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Through my tears, I see your gentle face,
I wrote this by hand as I sat by my mother’s bed on July 31st, 2014, watching her labored breathing as she slept, one day before she passed away. I make no apologies for the content. It is unedited. I stand by what I wrote on one of the most difficult days of my life.
By way of explanation, my family and I live a full day’s drive away from either of our families. We had just started our annual vacation back in our home state when my brother, our mother’s primary care giver, wound up in the hospital and Mum was placed in respite care until he returned to good health. Two days later, she came down with a fever of 103.5 axillary and passed away the next day. My brother remained in the hospital for one day shy of a month, unable to even attend her funeral. He told me later that he didn’t think he could have made the same decision as I did. For what it’s worth, I have no regrets even now two months later.
I’m publishing this because I need it to be out in the world rather than stuck on my computer. I keep obsessing over the things that I’ve written, both in pain and frustration, and it’s not healthy for me, so I’m letting them go. Where they end up is up to God for He is my hope in my mourning.
Relief comes in many different ways to those in the midst of pain. Mental realizations. Physical changes. The circumventing of certain circumstances. For me, relief has come through some hard decisions made from the heart.
I signed a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order for my beloved mother this morning. I don’t know if she is on her deathbed or not. There’s a possibility that she will recover.
I hope not.
Why would I say such a thing? More importantly, how can I say that and feel relieved? As I sit here, watching her labored breathing, I feel pain – heartache. This once vital woman is a skeleton, a shell of her former self. Is this living?
I wish the heavens would open up and God’s mighty hands would reach for her. I wish that she would reach back, knowing that my daddy is waiting for her.
It’s not easy to entertain the thoughts that someone I love is better off dead. Yet, I know it’s true. It was when I realized that very fact that I felt my first fluttering of relief. It absolved me from guilt; I struggle with guilt, but not in this case. As much as I love my mother, I hurt to see her in a quality of life that puts a lie on the rest of her life. This is the lie – this “life” that has her bed-bound, befuddled and emaciated. I’m angry at that lie.
It’s making me a warrior for her. I’m fighting for her dignity, for her peace, for her history. Her past. Her.
I would give the world if this were not our reality right now. But it is. I made the decision to sign the DNR papers on my own. It was a good, caring decision. I’m relieved that she will not be manhandled and resuscitated, only to come back to a life no longer worth living. It was a good decision. It was a painful decision and a right one. It brought relief.
It’s the little things that relief relies on. The realizations that my brother, her main caregiver, would have had to make this decision instead of me. I’m glad it was me.
The primary caregiver position comes to me as my brother, my only sibling, also needs to be hospitalized. So my only two blood relatives, my family, both need me since both are hospitalized. Brother has POA (Power of Attorney), but due to these circumstances, under PA law, it’s fallen to me. I’m ready for this. It’s hard to be thrown into it without appropriate knowledge, but I’m okay.
I’m relieved that this happened during our vacation when I could be with them.
Never in a million years would I say this to my mom. I love her. I want her around, but she’s also not healthy. I want what’s best for her, even if it’s what’s most painful for me. It will bring her relief, this death of hers. She needs relief. I need her to be relieved, so I will sign every DNR paper they put in front of me.
Nothing will be the same without her, but there’s nothing worse than this hanging around. Praying for relief and if that’s selfish of me, then so be it. I’ll be selfish if it helps her. Daddy’s waiting, Mum.
I realized recently that the passing of Robin Williams has not affected me that much. While I feel for his family, his death has little bearing on my life. A great comedian, a layered actor: he was both of these and much more. I am sorry for his family’s loss, for the loss of a comic genius to this nation and the world, but I do not mourn deeply for him.
When I compare his death with the death of my mother just a week before, there is no comparison. There are only levels of mourning. The loss that I feel for my mom – my rock, my friend, my confidante – can only be described as deep, bottom-of-the-abyss pain. What I feel for Robin Williams is a vague, numb sympathy, a divot, a pothole, a bump in the road – nowhere near the sinkhole of raw nerve endings that itch and prick for Mum. It consumes me. I do not have room to mourn for him while I have mourning left to do for her.
How I wish she was still here. How I wish she had been healthy towards the end. In some ways, I have mourned over her since last year even though she died only recently. Her disease took away the intimacy, the laughter, the heart talks that we have always had. As a daughter, it was every bit as devastating to my soul as that disease was to her body and mind. I am mourning for her as only a loving child can.
I understand what Robin Williams’ children are feeling so intensely right now. However, I cannot mourn for him at the plummeting depths that they will. That is reserved for my mother, just as it is reserved for them for their father. In my numbness, I see the tributes to him on my FaceBook wall and my heart cries, “But what about my mother?” I’m not ready for her to be forgotten and my grief to be sidelined by others as they carry on with their lives. The changes that come with her death are mine to bear, not my friends, but still, I envy, and maybe even resent a little, that they can go on, uninterrupted, while my piece of the planet has been bulldozed.
Robin Williams will be mourned for many years by many people for the laughter and generosity of spirit that he left for the world. That is one of the benefits of being well-known. My mother will be remembered by me and my family privately. She did not influence the world, but she did influence my world. Deep love must be mourned deeply.
In the hierarchy of grief, personal relationships trump celebrity.
Well, I did it. I put EAR drops in my EYE today. I know. Join the club, right? Who hasn’t done that at some point in his or her life? Ear drops in the eye. HA! Silly me. What do you mean you read the labels?
I read labels too, but I missed the letter P. Otic. Optic. One little letter can make the difference between relief from scratchy eyes and a whole lot of pain!
First off, let me explain that I keep a bottle of eye drops along with a few other medicines, in the kitchen for convenience. Because my eyes are dry, I never know when I’m going to need to put drops in. This afternoon, they were not only dry, but scratchy too, particularly my left one. Thinking that perhaps I was getting the start of a stye, I picked up a bottle, squinted at it, nodded approval and squeezed a drop into the problematic eye. If I thought I was in discomfort from the stye, let me tell you that I flew from the kitchen, through the living room and into the bathroom faster than if I were being chased by the four horsemen of the Apocalypse on speed, with my eye screaming at me, “I’M ON FIRE!”
I’ll take the stye any day.
The pain of it literally – yes, I mean literally, not figuratively – took my breath away. As I stood in front of the bathroom sink, splashing water into my eye, I couldn’t breathe. Panic attacks tend to do that to a person.
Splash. Splash. Splash. Am I blind? My biggest fear is coming true! And I did it to myself! Don’t let me be blind.
Splash. Splash. Splash. Oh, thank God, my high blood pressure pills are working or I’d be lying here dead on the floor of a stroke or a heart attack.
Splash. Splash. Splash. Water’s running down my sleeve and my neck. I hate that!
Splash. Splash. Splash. I need to call my husband. No, maybe I should go to the emergency room. I can’t drive myself to the emergency room if I’m blind. Blind people can’t drive! What’s that blurry thing over there? Oh, Thank God, I’m not blind. Hubby, I did something really stupid. Splash.
I’ve had more fun during a colonoscopy, but at least my inner Drama Queen had a party.
So all evening, I’ve been nursing my left eye. Right now, I can see just fine, even though my eye is very tired. (As I typed that, I realized that my vision was blurry, so I cleaned my glasses. It’s all good now.)
My eye has gone from flaming red with veins that I could feel against my eyelid to pale flamingo pink and mild discomfort. After flushing it all evening, I think I’ll survive, and so will my vision.
Optic versus otic. Darn that missing P. I won’t make that mistake again. On the plus side, I can’t feel the stye anymore.
Anna stopped writing her log,
Deciding to type up a blog;
How did she know
That her fingers would go?
They’re digital, not Anna-log.
Normally, I’ve tried to be upbeat on my blog, but lately, things have been … well, less than upbeat.
This is my current FaceBook cover. It’s also the attitude I’ve been trying to maintain, but it hasn’t been easy.
Try as I might, the serious stuff of life keeps creeping in and smashing my good moods to bits. As you can see from the frequency of my latest blog posts, keeping an upbeat blog has not been in the cards. In fact, I find it rather amusing that in my last blog, I “complained,” tongue in cheek, about my lack of readership, then proceeded to kill it off even more by not posting anything since May. Ollie ollie oxen free! Everybody come back now! Oh, well.
So, I’m not very happy that I’m here writing about not being happy. It’s definitely not the way I want my blog posts to read, but lately, it just seems like the world has been pressing down on my shoulders. Despite my bright, cheery, optimistic, Pollyanna, and whatever other rainbow-butted-unicorns-make-me-gag personality traits I might exhibit, I’m sitting here at my computer, trying to put my feelings into words that don’t sound like a funeral dirge, with the thought that it might help me find some balance somewhere in between. No, I’m not depressed. I’m just tired. I know the difference, believe me. And sometimes, a gal just needs to vent.
The headphones are in and some relaxing classical music is on. Classical, I know, right? Surprised me, too. I’ll bet you were thinking that Weird Al was my musical icon. Nope, but I confess to listening to John Mayer one evening last week. I queued him up on YouTube and let that sucker sing his heart out for me. Private concert for one, please. One evening of that was enough, but at least now, I know who John Mayer is. As for this classical stuff, I’m discovering that I’m really not in the mood for it. It’s not that I don’t like classical because I do. But not tonight, or at least not what is playing. 2 Cellos or Celtic Thunder or Piano Guys all would have worked, but I think I’ll go the Christian music path tonight with MercyMe. It’s fast; it’s upbeat; I’ve got God singing in my ear. Well, maybe not God exactly, but close enough.
Of all the musical choices I could have made to lift my spirits, why is it that I always gravitate to Christian/gospel music? It used to be in my younger days that my go-to music was the group America of “Horse With No Name” fame. They have been a favorite of mine since high school. I feel a little like I’m out in that desert and the nameless horse is what I’m feeling right now. I can’t put a finger on it or a name to it. I just know that at some point the desert ends and the horse will go free. In other words, I’ll get through this, but for now, all I can do is hang on for the ride. Not exactly Christian music, but I lurves me a good metaphor. While I could put on America and be perfectly content, I seem to need the Christian content tonight. Sing it, MercyMe.
Gradually, the words are sinking in. Here’s my hope, invading my ears, penetrating my brain, sinking into my heart. “Count it pure joy when the world comes crashin.’ Hold your head up and keep on dancin.’”
Maybe I’ll squish a few lemons and make lemonade while I’m dancing. I’d offer you some, but I’m still looking for the sugar. Don’t worry; it’ll be “Alright.” I’ll find the sweetness again eventually.