I lost my Mom Aug 29 2008. Although it is almost two years ago, it still seems like just the other day My Mom was here; looking after all of us, giving good advice and making everything better.
My Mom turned sixy years old in April of that year. I planned a surprise party for her that year not only to celebrate her birthday but to celebrate her seven year triumph over breast cancer. She was so happy that evening and VERY surprised (which was very hard to do to my Mom because she was very intune) Our whole family and all of our friends came and we had a wonderful time.
We had been very aware of mom's illness and had many close calls prior. She had always managed to pull through and rebound.
When Mom called a family meeting that following June, she had my husband and I, my brother and his wife and my dad all attend. She had revealed that she was entering the end stage of her cancer and introduced us to her palliative care doctor and nurse. They were very compassionate and tried to explain this stage of my Mom's illness to an audience that really were not as prepared and together as we all tried to pretend.
This was when Mom asked us how we all felt about her dying at home. At home for us means; the house which my brother and I were raised; the house she and my Dad lived in for over thirty years. We all agreed to her wishes and nodded our heads with enthusiasm while the palliative care team gave us the one hour run down in what would eventually take place (not that any of us thought it would be so soon.)......(well, maybe with the exception of my Mom)
Her decision to die at home had been a bit of a change in the very known well plans that my Mom had discussed with us over the course of her illness. (you see, my Mom was a bit controlling. She had mad a point of taking care of any details to do with her illness, care and possible death early on in her illness. She had always been opposed to dying at home.) So as you can imagine it was a shock to us when she revealed to us that day that she was now hoping to die at home.
My Dad, brother and I did not question the change in her wishes. After all she was the strong one. This lady had planned her own funeral three years after she was diagnosed. She was someone that always knew what she wanted and my family was prepared to commit to whatever our loving, strong and always confident Mother and Wife
The next few weeks passed without any major changes in Mom's condition. She was walking, talking and otherwise herself until one night about two weeks before she passed. She had taken a bad turn and was suddenly very confused and weak. I had spoke to her on the telephone and she made little sense and was talking about monkeys and a lot of nonsense.
The following day my Dad told my brother and I that he was taking her to see my Grandpa, who lives about an hour away, the planned to stop at a seafood restaurant on the way home. Something inside me knew that she was making this trip so she could say goodbye to her father.
I was waiting at their house when they got home that evening. Mom was weak, but very chatty as the doctor had given her a prescription of Ritalin to increase her energy. After visiting and traveling that day, her body was obviously exhausted however, her mind and mouth were working overtime. I stayed late that night and Mom and I talked about a lot of things. A lot of memories and she confessed a lot of fears that she had as a mother and a few regrets she had from my teenage years. After she fell asleep that night I left to return to my own home, to my own family and I felt an incredible feeling of angst and dread of things that were to come.
That was the last time my Mom ever walked or stood on her own. For the next three days I stayed at my folks place and sleep on the couch next to my Mom in her comfy chair that she loved. My Dad and I helped her up to the washroom and begged her to eat. She did her best. She scolded me when I cried and told me not to worry about her when she died.
The fourth day the palliative care nurses came and we rented a hospital bed that we set up in the very family room that we had spent so many good and happy times in.
Once we got mom in to bed, the nurse educated my Dad and I on the best way to keep her comfortable. A long list of instructions; I did the only thing I could. I took notes, asked careful questions while my Dad and I did our best to prepare my Mom for death. My brother arrived within a few hours and any hope he held in his heart that Mom would once again pull through was immediately extinguished by her failing condition, the presence of palliative care nurses and fragile emotional state of my father and I.
The palliative care nurses had given us a crash course in administrating injectable narcotics, morphine, anti convulsives and one in particular that we should give her if she becomes "too restless". They would be checking in with us every eight hours and on call if we needed them.
My Father nor my brother volunteered to administer these drugs through the butterfly shunt the nurse had poked in her arm. In hind sight I think if I hadn't been taking notes and seeming so keen, I would not have had to pay any attention to the nurses eyes that stared so hard into the the top of my head while I pretended to go over the information that I had written for a seventh time. I can still recall that dead silence. A silence that I felt I could hear pleads not only my Mom but also from my Dad and likely the nurse too. Begging me and my keen notebook to take on the responsibility of keeping my mom "comfortable" and taking charge of the kind of situation that was absolutely horrible.
I gave her the 4 injections. She seemed comfortable. I kept her mouth moist with the swabs. She slept peacefully until about three AM. My Dad and Brother had gone to bed and I slept on the couch in our family room beside Mom's rental hospital bed. I awoke to the frightening sounds she was making. The we're not human sounding. She began to thrash around and I was scared.
I gave her the next round of injection and tried to calm her down. I told her that it was okay to die. That I was with her, that we we're all with her. I told her I loved her and that I was so lucky to have had such a good mother. I ran upstairs to get my Dad. Two seconds later we were both at her side as she screamed and moaned in pain. I gave her the anti convulsive injectable. It didn't help. My Dad climbed into the hospital bed and tried to hold her. He began to cry and tell her how much he loved her; he begged her to go. That she need not suffer anymore. He sobbed uncontrollably.
I gave her another anticonvulsive and Dad called the nurse.
Mom still tossed and turned and moaned, cried out and frailed.
Once the nurse arrive she administered more injectables. Finally Mom was calm. However, her wet breathing became louder as if it had thickened.
My brother woke up and his reaction still haunts me. He told me that her breathing was an indication of a drug induced overdose. He said he had read an biography of a musician that had overdosed and that the breathing sounds Mom was making sounded exactly as was explained in this stupid bio that he had read.
We sat with her and talked to her, we all told her how much she meant to us, how wonderful she was and how the only thing she could do now was to let go. We begged her to let go and die. We spoke of other family members and friends that had passed away and told her how happy our loved ones would be to have her in heaven.
But still she hung on.
Until shortly after ten AM when the palliative care head nurse showed up. A nurse my Mom had thought very highly of and liked very much. In fact, my whole family liked and respected this woman, she was the nurse that had been meeting with my mom for the passed three years, ever since she was deemed terminal.
I was relieved to see her, I sat down in the chair beside her rented hospital bed and Nurse Anne, gave Mom one last shot while she spoke to her. She told Mom that she had come to know her very well over the passed three years and liked her, "Donna, it is time to stop, you don't have to do this anymore. You don't have to fight. You have done the best you can do. You need to stop now."
And with that her breathing stopped for a moment. Nurse Anne told me that she was going and to wake my Dad and brother. I ran and told them to come and quickly ran back to her bedside.
She took her last breath with us all at her side.
It was the hardest thing I have ever experienced. I am still waiting for the hurt to go away.