Friday, April 29, 2011

Mother's Day

I'm coming up on 6 years now that I haven't had my mother with me for Mother's Day. Few rare moments go by that I don't think of her; wishing she could see her young grandchildren grow and mature.

My last gift to her was for her birthday in June 2004. She was the type of woman who had everything she wanted, so I always took her out to dinner. That year she complained of having stomach problems, so I told her once she was feeling better we'd go out.

A month later she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. A couple of weeks after that she was having surgery to remove part of her pancreas, stomach and intestines. The doctor said he got all of the tumor.

My mom went through her round of chemo, losing lots of weight. She always kept her sense of humor though, stating the fact that "her legs looked like an elephants" because of all the sagging skin. Sometimes when I look at my knees I think of her making that statement LOL.

I used to drop my mom off for her treatments, because the chemo sessions could be hours at a time, and she thought it was stupid for me "to just sit there and look at her" because she'd be sleeping anyway. It's funny how I'm exactly like her in that regard: I hate the idea of putting someone out for me.

For the first part of this process I was pregnant with my daughter. All of Mom's nurses would be worried about me, making sure I wasn't tired, do I need to sit down... ALL of those types questions. I would make them focus on my mom instead of me. She's the one who needed help.

The oncologist had to try several types of chemo, because trace amounts (not lumps) were found in her liver, and based on her health, she wasn't a candidate for a liver transplant.

In April 2005, on a Thursday, I picked her up for what would be her last doctor visit. That morning I could see the jaundice in her skin. Her liver was officially failing. We sat in the doctor's office while he told us what we expected to hear: It's time to get things in order. Mom just rolled over, too tired to focus on his words. I immediately called my aunt (mom's sister) who had been living with, and taking care of my mother.

I got mom back home, settled her in and went to work. I told my boss I should plan on taking the next week off just to be with her until she dies. He agreed and I made the arrangements.

Coincidently that Sunday, May 2nd, I was having a birthday party for my son, who was turning 4. That morning I got a call from my aunt: Hospice was being called in because mom really took a turn for the worst. I left my husband at home (with our 6 month old daughter) to get the party going. My cousin Jennifer went out to help early since he was by himself.

At my aunt's house we got papers in order, talked with the hospice nurse who was REALLY good at explaining how this event was going to turn out. We could hear mom in her bed, babbling to no one there, which of course to me meant she was talking to "the other side". I could just imagine my dad by her side telling her it was time to come back to him.

I stayed there til the afternoon, when all the family came from MY house to see my mom for the last time. It's so funny how family from out of town who came in for my son's birthday got to come and see her. I actually loved how that turned out.

In the evening when it seemed like she was resting, my aunt sent me home to take a shower. She said she'd call me if things changed. No sooner did I get home I had to go back out. Mom had started the death rattles.

Now on a side note, if you've ever seen someone go through that, it's the most primal sound I ever thought I'd hear from the woman. Her chest pulled upwards and honest to God, it seemed like her soul was trying to get out of her body.

I sat my her bedside rubbing her leg with my hand. My aunt who lived there couldn't stay in the room- it was too much for her to handle. Another aunt stayed and held her hand, telling her it was okay to go. One of my half-sisters was on the other side too.

When mom finally stopped making noise we looked closely to see if she was still breathing.

All was quiet...

Until she drew in a huge breath and scared the crap out of us. We look back at it now and laugh. My aunt yelled to my other aunt to call hospice, then had to yell AGAIN because mom was still with us.

We waited a bit more until mom became quiet again.

My aunt asked "Jo, are you gone for sure now?"

And there was silence. We were okay to call hospice.

I must say, that after going through this with my mother, I wouldn't trade it for the world. I cherish the fact that I got to be with her when she died. I cherish that she got to see her family. I firmly believe that God planned it that way.


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