Today, March 20, is likely a normal day to most people. For me, though, it's date forever burned in my mind and heart...it is the day I said goodbye to my mom here on earth. The day my mom went home to heaven. The day she lost her battle to cancer. I have so many things I'd really like to share that this will be a 2 blog post day.
Some may say it's not healthy to walk in the past. I don't do that so much, but I think for me, to go through this day, and this grief process, I kind of need to talk about this time last year. I need to share some of what was going on in order to process my grief and keep moving forward. There are experts out there who say that the one year marker is a significant date for moving on. I really don't find anything magical about it. Yes, we've conquered a lot of firsts in this year, but it doesn't mean grief ends or is even extremely easier. It will be one day, but each persons journey is different, and one year or not, the hole will always be there. allow me to remember last year for a few minutes.
March 18, Friday.
I had the day off from work, and I spent the majority of it with mom. Mom was bedridden, and not eating. the hospice nurses were now on the clock 24/7, knowing that the end was any moment, really. Mom's breaths were about 5 a minute. I spent time next to her bed, holding her hand, talking to her, sometimes just sitting praying or being quiet. It depended on the moment. The hospice nurses were very kind and very respectful of space. The day was one I saw mom smile a little bit. It was the best response I'd gotten all week from her. Here is what I wrote:
"Today, for the first time in days, I had a little smile from her. That was a beautiful thing. And if it's my last memory, it's a good one. I sure am going to miss her like crazy. Her dress is now clean and ready for her burial. She chose it long ago. It seems unreal and sad. I am sad. But there's a peace of sorts with that sadness too. I"m scheduled to work tomorrow and I really don't know if I can."
I remember leaving the farm that day thinking mom maybe wouldn't make it through the night. Leaving was really tough.
The next day was Saturday, the 19th. I was at work. But I may as well not have been. I was a mess. I tried my best to do what I needed to, but I knew in my heart it was about to happen, and I really didn't want to not be there. I kept my phone on me, so I could be gotten ahold of at any point. Dad's number showed up on the phone and my heart beat twice as fast. I answered, and dad told me that the nurse said I should come home. Mom's feet were beginning to turn blue. Mom was pretty non responsive. I sat for a minute and took that in, then I cried on the shoulder of a coworker for a few minutes, then I said I had to go. I drove home to grab clothes and sped out to the farm. I just wanted to be there. For me. For mom. For dad. It was just me and dad and the nurse and mom for a good part of the first few hours when I arrived.
Mom's breaths were shallow. Her face was pale, and the nurse was right, there was a blue tint to her feet. It's not at all what I remember when I think of my mom. but today, it's hard not to recall that. She was asleep. Dad and I decided to take turns being by her bedside. The nurse said it could be within hours, but it could be a couple days-she'd seen it both ways. It's hard not knowing sometimes. So our time of taking turns began. It was the longest 24 hours of my life. The nurse would come in and check vitals every so often or turn mom a little or things like that. But mostly, we were given our space with her. Sometimes I'd sing quietly. Sometimes I'd cry quietly. Sometimes I'd share every bit of my heart with mom. she could still hear just fine, we knew that.
Michael showed up sometime in the afternoon to be with me. We had some amazing best friends from church keeping our kids for us. They loved on our children as much as any family member ever did. We were grateful to have them...(and to still have them through all this)
My older brother was on his way home from PA. And I was again working on arrangements to get my younger, military brother home.
My sister and her husband arrived late that evening. I have no idea what we ate for dinner...but I do remember sitting down to eat. As the night passed, I didn't sleep. Partially because my heart and mind couldn't shut down, and partially because I didn't want to miss any second with mom. We took turns through the night. When my brother showed up at midnight, I remember embracing strongly and then allowing him his space to see mom.
I tossed in bed some and then moved to the couch and then really wound up talking to my brother or the nurse the rest of the night. No one could sleep well. Dad was in the room with mom. I remember really strange details too....like talking about our grain bins with the nurse and explaining those to her, as she'd never seen anything like that. I remember our best childhood friends showing up really late at night with coffee for us. Strange details. I remember the feel of mom's skin...and I hope I never forget that. She didn't look like herself, but it's not the image I hold onto, either. Night passed into morning and mom was still holding on. We heated up the casserole the lifelong friends had brought us and ate around the breakfast table...some moments quiet...some moments filled with laughter remembering.
As the morning went along, we continued taking turns with mom. Early afternoon, our lifelong friends once again came along side us. We were and always have been like family, so it was comforting having them there. It happened to be dad's turn in with mom then. Shortly after they arrived, dad came out and told us mom was gone. We all huddled together and cried. It was appropriate dad was the one there. That's how it should've been. We 'd all had our time. I can remember walking back to the bedroom to say goodbye, even though she was already gone. Oh, how the tears poured down. It was no longer my mom lying there. It's crazy how God works. The image of her body there lifeless was so so so painful. And yet it is never the image I think of. All at once, I saw her there, I also pictured her finally laughing again....that was my mom....ALWAYS laughing or smiling. And she was no longer in pain and suffering...she was in the arms of Jesus, smiling and singing again. It was neat to me to have that image come almost immediately.
The day went along...we made phone calls and arrangements. It was absolutely exhausting. Food was dropped on us galore, so we didn't have to worry about that. Then the arrangements began. I won't give every detail from that point on because then this blog would never end....because there are so many details in my mind.
If you are so inclined, there will be another blog later tonight-part 2. Stay tuned as I continue to tell you how it's been one day at a time for me.