My angel on earth got her wings on 2-11-13!

My wonderful mother passed away at 1:58 PM on February 11, 2013. She was 84 years old. She had been under hospice care for COPD for 35 months. My mother was truly the kindest person I have ever met in my 52 years. I never heard her utter one unkind word. She was diagnosed with COPD about 2 years after my father passed away (April 1998). She and daddy had been married 46 years when he passed away. I know she loved him with all of her heart, but she was more concerned about her children and how they were dealing with daddy’s death. She was so unselfish. My brother and sisters are in 10 – 12 year steps. So she had three age groups of grandchildren. My baby sister and I had always been extremely close to our parents. So it was only natural that momma was so close to our children. She was diagnosed with severe COPD in 2000. She was placed on continuous oxygen and was able to live next door to me for about 7 years. She simply took her oxygen with her and continued to dote on her 4 youngest grandchildren. She never complained—even when we could tell she was struggling to take a breath. Momma moved in with my baby sister as her health continued to decline. She battled pneumonia at least 5-6 times a year. She was a CO2 retainer which caused much confusion at times. During one bout of pneumonia she went into respiratory arrest and had to be placed on a ventilator. The doctors and nurses told us that with the severity of her lung disease, she would probably not make it off of the vent. However momma was 120 pounds of determination. She came off of the vent, but we were told she may make it 2-3 weeks. When she came off of the vent momma told us she “did not like that thing one bit” and she “never” wanted to be on one again “ever”. So after discussions with the social workers and doctors, she was placed on home hospice care. She had several battles and the pneumonia continued quite regularly—but she held on. Several times during the last three years, her hospice nurses told us that she was entering her “dying phase” but she never gave up. She did get weaker and weaker. It terrified me when she gasped for breath and I heard many horror stories about death with COPD. My sister and I prayed that momma would go peacefully. Since Christmas momma’s breathing seemed to be much better. She was very confused due but had not had any signs of pneumonia since November. Her nurse checked her out on 2-7-13 and said she looked and sounded great! But on Saturday, my husband and I went to my sisters home to deliver valentines (a tradition my daddy started – a heart shaped box of chocolates for each of his girls. We continued the tradition after his death). Both my sister and I agreed that momma looked different. No breathing problems though so we didn’t worry too much. We spent the afternoon talking and could tell momma was getting tired to we left. The next morning, my sister called me at 7 am saying that something was going on with momma. She was awake but not talking. I was there within 15 minutes and saw the same thing. We called the oncall Hospice nurse who said she would come. We also called our older sister and brother who also came. Bu the time the nurse arrived momma was alert and talking. Momma spoke to all of us for about 2 hours. Then my older siblings left and momma started to say help me. That was all that she would say. We called her nurse back and the nurse explained that she may be starting the “dying stage” and she would check back with us later that afternoon. She instructed us to give momma some oxydcodone drops to help ease her anxiety. We gave them to her once. Around 4 oclock, momma closed her eyes and appeared to be asleep. But when we tried to move her her limbs were stiff. We called the nurse again – this time she recommended that we move her to the hospice facility since my sister had little children in the house—momma withstood the trip there and we sat up with her the entire night. I watched her breath all night long. The day shift nurses told us it could be a few days but my sister and I knew she was declining quickly. Her breathing never became a struggle, but it changed patterns. We held her sweet hands all morning long, we sang her favorite hymns to her, and told her we loved her. We told her we knew she was tired and it was okay to go and rest. She only had about 2 “death rattle” breaths before that last deep breath. Then we knew she was gone. I kissed her on her forehead and whispered to her that I loved her so much and I want her to rest peacefully. The nurse came in about 2 minutes later we were crying hysterically. It felt as though I had been kicked in the stomach. I knew she was going to die but the finality of it was absolutely heart-breaking! The nurse listened to mommas heart beat slowly come to a stop. Suddenly, momma (even though she had not taken a breath in about 5 minutes) smiled. Then the nurse asked for the time. The minister was with us and he saw the smile—he told us “your momma just saw Jesus and your daddy waiting for her”. Just thinking about that smile does make me smile. But my heart still hurts so badly. I have not been able to sleep for more than 2 hours since she passed away. I truly do not know why I am having trouble sleeping. I am a first grade teacher and I went back to work two days ago. I hoped that getting back into a routine would help. But I still feel like I am a hamster on a wheel. Moving around but getting nothing accomplished.

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