My mother is dying. She lives with my sister in Utah (1000 miles away). She had a heart attack and a stroke last November. She couldn’t go back to her assisted living apartment; she HATED the rehab center and since my sister is an RN and retired, we all decided that she’d be better off in Utah. (Okay. It wasn’t my idea. It was her and Judy. I sulked the entire time.)
So Monday, Judy called me on my commute home. Mom was unresponsive and couldn’t even drink on her own anymore. I had planned to go out at the end of the month (I have five days off) but though maybe I should go this weekend. Then I thought about what non responsive means; called my husband and we were on the road in less than 20 minutes. We drove almost all night and then spent almost all our waking hours at Mom’s bedside. She was unresponsive, even to pain.So I did her nails and put lipstick on her. Her nightgown matches her sheets. I met her two hospice nurses and told them that Mom doesn’t do well with morphine. Demerol works better for her. Morphine makes her want to scream–literally. So instead of giving her morphine and Haldol and God knows what else, just give her Demerol. There is an End of Days package, filled with some serious drugs to ease her last days and I want them to be peaceful ones.Did they listen? No idea. I just know I did the best I could. The real burden of her care falls on Judy.
Judy’s stepson, Jeff, lives with them and is totally creeped out with the idea that the plan is to let Mom die at home. He thinks “PERSONALLY she should be in a nursing home or a hospital. This dying at home…what about ghosts? And the whole dead thing.” He’s moving out. (I think he’s 27 and it is probably TIME for him to move out. IMO.) I told him that PERSONALLY, since he was talking to me, dying at home sounded better than sneaking your girlfreind into your room and screwing all night in your parents home. And I personally didn’t thnk much of a woman who would do that. He told me he was 27. I told him I was 56. (Obviously, I have yet to learn to keep my mouth shut on matters which are not my concern.)
I think it creeps the other boys out, too. My two….they think it is the most natural thing in the world for a person to die at home. That’s all they know –Jimmy, Jeanne, Richard, Jackson all died at home. I intend to die at home, unless somebody drops a rock on my head at work.
I spent hours with her, even though she didn’t know me and even though she couldn’t hear what I said. I knew. The wonderful thing was, I got the sweetest emails from several of my friends…telling me about their own experiences of spending the end of days with a loved one. We all have had similar experiences and they are right…it is more about my own humanity and dignity than anything else. I said what I needed to say.
She was a wonderful mother and did her best. She took me to Shakespearen plays and opera when i know that she was so tired she could have dropped. How could I not honor that?
We stopped by early this morning (Friday:0530) and she was pretty lucid. She recognized my husband; she remembered that my children had called her and had come out to see her. She had no idea who the heck I was. “I’m so confused in my mind” is what she said. She asked about Marji’s broken elbow (I had told her about it in a letter) and told me that Marji is a good friend. (She is)
She asked about Pat (who lives in Payson) and Tia (who lives in LA.) So she sorta of knew the periphery of me..just not me. I told her I had to go to work and she wanted to know what I did–I told her I was a teacher. She said she knows someone is a teacher. She wanted to know where I taught school and when I said “the prsion”, she said “Well, of course you do.” But she never did figure out who I was. Maybe I look too much like Judy or maybe I just look too old. My Da never did know who I was either.
I propped her bad arm (both arms have been affected by her strokes and are very painful) on Eeyore. Ben gave her Eeyore to protect her while we are absent one from another. She said “Oh, look! Eeyore is here to protect me.” That was all between 5:30 and 6:30. After that, she quit talking and was just totally confused.
I hope I die before I don’t know my own children…only because I know how awful it makes you feel when your parents don’t know who you are.
***We drove straight thru from Salt Lake to home. It was beautiful, as that trip always is. It had snowed and once you get away from the heavily populated areas, Utah is rural and beautiful. We drove through Payson (I called Pat, who still teaches at my old school and asked her “if a person was in Payson, could she stop by and see you for a minute?” LOL, we had a great visit..too short, as it always is. Then we drove thru Spring Lake and Santaquin, Nephi and Gunnison before we hit the highway in earnest. Gunnison always smells so sweet when you make that long, curving turn. I-15 is fast, but you miss so much of what makes Zion beautiful.
The desert was beautiful, with the flame trees just starting to blossom. Lots of birds. Too many people, of course, but that’s the way it is. The area around St. George is particularly beautiful and I can see the tide marks from the pre-historic ocean and imagine herds of dinosaurs, tromping through the red mud, just like a bunch of cows or sheep. Or chickens.
Nevada and the Mojave is beautiful, too. You just have to look out to see it. The desert was green and the flame trees were just barely starting to bloom. To me, Vegas is sort of garish, but there is so much country in that thousand mile trip, I can forgive Vegas. I saw my very first mirage…the most beautiful, blue lake outside of Jean. It streatched for miles and I was sureit was real. But as we drove, it just kept retreating.