Sunday, April 09, 2006

Lost


My heart is breaking. My dear, beautiful Mumma is gone. She left this life on 3/26 at 3:41am.

Mumma fought that insidious disease right to her very last breath. She never, not for one moment, gave in. She fought and fought until her body didn't have anything left to fight with. Even when we told her it was okay to let go, even begged at times, she wouldn't give up. She left this earth under her own terms - just the way she'd always lived her life.

Dad called me early on the Thursday morning and told me that the hospice doctor had said Mumma only had a day or two left. She'd woken about 4am that morning in horrific pain and the pain meds weren't working. She'd always been allergic to morphine and the Dilaudid only did a so-so job of keeping the pain in check. Luckily, the hospice doctor was due to visit that morning at 10am. He examined Mumma and then sat on the bed next to her. He explained very gently that she had very little time left. She said she understood and wanted to stay at home. The doctor called for a nurse to bring stronger meds and she was at the house within half an hour. Even though Mumma was allergic to morphine, they decided to try it. The nurse rubbed a powerful anti-nausea gel on Mum's chest and slowly began to introduce the morphine. After an hour and a half the full dose had been given and there were no adverse reactions. Dad said that the pain lines went out of her face and, for the first time in about 15 months, she was pain free.

The nurse told Dad that it was only a matter of hours before Mum went and so he called me with the news. I'd already booked airline tickets for that evening for Carolyn and I and we were hoping that Mumma would hold on until we got there. I told him to tell Mumma that we were coming, but if she couldn't hold on it was okay. We didn't want her to go on suffering just so that we could see her.

Well, she DID hold on. I called Dad at every step of the journey to let him know where we were. As we flew through the night I would send out messages to her, "We're coming, Mumma. Your girls are coming to you." We changed planes in Atlanta and, let me tell you, that hour and a half layover seemed like the longest layover ever. A friend picked us up at the airport and sped us on to the house. He managed to shave almost 15 minutes off the normal hour long drive. We arrived at the house and rushed inside to the bedroom.

There she was. There was our beloved Mumma. She appeared to be in a coma, but Dad assured us that she could hear us. We went to her and kissed her and I told her that we were here. There was no response, so Dad took her hand and rubbed it and told her that her girls were here. She immediately opened her eyes and looked at us. The look of profound joy on her face was beautiful to behold. Mum was almost past being able to speak at that point but told us that she had waited for us. We cried and told her how much we loved her and thanked her for waiting for us. Even though we'd told her many times throughout her illness how much she meant to us, we told her again and then let her know that it was okay to let go and move on. We all thought she'd let go after we got there, but she didn't.

Mumma fought for almost 2 more days. I sat by her side constantly, only leaving the room when absolutely necessary. We talked to each other and to Mum because she could still hear us, even if she couldn't respond. When her pain would get bad, Dad would administer the morphine by putting it into her mouth. It was terribly bitter and we could tell that it was horrible for her, but she didn't fight it. She knew that Dad was only doing it out of love. Her breathing was very slow and labored and we'd count the breaths. Only 5 or 6 a minute, sometimes with pauses of 30 seconds. At each long pause we'd hold our breaths and wait to see if she'd gone, but then she'd breath again and we'd let out our breaths, half in relief that she'd taken another breath and half in agony that she was still hanging on and suffering.

Throughout that time Paula, our friend and neighbor that lives across the street, would come and sit with us. She'd called me when the hospice nurse was on her way over to let me know that she was going over to sit with Dad and wouldn't leave him alone. She sat with him all that day, into the evening and right through the night. God bless friends like Paula. It was a great relief and comfort to know that Dad wasn't sitting alone with Mum, but had Paula there for company and support. Paula is family and we all love her.

On Saturday night Marti, the minister from Mum and Dad's church, came over. She had been in California and had come straight from the airport. Throughout Mum's illness Marti had made weekly visits and was a great friend. She'd called from the airport and let Dad know when she would be arriving. Mum heard Dad telling us this and we're all sure that she was holding on until Marti got there. She arrived about 7:30pm and Mum opened her eyes and smiled. Marti spoke gently to Mum, prayed with us, sang a little and gave Mumma her own personal benediction. About 10:30pm she decided to go home and said goodbye. Mum opened her eyes again and moved her hands as if wanting to give her a hug.

At around 11pm Mumma seemed to slip into a coma and we could tell that she wasn't in terrible pain anymore. Carolyn and I layed on the bed with her, me laying beside her and Carolyn laying with her head on the footboard, just as we'd sat hour after hour on previous visits. Dad sat in an armchair next to the bed and held Mumma's hand. We were all exhausted as we hadn't slept for a couple of days. Gradually, we all drifted off and slept peacefully there beside Mum. About 3:30am I woke up and realized that Mumma's breath had quieted down. Carolyn had been awake for about 15 minutes and had just lain watching Mum and seeing her breath get quieter. Mum started breathing these little, quiet breathes and we knew that the end was very near. We talked gently to her, giving her kisses and stroking her hair while we told her how much we loved her. As she breathed her last breath, one little tear ran down her cheek and I knew that she was sad that she finally had to leave us. She'd fought to stay with us as long as possible. I told her to be like a little bird and fly back home to God. Our beloved Mumma was borne up and away on our wings of love.

We'll scatter her ashes on Mother's Day and have her memorial service the day before. She'll be scattered on their property at the site of her favorite view. It looks out over a little valley with fields and woods. Two of her dog's ashes will be scattered with her and when the other dogs go, they'll be scattered there, too. Finally, when Dad goes, his ashes will be sprinkled with Mumma's and they'll be together once again.

Mum never let this disease get her down. Some people get angry or bitter at having cancer, but Mumma just got more loving. It actually brought out the best in her and she was such an inspiration to so many people. She never complained about anything and was so appreciative of all that we did for her. The illness brought her and Dad so close together and made their love something wonderous to behold.

I suppose that, eventually, I'll get used to the idea of her being gone but, for now, I just keep thinking "How can it be? How can my Mumma be gone?" It just doesn't seem possible.

Love you, Mumma!



4 Comments:

Blogger Denise said...

Lindsey, I am so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful account of your Mother, thank-you for sharing her story, her spirit and the heart that is so strong within your family. I'm so glad that you all were able to be together and admire the respect and strength you all gave each other. I hope each day it's a little easier to know that your Mom is alright and keeping an eye on you from above.
Denise

4/09/2006 5:10 PM  
Blogger crazycatladymel said...

Lindsey, this brings back so many memories of my mom's passing. What a fighter your mom was, and I'm so glad you were able to say goodbye. Long-distance hugs,

Mel

4/09/2006 5:44 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

During such a hard time, reminding youself over and over that you got the chance to be there and say goodbye and I love you is some comfort. I see our Moms passed away on the same day.
I'll be thinking of you Lindsey.
Take care

4/11/2006 2:29 PM  
Blogger Lora said...

Lindsey, I am sorry for your loss. I know your mom meant the world to you as you so often took off to see her! Thanks for sharing the story with us on your blog. I'm sure that took a lot of work, and I could feel the love you put into writing it! It was wonderful to read.
HUGS

4/15/2006 5:55 PM  

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