Saturday, November 23, 2013


Mom with perfect baby--ME!
Most of my 40 years in nursing, I have spent working in OB/GYN. So I have folders, flash drive apps, pregnancy journals, to help prepare for the blessed coming of the newborn-- Pretty much a week to week what to anticipate.

Unfortunately, this last month I found myself dealing with the other end of life with my mother. It was an area foreign to me. Sure, I have dealt with death and dying as a nurse, that is pretty much inevitable-- even looked over the brink myself.  Now it was up close and personal. Fortunately, "Hospice" stepped in with my "what to expect" journal and a fleet of staff, meds, and equipment to assist in making the journey through the valley of the shadow of death comfortable for all of us. As I look at the beginning and the end, there are some similarities. We come into life, sleeping most of the time, being fed and changed, totally dependent on others for our care and we pretty much go out the same way!

I had found a family care home in Elk Grove that I was planning to move my mom to, with the goal that she would be able to join us around our Thanksgiving table. Then I got the call that she had suffered a major stroke and was mostly unresponsive. We got her transported to Elk Grove and what an experience it was over the next couple of weeks. She was surrounded by her family and a loving staff of caregivers 24/7 that were just awesome--the "Palm Valley Squad" (Gellie, Nick, Agry, and Winnie) Her first day there, Gellie washed her hair and put on some make up and nail polish. My mom lifted her hand to admire the polish. Even in her weakened state, she appreciated the primping! 

Then for a few days, we experienced a little "miracle"! Mom wouldn't eat or drink but when I hugged her, she hugged back and just kept patting my back like I was her little girl. Such a comforting gesture in those last few days!

 From my experience, many people, my father being one of them, was adamant that "Hospice" was a dirty word. If you possibly were forced into "doing hospice" it meant you would die the next day. This is just so sad and ridiculous, because truly hospice can often extend your life, but also improves the quality of life that is remaining. I found the hospice staff and also the caregivers were very intuitive about what mom might need even if she was unable to speak or communicate. They were far more experience with this detail than me. She was kept clean, pain free and comfortable. We kept mom's favorite music playing in the background so the atmosphere was very calming. So this whole physical part of dying was smooth. 

The emotional  journey is a whole 'nother story!  On one hand, I knew that my mom can't live forever, and her quality of life was not what I desired for her.  But the letting go to be left an orphan is soooooo difficult.  Somehow going through life, it seems like our parents will always be there for us. We do have a lot of great memories!  No matter where we were staying in our travels around the world, whether is was luxurious or primitive, (primitive being the recurring theme! Even if she had just scraped the dead ants off the toast in Irian Jaya, or the family was stranded at the end of the road in Tradja Land, Southern Sulewasi and were scrounging the markets for canned juice or sifting weavils out of the flour and rice in Borneo ) mom would say: "We never had it so good!" and then she whip up a delicious meal out of practically nothing!  Miss you Mom!! ***

"Her love, her life, and everything that made my mom
 so special to me,
will live on through my memories!"

I answer the heroic question
 "Death, where is they sting?" 
"It is here in my heart and mind and memories."
~ ~ Maya Angelou

***web page changed to purple in honor of Mom!