The past three weeks we have visited with family and friends both in person and through calls, texts and FaceTime. We have read English Creek, scripture, poetry, Blueberries for Sal, and a Christmas Memory. These days have been, as my sister says, “gravy.”
Living in a small town provides a network unlike others I have known elsewhere. The love my mom has for others is evident in the support and care I have seen shared with her in the past month.
The EMTs and hospital staff didn’t need to ask our story, they knew it and us by name when we came in the door. The night shift nurses understanding as we slept on couches and in recliners offering us warmed blankets and their special stash of herbal tea. When we brought Mom home, the caravan of caregivers all hugged us tight. As we drove home, I wanted to ask to detour through downtown and up the pass so Mom could see her mountains realizing, but not wanting to accept this would be her last car ride through town.
We arrived home to a freshly plowed parking spot curtesy of our neighbor. Uncle Jim hauled wood so Dad could have a fire in the cookstove to make Mom’s bed cozy in the living room. The plug for the hospice bed intentionally placed in their living room floor years before for just this homecoming and the picture windows allowing Mom to look out at her garden.
Our hospice careteam has provided support and tools to keep Mom comfortable. Becky, Mom’s nurse, a lifetime friend. Her professional strength and personal touch providing comfort in this challenging time to navigate.
We have savored each moment we have had with Mom. Last Sunday, she sat in her wheelchair at the kitchen table and snuggled with Emma. Her smile and love sustaining us all. It was a day filled with the sounds of laughter and joy.
There are also the silent moments I know her mind is somewhere else. I have struggled not being able to fix what is going on. I want to rock her in my arms or crawl in bed next to her like I would do as a child. Her pain and dementia have restricted us to hand holding. The process of her body shutting down is natural, yet, I want to fight against it to keep her with me a little longer. I realize this is selfish love. She has taken such good care of us. I keep telling Mom we will take care of each other and she doesn’t have to be afraid. It is our turn to selflessly care for her.
Grief brings out the best and most tragic emotions in me. This time is personal, yet the nature of our community makes it public. I have caught myself being angry at those who are doing what they can to support us when they are not grieving the same way I am. I snap at folks instead of drawing them in closer as I feel more in control if I don’t let them see my weakness and hurting. For some reason feeling as I don’t let them in, none of this is real. I need to remember they too are losing my mom.
Sleeping on the hospital couch listening to monitors brought back memories from Denver Childrens. Not leaving in the night for fear of what would happen while I was out of the room. Thankful for daylight and a new day each morning. This stage of my life and my grief different than that time, yet, so much of the then impacts my ability to process the now.
Each morning, we open the curtains and watch the sunrise over the garden covered with snow. This summer it will be filled with iris, lilies, garlic, and daffodils. After a family friend read “As I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” Mom commented, “that is sort of like life.” Even in these final moments, Mom is still guiding us “continuous as the stars that shine.”