My Mom died in my arms, at our home, on Sunday morning, October 6, 2013.
Two weeks ago today my mom was alive - two weeks ago today she took her first breath in Heaven. I have been her 24/7, at-home, live-in daughter/caregiver since she had a massive stroke in 2008. Despite what family, friends, and medical "professionals" said and believed throughout all this time - my mom not only survived, but lived life fully. Although she needed total care (could not stand) and we used a Hoyer and a wheelchair - we got out and explored life! We got a membership years ago at our local, beautiful ZOO and ventured there as much as once a week via the RTA Paratransit service. We took two college classes together - one on Italian Language (to be able to speak Italian during our visit to Italy) and the other an Art Appreciation college course. We even took a Watercolor Art Course at our local Museum of Art. Last October I bartered (writing services for a free wheelchair-accessible van for a week) and did a road trip 3 hours a way with my sister, mom, and my mom's first great-grandchild; we picked up my 92 year old uncle and his wheelchair and went to the Columbus Zoo and out to eat. My mom was a beautiful woman - inside and out. And, although I often looked like I hadn't brushed my hair - ever - and perhaps slept in my clothes - my mom was always clean, smelled great, and sported beautiful, sharp, and new clothes. We went everywhere together and did everything together. In May, we went back to the hospital (again) for an "exploratory" surgery to see why my mom had this recurrent abscess in her right lower abdomen area for over a year. 10 minutes later the surgeon (who said HE never wants to live past 80) said it was inoperable and there was nothing we could do. 24 hours later my mom aspirated in the hospital, got pneumonia, and was transferred to the ICU after my many tears and pleading with the doctors. They put her on a ventilator - of which they could not wean her off of for 3 weeks. My sister (who had come to town) and my brother (on the west coast) had said to "pull the plug" and let her go. May was an awful month. I felt like everybody just wrote my mom off. Even my siblings were ok with just letting her go - and then they would go back to their lives with their families in different states. I was vacillating between agreeing with them and doing what my gut and heart told me to do - let her get a trach. My sister was grossed out about the trach and refused to be there when then did it. The next day, my mom and I were transferred to a long-term facility for 30 days that specialized in trach care. Within just a few days - she was doing awesome ! Talking with the cap on, etc. Before we came back home, I transferred our living room into a "master suite" so we could have the big front window (covered with beautiful stained-glass pieces I had bought over the years). We came home at the end of June - with a trach, a PEG, a draining wound area from previous JP locations, etc. My mom and I continued to GET UP and GET OUT - we went to the zoo once a week - still. Though now we had oxygen tanks, a trach suctioning machine, and various other supplies and equipment in tow, I didn't care - I was with my mom. At the end of July I scheduled a hair and nail appointment for her at our favorite beauty shop. As we were leaving the beauty shop and I was maneuvering her power wheelchair out of the tight space to get to the back exit with the RTA Paratransit would pick us up - my mom's right elbow (her left arm was affected by the stroke) HIT THE WALL. As soon as we got home - I called the ambulance. It was broken. And broken bad. The arm that she used to play Wii, to paint, to play the piano, to hug me, to drink, to scratch her nose, etc. etc. etc. was now broken. Although she could move her hand and wrist - the arm was broke. It was set in two different casts over the course of 2 months. A nightmare dealing with (and getting to) those appointments and doctors/specialists. I honestly don't know why 90% of the people in healthcare ARE in that field. I always HATED going to the hospital because most everyone on our life's path was so incompetent, uncaring, in a hurry, etc. etc. etc. Yesterday morning my sister left to go back to Virginia. She wanted me to come with her - but I wasn't up for it. All the family came in for the services - which would have been awesome if they came in WHILE SHE WAS ALIVE. Since I had honestly NEVER planned to be alive after my mom died - I was going to go with her and had never changed my mind from that thought all the years I took care of her and was with her - up until just about 10 days before she died I started thinking that maybe I could somehow leave a beautiful legacy for her and my dad. But by living my life all these years AS IF I would not be here after my mom died - and now being here - is too much for me. What keeps me going in this very moment? What keeps me going right now? In this very moment? The thought that I can always kill myself tomorrow.