Not much has changed

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Looking back over the posts from around the time my mother died…not much has changed in me emotionally. Yes, I am not as prone to cry daily. But the guilt of “I didn’t appreciate her enough rages on, fed by images and nuances from the media…all forms.
He worst is the profound loneliness. Even though my Mom wasn’t “my Mom” for the last 7 yrs of her life, I still have to face the neon-bright and glaring fact that
I AM ALL ALONE.
I have no one who will always love me, no one that will always be on my side, no one that will actually LISTEN to me, simply because I am ME. Her only child. Her daughter. Her best friend. I am truly alone now – an island in the midst of storms, tsunamis and the unforgiving, blazing sun.

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Hate

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This was one of the last words my mother spoke to me.
“Hate, hate hate,” she said in the angriest voice she could muster for a frail little women on her deathbed. I knew it was directed towards me – she was very frustrated about things and she didn’t like the answers she got from the people caring for her (and me) a day prior.
In the few months that have passed since her death, I have learned that society is not tolerant with people in mourning – they hate how I react when I get the in your face memories or flashbacks or whatever you want to call them.
I hate having to hold back tears in front of people, even my husband, whom I expected to be more understanding than he seems to be.
I hate that I realized everything about my mother – how much she really loved me, how important I was to her – too late.
“Hate, hate, hate.” I sure hope she didn’t leave this world hating me. That was the last thing I would have wanted.
I hate being alone – with no close relatives to understand – to hug me – to become my pseudo- Mom, a confidant in times of pain and hurt.
Hate is a strong emotion.
I hate hate.

How Long?

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How long is it going to hurt?
How long before I can get a decent night of sleep?
How long before the panic attacks ease up?
How long before the tears stop their stealthy attacks?
How long before the acceptance sets in?
How long before I see her again…

My Memorial Card for My Mom

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After much deliberation and a whole heck of a lot more tears, I drafted these words for her memorium card:
God sent your guardian angels to guide you home, to abide in heaven with them, whole and complete, free of pain and suffering.
Feel the love and peace as you walk through Heaven’s gardens with the loved ones that have gone before you.
Those of us on Earth will see your smile in the wildflowers, feel your love in the rays of the sun and see your happiness in the twinkling of the stars.

Then the followidsc_4913ng came to mind – a favorite verse from the Bible that was made into an upbeat and beautiful song over 30 years ago – so I added this verse at the end.

For you will go out with joy. And be led forth with peace;  The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you,  And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.  Isaiah 55:12

Orphan

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A few weeks back, someone told me that no mater your age when your last parent dies,you are orphaned. Damn skippy, they were right. The sense of abandonment, the “what did I do to make this happen?” thoughts, and the sadness of being left with a simple box of belongings that represented a life. A life that gave you life, and (hopefully), nurtured and cared for you. All of that is in that box.

The US gives use 2 or 3 days off of work to grieve and get over it, then pack all of your feelings in that box and continue your 9-5 life. Two years later when you have that nervous breakdown, everyone will wonder why.

There is something to bs said for ritual, and our ancestors worldwide seemed to grasp that need for recognition of a loss before life continued as usual. (if I wasn’t so caught up in my grief, I would have done the proper thing and provided a list of scholarly references we detailing such rituals here.) I thought I was done grieving – having pre-grieved 3 times prior with the close calls she had. I grieved after her stroke – it stole her psyche – the part of Mom that made her “Mom.”

I had said what I needed to say, and it was all OK. Then I got that phone call at 835a on February 21, and every bad thing I was angry or resentful about just melted away, leaving the memories of laughs, and how we clung to each other in our struggles to stay sane while being held captive by my father.

What I would give for a chance to hold the good memories close, and to make her last years here much better.

Suicide, a DNR and a Dilemma

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Hey, wanna solve a mystery?
Say, for example, you know someone that is sick and dying (could be 6 weeks, could be 6 years).

This person is old enough to die without raising suspicion, so to do so would not be unusual (dying that is). But there is no active disease process present to cause death – just the disintegration of the mind, the necessity to wear diapers and the inability to swallow appropriately to eat.

This person has been in a rehab/nursing facility for about 8 yes.

A DNR is in place and this was the disabled person’s choice since 1999, when the stroke occurred. (whaszza DNR? look it up!!!!)

About a week ago, this individual decided to stop eating (nigh a tiny piece of dark chocolate with raspberry), stop drinking fluids. Two days later, medicines are refused; held in the mouth and then spit out, or forcibly knocked out of the nurses’ hand (how ruuudddde!)

OK. Here is the hard part. Do we (me and the medical team) honor the DNR verbatim  (no “heroic intervention: comfort measures only) and allow the patient to basically off themselves via starvation?

Do we force nutrition by installing a central or PIC and an NG tube (there’s another abbreviation for you to Google)?

Or do we start an IV for a route through which we can safely administer meds?

Does an IV violate the terms of the DNR??? Does the feeding tube? The DNR states no heroic measures – is a feeding tube a heroic measure – as it would ease  discomfort from malnutrition.

On Death and Dying

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I am facing the death of a parent right now.

Our society (in da USA) does nothing to prepare us to handle the death of someone important (human or otherwise).

We are shown many ways to celebrate life, enjoy life, create life, save life. Not even God’s many fan clubs give us a clue how to handle death, or how to handle the dying process.

(I can vouch for the fact that one certain organization used the threat of death to make people believe their way, and of course, get your money. I know firsthand,  was an 8-yr old child brought to many a tent revival. To this day, I still have a moment of panic when I hear a horn from an unknown source blare – or a storm comes up suddenly a darkens the sky. But that is the subject of another post.)

Sadness. Grieving. Loss.

Instantly, that is what we Americans think about when someone dies. We rarely prepare for death in any way, and even if a loved one (again, human or otherwise) is ill, we submerse ourselves in a bath of denial  – that they will somehow miraculously get better or that science will come up with that miracle cure just in time.we use words that try to ease the impact of what is actually happening.  Some people say someone “passed on (what, they didn’t want to breathe  anymore and decided to pass on it, just like passing on Brussels sprouts at Wednesday dinner),” “taken by angels (are angels like the FBI, they can just come and take us away? Do they need warrants?), “is no longer with us ” (yes, the person found a family he or she liked better) or “has moved on (All those commercials about planned communities in Florida were just impossible to resist!).

Animals are often said to “cross the Rainbow Bridge” and will be waiting us to join them. Sweet sentiment.

Yes, all of these platitudes are created to make us feel better, but I believe that they just make the grieving process longer and more difficult to  move through. But, guilt can often becomes a stage in which a survivor gets stuck. They constantly berate themselves for things they “shoulda, woulda or coulda” done that may have altered the course of events.

In some communities, long periods of mourning are required and expected. Those that are able to accept a death quicker than the social norms dictate are looked upon as being disrespectful to the memory of the dead person, and are chastized – often publically. How evil is this? Who are these insensitive asses, telling others else how to proces personal feelings and memories, how to conduct themselves in the community, what to wear. Grief, mourning, and processing the myriad of feelings accompanying a death of someone close is unique to each individual.

Social norms and behavioral expectations  have changed in the past 20 years or so in some communities, with the advent of the hospice movement, which is now actally paid for by most, if not all insurances. But again, those people, who feel as if they have to tell others how to behave and process personal feelings imply that to get hospice involved to help the ill individual (sorry, no hospice for pets yet – that I know of) is to condemn that person to death – that death it will be hastened – or that somehow, it is a sign of the caregivers’ weakness or selfishness,  just giving up and giving in to death.

In other societies, death is a part of life.  It is talked about, prepared for, and celebrated For example, Dia de los Muertos – The Day of the Dead – a celebration in Mexico celebrates the life of the departed – including beloved animals!

Why can’t the U.S. catch on, and save its population from the horror of denial, grief, pain, hopelessness.  Sometimes, we cannot imagine our life without the beloved and take their own lives. More death.  Leaving more behind to grieve.

Lacking the spiritual strength that immersion in the aforementioned fan clubs of the Almighty seems to bring, I feel isolated.  Of course, this feelingof being an island is greatly enhanced by the facts that I am an only child, estranged from extended family, and thus lack a true feeling of “community” I can burden with the complexity of the feelings I have. So, I called Hospice. This is the best thing I could ahve done, and I wish I had done it about 6 months ago. If you are thinking – “gee, how awful!” – stop it. Lest you have a squemish stomach about all things medical, I will spare you the intricacies.  Bringing Hospice into the situation earlier that I did would have prevented lots of agonizing pain and unpleasant medical procedures, which led to a couple of painful medical errors, creating more suffering for not only my parent, but for me, and in turn my husband. The four recent hospitalizations which occurred in quick succession stole the last bits of dignity and  humanity from an already weak and broken individual. That aspect, and the sceams that occurred even in a coma-esque state that echoed down the long corridor leading to the ICU broke my spirit and ripped my remaining strength.

The Hospice workers have become my “community,” and focus upon keeping my parent comfortable. They work to preserve simple human dignity, provide comforting care and pure lovingkindness. These are special people. They also provide support for me, my anxieties, my feelings and my confusion. I imagine that this is how the dying are cared for in societies that embrace death as part of the life experience, and do not pretend it never happens, as is the societal standard here is the US.

Thusly, I really wish I could ask, “Do you feel you want to die?”

An answer would make life – everyone’s life –  simpler. We could all work toward a common goal, in harmony, together.  We do not have an answer to thia query. We do’t know if we should encourage activity and eating and drinking and participation in ice cream socials. We don’t know if my parent is tired, and feels that it is “time.”

Providing a good transition – when the essence of my loved one will leaves it’s tired, worn vessel and becomes free – that is my solitary goal right now. Comfort and peace is our sole intention.