I can’t sleep.
My heart aches.
About this time (11pm) on July 17th, four weeks ago, I put my head on the hard arm of a loveseat in the first floor day room at DJ Jacobetti Home for Veterans to try and sleep for a few minutes. Our family had been keeping vigil all day as we received a call from my sister at 7:30am that mom was “actively dying” and we should come asap. She could pass within the hour or the next 24 hours.
I knew this day would come.
I returned to Michigan on March 28th when I learned mom’s lung cancer was back and metastacized in her brain. She and dad were now living at the Veteran’s home because dad needed 24 hour care. Mom did not want to go there. In fact, she fought the family at first when the idea was mentioned to her. She blossomed within the first week and knew everyone on her floor and participated in all the activities. Little did we know that a couple of months later mom would be the one who needed the most care.
I first noticed little things, like loosing her balance when she walked the halls or outside with me. She was given a cane, then walker, wheelchair, and finally unable to sit up on her own, was bedridden.
She could feed herself until about two weeks before she died. Then my sister, brothers, and I took turns feeding her at every meal.
Mom could no longer communicate with words. In fact, the last words she spoke to me were “I love you”. She could nod “yes” or “no” when asked those kind of questions.
People would ask me how I was doing. I would respond with, “ok”, but I really wasn’t. Spending every day with my parents, watching mom decline and dad (who has dementia) continually ask, “What’s wrong with your mom” having to explain to him she was sick and had cancer was my new “normal”.
It’s now 1am, July 18th. I was awakend by my sister-in-law Cindi. The doctor said mom was only breathing with half her lung capacity. It would be soon.
Our family gathered in the room. We put dad in the recliner next to mom’s bed so he could hold her hand. Hymns were softly playing in the background. Dad would sing when he heard a familiar one. He talked to mom and told her it was okay to go. All five children told her the same.
Her breathing became slower and I knew in my heart it wouldn’t be long. One of mom’s favorite music styles was bagpipes. I placed a CD in the player and pressed play. Amazing Grace was being played on the bagpipes as mom took her last breath. That was at 2:15am on July 18th, 2018.
The memorial service was August 4th and it was beautiful. Many people shared how mom touched their lives. The stories were uplifting and encouraging.
But it’s time to go home. For me, South Carolina. For my sister, Alabama. For one brother, Ohio. Two brothers live in Michigan and will be there for dad. How do I leave dad now? We talked. He said he would be okay. I told him I would call every day. He said I didn’t have to. He prayed for me.
Life will be different.
I got home yesterday. Unpacked a few things. Left the boxes with some of mom’s things until later.
Today I unpacked one specific box with mom’s clothes that I brought home to eventually make something for family members. I cried. Then I remembered…
It’s four weeks since she crossed over.
My heart aches. I’m crying.
I miss my mom.