I want to apologize to you all for neglecting to post this past month. My mother had a stroke Thursday, May 16th, and at first showed signs of improvement. We were relieved she could swallow, and happy that though her speech was slurred, she could say our names and recognize us, still smile and joke around.
Then she began to decline. Sleeping all the time, and not wanting to eat or drink. We decided the decline was because while she was in the hospital, she didn’t receive any of her routine medications and since she’d been in rehab, they’d started her back on her regimen. Thus, we hoped the medication was what made her sleepy. The doctor agreed to discontinue most all the medication, and we waited for her to perk up. But she didn’t. She steadily got weaker, continuing to sleep through most of her meals. Taking bites and sips and only that with much coaxing and cuing. When mom kept refusing to eat or drink, we agreed to call in hospice.
Even then, even with her barely conscious state, I was in denial. You would think as a long-time hospice nurse that I would recognize end of life symptoms. They were there, I was just not able to see them. I declared that Moma had eaten well just on Friday, and my younger sister pointed out that mom hadn’t eaten more than sips and bites since the Friday before. It had been more than a week, yet it seemed to me it had only been a few days. Time had stood still. Everything ran together. We had sat at her bedside night and day, taking turns for short breaks to shower. I didn’t know what day it was from one to the next. We were all living on adrenalin and coffee, napping in chairs, but we were together.
During her last days, at different times, she managed to take each one of us by the hand and bring it to her lips. She loved us and knew we loved her. I think now, she was saying goodbye. We talked about fun memories, thanking her for being our mother. We forgave and asked for forgiveness. We sang hymns and old folk songs to her. In the wee hours of the morning someone would start to hum a tune and someone else would join in until we were all awake and singing. A very sweet and poignant time we will all remember.
Not only did we lose our Mom, we lost a friend, and . . . a child. You see, in many ways, Moma was a little girl. Once she said to me, “I’m tired. You be the momma for a while.” Sweet Moma. She could be the most fun and most frustrating all at the same time. She would pout like a little girl when she didn’t get her way or if you corrected her. She had been diagnosed with dementia seven years ago, and when she passed, she had regressed to possibly a five or six-year-old. She still knew all of us, and most of the time understood where she was and what was going on. It was such a blessing that we never had to see her reach the infant stage of dementia, the stage of being bedbound, not being able to speak or feed herself.
Mother’s Day, I had helped get her ready for church. I handed her a tube of lipstick and as always, she put it on beautifully without a mirror. Of course, then she’d have to check to see if it was on straight, and yes it was, every time. She’s known quite well at church for her hearty, “Amen” comment throughout the sermon and her beautiful voice during song services. Truthfully, Moma was a little attention hog, and was not ashamed that I had to park her wheelchair in the center aisle of her church. She felt at home, surrounded by people who loved her and always stopped by to give her a hug and say hello on their way to their seat. After services we went to her favorite restaurant: Jose’s Mexican, and met my granddaughter, Daisy. She and mom had a bond, a fun banter. And this day was no different.
On Tuesday she and I played dominoes and she won. Then two weeks later, Tuesday, 5/28/19 she passed from this life to live in Heaven with Jesus and her momma, daddy, siblings, and friends who had passed before her. We all miss her terribly, and I know more intimately the loss my patient’s families suffer. I am sure I will write more later. But for now, God bless you and thank you for your indulgence.