Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Full Patch Member

Warning - sad posting

Two weeks ago, I became a Full Patch Member of Club O.

My mother passed away overnight, in her sleep on June 2. My mother was in a nursing home for the past 6 years because her Alzheimers had deteriorated her physical condition to the point of needing 24 hour care. She had Alzheimers for a total of 16 years which is a very long time. The average length of illness is 5-7 years; maybe 10 years if it progresses slowly but 16 must be some kind of record.

My brother got the call from the nursing home at 6am that morning and he called me at 6:14 am. It's never good news when the phone rings at that time of the day. He sounded so far away, sad and not himself. He said "The home just called me. We have some bad news. Mom passed away overnight."

I have not told anyone the words from this conversation yet - until now on this blog. The call haunts me. I've been "waiting" and dreading for this call for 16 years and it finally came. I've imagined obsessed about this moment and how it would happen. When my brother called me that morning, he awoke me from a dream where I was at my mother's funeral. Freaky eh?

I met my siblings at the nursing home and we visited my mom. She looked peaceful, like she was sleeping in her bed. But she was cold. Cold, like my dad was when I found him 16 years ago in our living room. It's a feeling of cold that you've never felt before.

We arranged for the funeral home to come pick up my mom and then met at the funeral home later in the day to make the arrangements. We basically did a carbon copy of my dad's funeral so it wasn't too hard/too many decisions.

The visitations were held over two evenings and it was nice to see family and friends - I think that's what keeps you going for the first bit. The actual funeral went smoothly. We had a full mass at our family church then proceeded to the cemetery (where my dad is buried) and then we had a small reception at my brother's house. It was a long day. And I held up pretty well.

The next evening, I had a full and utter meltdown. I cried and cried and it felt so good. My poor DH had no idea what to do because this was his first situation like this (i.e. a parent passing away). He's never lost anyone close to him so he doesn't quite know what it's like. After I cried, I felt much better. I was keeping it together pretty well all week so it was due.

I took about a week and a half off work in total. The last few days, I was on my own as my DH went back to work. I enjoyed those days by myself. It was nice to have time to reflect on the past 16 years as it has been quite a long journey. Both for my mom and for my siblings & I.

For the first 10 years of my mom's illness, I lived with and cared for her. My siblings had moved out and had their own houses and lives. It was a hard 10 years but I would never change what I did. But then, it got to a point where my mom needed more care than I could provide (even with the outside help we hired for years 8 to 10). It was becoming dangerous for my mom to be alone for a second. And she was becoming very aggressive and needed more than we could give.

I know alot of people say "she's in a better place now" and it's true. In the past 6 years, she declined quite a bit. Especially in the last 3 years. She could no longer walk so she was in a wheelchair all the time and had to be helped in & out of it. She could no longer feed herself or use the bathroom. And this past year, she could no longer talk which broke my heart. I don't even know if she could really understand me when I spoke to her. She couldn't tell me if she was in pain or needed something. It was very hard to watch and I'm sure even harder to live through.

I wrote alot of the Eulogy for my mom's funeral and my brother compiled it with his thoughts and read it on behalf of the family. He added a nice ending about an Irish saying: May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows you're dead. He said he thought mom left this world and had time to spare.

I had a dream 3 days after the funeral about my parents. They were together in a nice looking place, smiling and waving at me. They didn't talk but I'm sure it was just a short dream to let me know she made it and found my dad.