Friday, July 10, 2015

Waiting 3

objects in Mom's window
My mother passed away on July 4th, 2015 at the age of 88. I spent the last two and a half weeks of her life with her, much of it in hospice waiting for her to pass. It was the first time I had been that close to the dying process and I am grateful I had that time with her. It was a very strange experience, often fascinating,  sometimes surreal.  (3rd of 5 entries).

Today it is six days since that first phone call, four days since she entered hospice. They say this process takes a week on average. When they take mom's vitals, they always say she has a strong heart. All those hours on her exercise bike.

With the weekend over, our weekday crew of nurses and CNAs returns. Tamika pokes her head in to see if we want something to eat. "Hello my lovelies"she sings out. Her warm smile feels comforting. Our peeps are back. Nurse LaRosa comes in next, another one of the wonderful people who care for Mom. She has a special connection with her. She confides to us that she checked in over the weekend to see how Mom, her Rose, was doing. She jokes with Mom and gives her meds. We tell her about our conversations with Mom. She in turn shares her experience with her mother's death. Many of those who are most present and connected to Mom have gone through this themselves with a parent.

We are awed by the experience we have had here. The kindnesses shown our mother touch us deeply. I've learned a lot about medical conditions the past two weeks, but mostly I've learned how kind, caring people can make a huge difference in the experience of patients and family.

There are many types of care needs in this facility. Different worlds all co-existing. The first week when I was with my mom she was in rehab. I would take her to meals at the dining room, go to activities with her, and sit with her during physical therapy. Many people are here for rehab after a hospital stay. They will either go home afterwards or perhaps move to assisted living or memory care if they are in a transition stage. We had hoped to do that with my mom. I see that world when I walk down the hall and fervently wish my mother could join it.

Now we are in the limbo world abridging death, the waiting room. They check her progression and make her comfortable. We are afraid to leave lest we not be here when she needs us. The rest of the world is on hold unless we can reach it from the computer or it comes to us. The room is filled with our digital technology.

The doctor told us we had some time so I took a brief break. On the way out I saw that they had animals in the lobby, A small pony occupied the central area and a woman cradled a chinchilla. Another activity that mom would have enjoyed. 

When I returned I sat in the car to make a phone call. As I spoke a text from my sister scrolled across my phone "Mom's heart rate has slowed."I dash past a bingo game and rush to the room. Q36, the caller shouts as the bingo game fades into the world of the living and I return to the "waiting room".

We sit with her stroking her arm, holding her hand. She takes a breath. I wait for the next. I count slowly to eight before it comes. We tell her we love her and she tells us the same. "I have a very sweet family' she says. "That's because we have a very sweet mother" we reply. Then she says "I say goodby". We look at each other and whisper, "That sounds final." She squeezes in one more "I love you" and resumes her dozing.

Now we wait. They have told us what to expect. We gather around her, all of her children and one granddaughter. Waiting. It will not be much longer.

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