother was on oxygen and was now in need of a wheelchair because any exertion caused her to have shortness of breath, and almost suffocate.

Two weeks before she passed away, we learned she had emphysema in the other lung, things were not looking well and she was given six months left to live.

I remember my last conversation with her.  I didn't realize it at the time that it would be our last, but she knew.  It was aTuesday, July 6th. I had gone a field trip with my preschoolers during the day and that afternoon I got another phone call from my father saying my mother had another shortness of breath episode.  She was taken by ambulance to the hospital and Michael and I were on our way to see her.  This was becoming a common occurrence, at least once a week my father had to call 911 because my mother was having trouble breathing from simple acts that all of us take for granted: getting up from the couch, changing her sitting position.  These are all things that would cause her to have shortness of breath, as if she ran a marathon.  The shortness of breath would then cause panic, which would increase the suffocating.

We got to the hospital and talked to my mother.  It was our last conversation, I didn't know it at the time but looking back, she knew.  She talked about the pain, the fear, the constant struggle to breathe.  I told her that if she needed to, she could let go and move on and not stay with us just to keep us all happy, her living in pain and constant suffocation was not the way to live.  She then asked about my father and  who would take care of him.  She said she never got to meet her grandchildren and was sad about that.  She hoped we would have twins, (I'm pretty sure she had something to do with us having twins three years later. She told me to always keep my hair long, she always like my hair long.  This was nine days before my birthday/wedding anniversary.  My mother always made a big deal out of birthdays, she said she was sorry she was going to miss it.  Still, I didn't think was going to be our last conversation.  Michael talked to her next, visiting rules were only one at a time.  She told him that she wanted to move on as well, but was afraid to tell my dad.  He wasn't ready to let go.  We both had told her we would talk to him.  We left that night.  I didn't say anything to my father because I was so mentally exhausted at my conversation with my mom, I thought I had one more day.  I'd tell him in the morning.

Michael and I went home, I got a call a few hours later from my father.  My mother had another breathing attack and was intubated with a breathing tube an hour or so after we left.  He said she fought the nurses as they were trying to intubate her.  I should've told my father what my mother said earlier that evening.

We rushed to the hospital.  My mother was sedated.  Every time she came to, she tried to pull out her breathing tube so they sedated her and tied her wrists to the bed.  It was so horrible seeing my mother like that.

The days that followed were very difficult and there were very difficult decisions that had to be made, that my father and I had to agree on.  There were so many personal things that went on that I cannot share in this post.

Thursday, July 8th we were at the hospital.  I knew she was slipping away.  I looked out one of the windows and saw the fiery sun setting in the sky, I felt peace.  I felt her there with me, and I knew that we were both watching the sun set together.  I knew that this was the last sunset that would happen while she was still technically alive, but I felt her spirit there with me.  Michael and I left, so that my father could be alone with my mother.

My mother passed away early in the morning on July 9th.  We went back to the hospital.  There she was, her mortal shell lying on the bed.  I rubbed her forehead and gave it a kiss, it was cold.  I wasn't prepared for that. My mother's body temperature was always so warm; warmer than normal.  As a little girl, I would snuggle up to her to keep me warm and as I got older I would still ask her to hold my hands when they were cold.  Right now, I can still feel how warm those hands felt clasping mine.  I put my hands under her body, where it was still somewhat warm yet not as warm as when she was still alive.

My mother and I when I was a little girl

That morning we went to Denny's with my father to try to eat and to discuss funeral plans.  Growing up, my parents talked about how they planned on going to Target (which was down the street from my parents home) on Tuesday's after my father retired because that was when the senior citizens went. They talked about going there to eat and to shop.  When we would go out to dinner together at Denny's or Norm's, they talked about how they looked forward to ordering from the senior menu.  My parents had plans to grow old together, but wasn't to be.  And I was reminded of that as I sat there trying to come to the realization that my mother was truly gone, no less than a week prior all four of us sat at a restaurant together, but here only the three of us sat there at a table for four with an empty chair where she should've sat. I looked up to see an older couple walk into the restaurant, a cruel reminder of what was not to be.

My parents long ago

A few nights after she passed, she came to me in a dream.  I really, really needed that dream.  I was back at the hospital, looking at her still alive but sedated attached to machines to keep her body running. But then she was standing next to me, it was her spirit.  She looked healthy and was dressed in white, she pointed me to look at her body, then stood in front of me and put her hand on my shoulder and said, "I'm okay, you did the right thing."  I am so grateful that she came to me in that dream, it has brought me so much peace and comfort still till this day.

Though this was THE most difficult moment I've ever experienced, I am so grateful that I had the Gospel to get me through such a painful time in my life.  I know that I will see my mother again.  I know that families are forever.  I am so grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ and all that He has done for, not just me, but for you and for all mankind, so that families can live in eternity.

Because of His Atonement and sacrifice, we can have peace in difficult times and we can live with one another again after death.  There is more to this life here on earth, there is more to follow.

We had family photos taken before she started chemo and lost her hair

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing...I can totally relate. Hugs