My little mommy is gone. How can it be?
My beautiful mother Beatrice passed away exactly two weeks ago on Monday, November 19, 2012. She had just turned 72 at the end of October. There is so much to say about this woman to truly do justice to her life, but I have no energy now to organize it here. Maybe a website or a scrapbook later if this terrible grief & exhaustion ever subsides.
Though she had been sick for a very long time I still cannot believe that she is gone. It's not denial. It just seems impossible. Not impossible that she passed, for we all knew that her disease had progressed, and that she had been on a steady decline for over a year. But impossible in the sense that there is no plausible way to carry on without her, that life without her is forever diminished, that someone so vital in the life of her family and so filled WITH vitality could be taken. Six years of knowing the likely, inevitable, awful outcome did not, could not prepare us for her absence. So many times she rebounded from what seemed like the brink of death. Somehow she just kept recovering enough, she just kept allowing mainstream doctors to batter her body with more poisonous treatment, and without adequate preparation for her body or restoration of her immune system.
She struggled with multiple myeloma (cancer of the plasma that can cause all kinds of problems, including tumors or "lesions" anywhere in the body). She was diagnosed 6 years ago, spending all but 3 months of that time in chemotherapy and radiation when the lesions appeared. The treatment was barbaric, toxic to every system of her poor little broken body, and ultimately destroyed her immune system - which is what really ended her life. Even two months prior to her passing, there were viable, safe, non-toxic and non-invasive options for her. She and my father were initially encouraged and willing to attempt these, but a closed-minded, self-absorbed, cold-blooded oncologist told her that it was pointless to try, there was nothing more SHE could do for my mother. There was nothing more the oncologist could do, which is not the same as nothing more that CAN be done. Then why not try the alternatives? What is there to lose? Unfortunately, my mother believed the all-knowing, all-powerful oncologist. Mom stopped all treatment, even though they had only started a new chemotherapy drug just a few weeks earlier - not long enough compared to other courses of chemo she had done. Mom believed she was beyond help because the doctor told her she was. Mom gave up. I had spoken to doctors elsewhere who thought that her immune system, though broken, was "recoverable", and then her own body would have a better chance to fight the cancer. The power of suggestion sealed her fate.
Mom was referred to hospice care at home and given several more months to live. She had stopped all treatment, only taking pain meds. She ate very little and began to withdraw from the world and the people and activities she loved so much. She had also been depressed for many months, but in spite of our efforts to get her relief, none of her doctors attempted to support her with treatment (biofeedback & hypnosis was most helpful earlier in her disease) or a psych referral.
She had her last birthay party at a favorite restaurant. A week later I made dinner for her and Dad on Nov. 10th and we watched a DVD at home - she was up and about for quite a long time that day, and interacted fairly well. The following Wednesday she had a nice visit from family friends, shared a meal and interacted well. On Thursday my Dad called me with a guarded, thinly veiled request for help, "Are you busy? Mom's having a bad day". He suggested that if I wanted to speak with Mom while she was lucid that I should not wait until Saturday, but to come the next day. I followed my gut feeling and made the long trip down that evening. What I saw was horrifying and heartbreaking. Mom had very quickly sunk into a kind of delirium, apparently quite common toward the end of life. She had brief moments of normalcy where she could communicate more clearly. Mostly though, she kept saying "I want to go", she was in distress, in pain, had significant nausea, was calling for her mom (passed long ago), and struggling to get out of bed - a task she was really too weak to accomplish without falling. This had begun the night before, and poor Dad had gotten no sleep and was distraught with fear and grief. There is more to the story than I can bear to write now. Clearly she needed more care than home hospice could offer. After much navigating through a difficult ER experience, hospital admtting, and hospice care process, Mom passed away four days later. I am not convinced that her end of life care was what it should and could have been, in spite of her family's best efforts to keep on top of the situation. Therefore, I am not certain that her pain and discomfort were properly managed. I am not convinced that she was "comfortable". Lots of things went wrong, most hospital staff - nurses, doctors, and administrators - fell down on their duty. Only one nurse was a trained hospice nurse - her compassionate and knowledgable approach made a noticeable difference in Mom's level of comfort. We are so grateful for this earth angel.
My Dad was with her constantly, her devoted primary caregiver and my hero. Her family was with her 24/7 during the last 5 days of her life. On the rare occasions when Dad took a break from his vigil, one of her 4 daughters took over. We were convinced that she was holding on to protect Dad from witnessing her departure. Each of her daughters had private moments where we told her we loved her and did not want her to leave, but that if she must go we understood, and to go with the angels, and that Dad had left the room so now was a good time. It turns out she had other plans.
A hospital chaplain asked me if she wanted the "anointing of the sick" (formerly referred to as the "last rights"). I was not certain that this is what she would have wanted, so I let my father make the decisiion when he returned to her room. Dad heartily agreed to the anointing as something Mom would want. The chaplain suggested that everyone in the room give her our energy by surrounding her and putting our hands on her body as he delivered the usual prayer. He then asked us to tell her something that we were grateful to her for - it was a heartbreaking, but beautiful experience. During this time I was suddenly enveloped by a sense of calm, of peace, and an inner knowing that she would go soon.
The doctor finally came at 1:30pm to assess her and increase meds. My father asked him how much longer she had and the doctor stated he thought she had another day or two, that her passing did not appear to be imminent. Mom's brother asked for 5 minutes alone with her. Dad and everyone else went to sit in the adjacent room, and in barely two minutes later Mom's brother emerged in tears, announcing that he thought she had passed. We rushed into the room where the doctor confirmed that she had passed. I believe that Mom needed two things before she could leave - the anointing of the sick, and for her husband and daughters to leave the room - her final act of protection, her last gift to us. Her brother later stated that he saw a light in the middle of her forehead as she left her broken little body. Dad was initially disappointed not to have been with her, but she knew better than to have us there. Thank you Mom. We love you.
Now we are trying to carry on without her. We pretend at normalcy, but nothing will ever again be normal. How can my mother be gone? I know it is the way of nature. I know that I am lucky to have had her for 52 years. I know that her spirit continues, that she is eternal. I feel her in my heart and her energy surrounds me. But she is not physically here. I cannot touch her warm, soft skin, or hear her voice, or give her a neck massage, or a multitude of other simple, precious things. I cannot ask her a question about the family history, or about cooking advice. I cannot take her to concerts, movies, broadway shows, the theater. It is impossible to bear. I have had this strange sense even before she passed, a sense that I am being ripped from her womb, or her from me. And this is perhaps the most impossible part - I am made from her DNA, I am of her, from her, so I lost a part of myself. And I feel a pressing need to go to her. No, not suicidal, just wanting to be with her. Has anyone else had a similar sense?
Blessings, comfort, and peace to you all.