Tuesday, November 27, 2012

For Mom, With Love

We buried my mom on Saturday, two days after Thanksgiving, twenty-two days after she started seizing in the hospital following a very confusing illness.

Most of her close family were with her the day she died. My dad, my brothers and I, both daughters-in-law, half of her grandchildren, her sister and brother and their spouses. We all gathered at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, where she’d been flown by helicopter a week and half earlier from a hospital in her hometown in Decatur, Illinois.

I arrived in Illinois the evening before the transfer. Her seizures were about twenty minutes apart. She was sedated, but I was angry that enough meds weren’t given to knock them out. She was on a vent, after all, so there was no danger of depressing her respirations. In St. Louis they did manage to stop them within hours of admission, but she never really woke up.

My mom was healthy. She went to Branson, Missouri in early October with my dad for a mini vacation. We thought the illness she experienced when they got back was due to the hamburger she ate on the way home. Both she and my dad didn’t feel well after eating that night, but she was very sick. Next, it appeared her gallbladder needed to come out, and it did. The surgeon was puzzled at her labs and her overall clinical picture.

Her kidneys failed, her platelets dropped. She underwent numerous plasma exchanges. She believed she was going to die, and made peace with God and talked things over with my dad. I thought she was overreacting and would get well in time. In the back of my mind, though, was the overwhelming feeling of just this thing happening that I had when I was visiting them in July.

I was lying in bed and started to cry. The thought of losing her was strong. Awhile later she came into the room and told me to get up because my dad was having chest pain. My first thought was that my intuition was confused and it was he that was in danger. Turns out he was fine, just having some heartburn.

My dad and I stayed near the hospital in St. Louis the entire time she was there at Barnes Lodge, a place for families. I’ll never forget the unity of purpose that we shared. I love my father so much. He is truly my hero, as corny as that sounds. He is full of optimism, love and grace. His love for my mom will be in my mind and heart forever.

This past week my family gathered together. I feel so lucky to be a part of them. My brothers and their wives, my nephews, and my aunts and uncles are all such great people. Truly. My mom must be thrilled to know that over 200 people came to her visitation, and her funeral was beautiful. My nephew gave a eulogy, and the minister read my tribute to her (I have a horrible fear of public speaking. I’d rather be in the casket than at the podium!)

Tim talked about golf and how she always worked on her short game, making the putts and getting her score right up there because of it. That’s how she supported us, too. She put in the time behind the scenes doing the small things that made a big difference. I know she was listening and probably beaming that her grandson gave her such kudos for being the quiet woman she was in this life. We’re who we are because of her.

It hasn’t really sunk in yet for me. I know that the days ahead will be tough for all of us, and I hate being down here in Florida while the family is 950 miles north of me. I hope my dad decides to spend some of the cold months here with us. It’s up to him and whatever he feels will be most helpful to his healing.

My mom and dad adore Daniel. I am so grateful that her example of caring for him has really affected Melody. She took care of her brother while I was gone (with the help of assistants and Rich). The Thursday before mom died Daniel fell while the caregiver had him in the bathroom. He lost his other permanent front tooth. I’m still unclear about how it happened, and I haven’t had time to look into the details other than to know the person responsible was apparently not strong enough for the job.

Melody took over and showered him with love, hovering over him until I flew back to Jacksonville. We all drove back to Illinois together, and she continued to care for him and for my dad. She made sure her grandma’s kitchen was as pristine as she always kept it. Again, I know my mom is proud. I am.

I feel my mom’s presence, and I am thankful that I have a completely secure belief that her soul is still with is. I don’t know how people get through it without that knowledge and faith.

Thank you, mom, for being you. I love you.

Christmas, 2011