Saturday, August 31, 2013

Threshold

Alzheimer's Disease has now impeded Mom's ability to swallow. She has been unable to eat or drink since the beginning of the week. Hospice said she is in her final days and hours.

My heart is breaking and tears come even more easily than usual. I catch myself in moments of irritability, another tell-tale sign I'm avoiding negative emotions.  But I'm also bouyed by love and gratitude. So many people have offered to help, to pray, to be close, to listen. Right now, I don't feel like I need any extra attention. I will in a few weeks. When the holy spotlight of final moments with mom is replaced by lonliness and missing her and struggling to live with questions like "WHY?" then I'm going to need an army of support.

But for now, Mom is sleeping soundly, my immediate family is close and my husband is ready to drop everything and come to my side. And that is enough.

It's been a full week.
  • Dad has been at the nursing home since Tuesday evening, when one of the nurses called to tell him Mom was unresponsive and couldnt swallow. I visited for a couple of hours, held Mom's hand, swabbed her dry lips with a tiny sponge, and sang (her eyes popped open for a moment during "There's Just Something About That Name," the same song she sang to seven-year-old me at bedtime). 
  • Wednesday afternoon, all five kids crowded into the poorly ventilated, hot little room, and wept together. We spoke words of love to Mom, held on to each other for Dear Life, and bowed our weepy heads when the Hospice Chaplain said a prayer over Mom. I told Mom we were proud to be her children, we loved her, and we didn't want her to be in pain or trapped inside her own body anymore.
  • On Thursday, the Threshold Singers came and sat at the foot of her bed and sang for 30 minutes. The two middle aged women sang like mothers: gentle and soothing. The songs were unfamiliar but sweet and each simple line was about love, good memories, and safe journeys. They filled the room with melody and harmony. That night I joined Dad again in Mom's room, one of us on either side of her bed, chatting casually as if life as we know it was not ending before our very eyes, our conversation puncutated by Mom's labored breaths and our own sudden tears. 
I'll visit again today, and every day that I can. I'll cry until there are no tears left, and I'll remember every lesson she ever taught me about being kind and good and loving.

Things I'm thankful for and don't want to forget:
  • The nurses who have been so good to Mom. Several of them have come into her room just to say hi and check on all of us. They have each said how special Mom has been to them. 
  • Roxy, the big calico who lives in the nursing home. She visited several times and purred and rubbed against our ankles.
  • Cooler weather this week. It's been humid, but not as hot.
  • Co-workers and employer who grieve with me and understand when I leave early to be with Mom.
  • Siblings who live close enough to come at a moment's notice. There's not a bad apple in the bunch. It's so comforting to be uninhibited enough to sob in front of each other, to know how much we are each individually loved and cherished by our parents, and to tell Mom she taught us how to take care of each other.
  • My Dad. His demonstration of love to mom is beyond my ability to describe. On Wednesday, he said, "Vicki, I held your hand on the day I married you, and I will hold your hand on the day death seperates us."

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