The End of the Trail

Notes from the Eldercare Underground:  Final Edition

My mother passed away unexpectedly yesterday at the age of 93.  I suppose at that age death shouldn’t be unexpected, but she had been doing pretty well right up to this week. 

She attended the big Christmas wing-ding at the nursing home on Tuesday last, where they really know how to put out a buffet line.  One that rivals Las Vegas. 

All that was missing was Wayne Newton. 

(Although, they did have their one-man-band of an entertainer, the erstwhile fourth grade music teacher turned comedian, musician and master of ceremonies of these events.)

And on Wednesday my mother got to listen to the Christmas concert performed by her two great-grandkids and their school, so that was a nice touch.

So yesterday it came as a surprise when the night nurse phoned me at 5:30 am to tell me they were transferring her to the hospital ER because her breathing was labored and rapid.  After I got there (and after several tests) the ER doctor, whom we’d seen before on one of her other trips there, told me he thought she was just shutting everything down and all they could offer at that point was a room and comfort care.  She was constantly administered oxygen and was given a small dose of morphine to quell any pain she might be having.

I was asked by a nurse if I wanted what they call “heroic” measures, like a ventilator or CPR to resuscitate her if her heart stopped.  Fortunately I had her advance directive and medical power of attorney and knew that this is not something my mother would have wished.

So I said no.

Not exactly “pulling the plug on grandma.”  More like not putting the plug into the wall in the first place.

My daughter spent the day there in her room with me (a great help) and around 5:00 pm my mother’s labored breathing slowed down and became more shallow.  After about five minutes, it stopped altogether.

Last Tuesday, when we went back to her room after the party, she re-iterated that she really didn’t care for it here and said she was going to go back to California.  I have heard this so many times in the 13 years she’s been in Texas that it didn’t bother me like it used to.

I just said, “Well, if you can swing it, I’m all for it.”

She’s getting her wish. 

Her ashes will be going back to California (as per her request), probably this summer, when we go out there to visit my son and his family.

Before we left her hospital room so the funeral home folks could take her away, I bent over and kissed her on the forehead and told her good-bye.  In my mind I added, “Say hi to Dad for me.”  I know they’re together again after almost 15 years. 

And that’s the one good thing to come out of all of this.

 

(Many thanks to my faithful “Eldercare Underground” readers.  I really appreciated your comments and all of your encouragements.)

grannycamel3

Granny and Omar, the camel.

 

 

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35 thoughts on “The End of the Trail

  1. I am so sorry to hear of your Mother’s passing. I know you will miss her very much – as we will miss your many wonderful stories of you and her. 🙂

    Her memory will live on for you, in all those precious memories that you have shared with us, and will bring such sweet blessing’s to all.

    It made me feel good to hear from you, and now know, she will get her wish to return to California. How sweet. Love ‘n Hugs, to you. O:)

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  2. Dear Friend, I am so sorry for your loss. Your Mom has been such a resource of love and enjoyment, trials and tribulations for you and yours. I’m glad that she is going back to California. That last decision, plug in or not, I love you and am so proud of you for not collapsing and letting anything other than what she wanted, happen. You have been outstanding in your love, appreciation of all that she was living through, and finding the best sides of yourself and your family as you’ve walked this path. Your Mom is missed and is resting in peace because of all of the love, care, thought and support that you have offered over these past few years. I can only hope that I walk that same path as well. Good work, good love, Sister.

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    • Thanks for your kind comment. When the nurse asked me about the ventilator and I said no, she seemed somewhat relieved and told me that in most cases like this once the ventilator is put in, it usually stays in. I didn’t want my mother to suffer something like that. In her case, though, it wouldn’t have helped. She was ready to go.

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  3. It’s never easy.

    I have read these posts which always made me thankful for that “younger man” that Mom took up with after Dad died in 1969. Without him, and his loving care for her as she went downhill, we (probably me as the closest child by distance) would have faced many of the same challenges as you did. Even so, when her final illness arrived and emergency surgery succeeded in getting her to the recovery area where we had to decide not to try to keep bringing her back after repeated crashes, there were periods of second guessing when we wondered if we had done the right thing.

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    • Don, I love that your mom “took up” with a younger man. That made me smile. Yes, second guessing your decisions regarding care giving is the demon that can keep you up nights. I’m trying not to beat myself up for things (perceived and real) that I might have done differently. As they say, hind sight is 20/20.

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      • I’m still second guessing myself – it’s just been a year. Sheesh. Point being, give yourself time (I’m telling myself this as I “advize you” – thanks for listening).

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  4. I’m sorry to hear your mom died. Even though we think we’re prepared, we never really are ready to say goodbye in that way. My mom wanted to go back to Texas during her hospice time in Michigan. We got her as close as Denver, in her final days, so she could at least enjoy the sunshine in the dead of winter. My sister and I took her ashes back to her beloved Hill Country and planted a little mountain laurel over her. Just as I believe she has journeyed to a place that is good, so I believe your mom is outta here in the best possible way.

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  5. Sorry to hear the news, but the good news is that I’m sure it was your mother’s decision. She may have set one last nice Christmas as her next goal and when she made it, especially by seeing the grandchildren in concert, she could let go.

    I hope that you have peace and closure and all the best in 2013 when your readership will be waiting for your pithy insights and humor.

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    • Thanks, Tom. I hope my “pithiness” holds up in the New Year! The doctors, both the ER doctor and the one on-call at the hospital, were a bit puzzled why she was going downhill so fast since they couldn’t find any signs of pneumonia or fluid in the lungs, etc. I think she just thought she’d had enough and it was time to check out.

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  6. Oh, my darling. Thank you for posting about this journey midwifing your mother’s transition.

    I am so sorry for your loss.

    I so happy for your mother that it wasn’t prolonged – I know how that goes. Just this week the Anchorage Hospice sent a memento about the first anniversary of my mother’s passing, as well as me realizing it has been nearly three years since dad passed. I am grateful they let me be their caregiver for this time.

    You did well. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and a happy new phase for your mother. It’s all good, and you are loved.

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    • Thanks for your comments, Bretta. I think that was nice to get a remembrance from the hospice folks on the anniversary of your mother’s death. My condolences to you, too. And yes, my brother and I both remarked that our mother was lucky not to have had to go through a prolonged illness. Our father went even more quickly; here one minute and gone the next. Although that was difficult because no one had the chance to say good-bye. But, he got to live the way he wanted right up to the end.

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  7. I am very sorry for your loss. Though my mom is 95 and I wonder why the Good Lord has left her here so long (she can’t see or walk), I will never be prepared for the day she leaves us. For all the bitch’in and griping we do, we only have one Mom and that is a special relationship. God Bless you and your family.

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    • Thanks, Susan. I have done my share of bitchin’ and gripin’ for sure. But you’re right. We only have one mom. It can be a complicated relationship. There are definitely a lot of mixed emotions when it comes to an end so abruptly.

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  8. I’m in California right now with my family. Thank you for sharing so much about your mom. This could not have been an easy post to write. I wish your mom had held off buying her rainbow until after the holidays but I hope you’re right and she’s now with your dad. Poignant post. I’m sorry for your loss. She was a pistol.

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  9. I am so sorry to hear about your mother. You wrote this post beautifully, with just the right amount of humour that characterized all your eldercare tales about your Mom. I will miss your posts about her.

    I’m also glad for everyone’s sakes that no heroic measures were used. They did too much when my FIL passed at age 83 (in my opinion) but it all happened before my hubby and I got to the hospital to be with his Mom. It sounds like your mother was just ready to go.

    My thoughts are with you and I send you a big virtual hug!

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    • Thanks, Natalie. I remember you writing about your father-in-law. I’m sorry he had to undergo some unnecessary procedures. I had to ask them to stop doing blood draws (she’d had two or three and several more were “scheduled”) because there was no good reason for doing them at that point. They were very understanding and didn’t give me any push back about it.

      Hope you have a Merry Christmas with your wonderful menagerie—and Gordon! 🙂

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  10. I am so sorry.

    I have been where you are. I know there’s really nothing that anyone can say to make it hurt any less, but I also know how much it meant to me to have people tell me that they were there for me. I’m out here if you ever need to talk or vent or scream or cry or throw a tantrum (and you may want to do all of those at some point – and a few at the same time). Come find me; I’ll help you through it.

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  11. I don’t remember seeing a photo of your mother before. She was lovely! This has to be extra hard for your family right here at Christmas, but you know, abrupt is better than lingering, I think.

    You looked after her so well. I hope you take comfort in that. Sounds like your daughter is a chip off her mother’s block. 🙂

    Merry Christmas. Enjoy your family tomorrow!

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  12. Thanks, Mary. My daughter steps right in when things need to get done. It was great to have her there. She went to the nursing home the next day and cleared all of my mother’s things out for me. We left her TV and we said they could give her clothes and bedspread, pillows, etc. to some of the other residents. The staff was very appreciative of that.

    I went by yesterday and saw a few of the aides who’d taken care of her. There is one, an Hispanic woman, who was her main care giver in the daytime that I especially wanted to see. She was near the door when I came in and met me with a big hug. I’d told myself I wasn’t going to cry, but…I did. She said she’d had a gut feeling last week that my mother wouldn’t make it past Christmas. She probably knew her better than anyone (even me) and she was right.

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  13. i used to think that someone over 85 couldn’t really die unexpectedly, but that was before my cousin lost her 85 year old husband, who was hospitalized and undergoing treatment for cancer. she simply said “i didn’t expect him to die TODAY…”

    sending you a huge hug from Ohio, lovely lady. even when you know it’s coming, it’s still an emotional challenge. here’s to your momma! going home… xoxo

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  14. I am so sorry your mom has died. My mother lingered for 2 days after we removed her from life support. She was made comfortable with morphine and 02 and towards the end we were talking to her about our dad who died in a plane crash when I was 9. And all our memories of growing up.
    My mother never remarried even though she was 38 when my dad died.
    On her grave, she was placed next to my dad, we had engraved “Together Forever”..
    Know that we all are thinking of you and your family.
    I’m glad you mom is at peace and will be in California.
    Our moms always get what they want, don’t they?

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  15. I’m so very sorry for your loss…especially during the Christmas holidays. After helping tend to my elderly grandmother for years, I completely understood your elder underground posts, and smiled along with you at some of the characters in the hotel. Like so many others before me, I send you loving thoughts and wishes for spiritual healing. I watched my grandmother die in a nursing home 13 years ago, and strange as it may sound, it was one of the most beautiful things I ever witnessed. Surrounded by her children and grandchildren, she moved peacefully to the next world. Take solace in knowing that she’s at peace, happy, and surrounded by loving spirits who welcomed her to the next realm with rejoicing.

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  16. Thanks, Beth. There was a point when I felt like the room was being visited by spirits of people she’d known, and toward the end she kept reaching off to the left like someone was standing there. I had asked my Dad to please come take her with him, so maybe he was doing just that.

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  17. I think you’re right…we saw the same thing when Grandmother passed. Those blue eyes of hers were obviously looking at something that none of us could see, and I’ve always believed it was the spirits of those who were welcoming her to her new home. That has given me a lot of peace over the years. I hope it does the same for you.

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  18. I am so sorry to read this, you have my love and sympathy. I have read all your Eldercare Underground posts and feel like I and your readers came to know your mother a little bit. She will be missed.

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    • Thank you, bmj2k. My daughter spent that day with me by her bedside and we did allow a little “black humor” once in a while to lighten the mood. My mother was asleep from the morphine and I said that I half expected her to wake up and tell me she hated my wristwatch, like she did just the week before. It sounds naughty, now, to say that, but it would have been totally in character for her. Seeing her lying there, quiet, was unsettling. I would rather have had her criticisms.

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