Saturday, November 28, 2009


I didn't realize that it has been since August that I have posted.

We have had a crazy fall. Before my mom left MI she told me that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Not a huge surprise since she has smoked for her entire adult life, but none the less it was very sad.

After the fair Todd went overseas for work. A 5 day trip ended up being a 8 day trip. With my mom's news and being an only parent, I didn't fair well.

The afternoon after he returned home we left for a trip to Indy. The public reason for the trip was to see the Treasures of King Tut's Tomb. The real reason was to help my brother host a surprise 70th birthday party for our mom. I have pictures to post. It was amazing how many different friends old and new were able to come.

In September my brother got married in California wine country. I took my oldest 2 children. It was a really neat trip. We did some sight seeing with my mom before the wedding. The wedding was beautiful.

After the wedding trip that she thoroughly enjoyed, My mom started intensely dealing with the medical community, which she loathed; and she worked on the remaining things on her bucket list. She got to work on her house, mostly just painting. And went on a canoe trip with my dad (they had been divorced for 15 years). The following Sunday she got sick with flu like symptoms. Tuesday I talked to her and she called "to complain about not feeling well." She did that often, just wanting someone to talk to.

Friday my cell rang while I was at our homeschool coop. My stomach sank when I recognized the phone number of my mom's neighbor. Another friend came Friday to pick my mom up for Radiation and Mom did not answer the door. She went to the neighbor got a key and they found her unresponsive. At the hospital she had a temp of 105, among other problems.

I made arrangement and arrived at the hospital Saturday at noon. She was transferred to ICU within hours of my arrival. My days of ICU nursing came back quickly. She remained unresponsive, except for a brief time when I was talking with her first ICU nurse who was from near my home in MI. Mom loved those small world meetings. She followed the conversation as we walked around the room. Then she gave me look that I took as" I am sorry, so this is the way it is going to be." She asked, "What day is this?" She seemed to understand the day and what had happened, but that was the last verbal response I got from her.

My brother got to the hospital Sunday. Things just weren't getting any better and actually Mom's body systems were slowly failing. The doctors didn't seem to be able to give us any definite answers...the antibiotics and antivirals seemed to to their job, but it wasn't clear what "bugs" were growing and why she had neurological symptoms. The spinal tap was abnormal, but not definitive. We finally had a sit down with the doctor and discussed his dismal prognosis for Mom.

That afternoon we had all the medications discontinued and Mom was transferred the the palliative care/hospice unit. I spent the night with her.

Shortly before Todd and the children and my sister-in-law arrived my mom peacefully breathed her last while listening to one of her friends tell a story. Mom was not alone and neither was I. The children got to say good-bye to her while she still looked kind of like herself.

The next week was a whirlwind of appointments and decisions. My brother and I seemed to be able to get the work done fairly well together. We met with the lawyer, the funeral home, various financial intuitions and tried to find the best place to have a memorial service. And less than 24 hours before the service we found some one to be the main speaker, Todd's Aunt's Sister-in-law who works as a Chaplin.

Mom would have loved the service. Friends from all parts of her life were there: Hoosier Canoe Club, Circle Unitarian Fellowship, IUPUI, the neighborhood association, and family. Friends and in-laws of mine and my brother's also came to show their respect and support. We sang some folk songs that my mom loved accompanied on the guitar by old friends. My brother even strummed for one. We shared out thoughts: I read the words to the song "Free to be You and Me" by Marlo Thomas (from an album many children of the 70s have memorized), Todd read memories that each of the children had shared, and my dad read a beautiful tribute my brother wrote about what Mom taught him through highlights of his growing up. Then we opened the floor for others to share. It was very meaningful for us to hear about all of her different worlds from those who were in them with her.

The next step was to get the house as ready to sell as soon as possible before my brother and I went home to our respective states. It happened amazingly fast. So now less than 3 weeks later the house is on the market with a fresh coat of paint and cleaner than it has been in 32 years.

Transitioning back to my real world has been challenging. About a week ago I got past just being numb. Then we moved the things I took form my mom's house to MI then it started to really hurt...a new reality. The piano that has been in my mom's family for 100+ years is in my living room. Her grandfather's clock is on my mantle, although I haven't wound it yet, I am not sure i am ready to hear it chime.

Then it was Thanksgiving. Mom had most of the Thanksgivings of our married life with us. It was hard.

I am sure there will be many things that are hard without her.

Not only am I dealing with my grief, but also that of my children. My mom was the grandparent who was the closest to my children. She tried to be there for performances and fairs and to just do life with us when she could. So the children each has a different way to grieve and I have to figure out how to love and support each one in their own way. Poor T, 3 yo, just doesn't seem to understand and continues to ask "why gramma sick?" "why her stuff here?" "What Gramma doing when she die" While it is adorable it almost breaks my heart every time I am asked.

Looking back the whole thing couldn't have gone any better for what it was. I knew what she wanted in terms of health care and I was there and able to make that happen. We knew what she wanted done with her ashes. We knew what she wanted done with the cats and the house and the stuff. Mostly she wanted us to not fight and for it to be peaceful deciding about the THINGS...they are just things.

Even so, one is never really ready to loose a parent.