I’ve been struggling with what to write this week. Up until now my blog has been pretty lighthearted. Photos, recipes, challenges of preparing to move and become an empty nester, things like that. This isn’t a diary style blog. But there is really only one thing that has been on my mind lately. I am losing my mom. It sounds so strange to say out loud. She isn’t lost, I know where she is. But that is the reality.
When I was a senior in high school my mom had a stroke. They also found she had heart disease and required a pacemaker and a triple bypass. She was only 38 years old. For my entire adult life she has struggled with health challenges. There were pretty good years where we were able to travel and take some wonderful trips together. Alaska, Mt. Rushmore, Panama City Beach. Over time she went from using a cane to a walker to a wheelchair. No more vacations. But still we focused on the good stuff. Camping…she loves camping. My stepdad took her camping as often as possible. Kids and grandkids would visit them and sit around the bonfire with my mom in her favorite chair.
Over the last 2 years there has been less camping and more hospital visits. Last summer they only went once and she spend a total of 10 weeks in the hospital over the course of the year. It seems like we get a handle on one issue but then something new pops up. And her poor body just can’t handle it anymore. She is tired.
She has been in the hospital two or three times so far this year and after nearly a month this last time, she has decided to go home for hospice care. She wants to die at home. That hit me really hard. I’ve always known in the back of my mind that we would lose her. We’ve been blessed she has been with us as long as she has. But the word “Hospice” was not something I was expecting. As I struggled to understand myself I was trying to answer questions and support my kids and my sisters.
You always know growing up that kids usually live longer than their parents, but you don’t spend much time thinking about it. You tuck it away in the back of your mind and try to ignore it. But now it is there, pushing it’s way out and refuses to be ignored anymore. My mom is dying. Chad and I have been married for nearly 28 years. We’ve lost grandparents, but this is our first parent.
My mom lives about an hour from us. I visited as often as I could in the hospital and now my sisters and I are working out a schedule to be there to help my stepdad now that my mom is home. We really don’t know how long we will have with her. Most likely weeks, not months, but anything is possible. So we try to make sure one of us, or one of our kids are around as much as possible.
The guilt sets in as I try to balance everyday life with visiting my mom. Am I visiting enough? Is it ok to go out to dinner with friends? Should I be laughing right now? Why am I crying? We went to our place in Tawas Bay last weekend and it was nice to have 2 days to decompress. I went out to my favorite spot on the pier and enjoyed the sunshine on my face and the peacefulness of the bay. But in the back of my mind I was thinking…I am 3 hours away. What if they need me? So we didn’t go out, we didn’t have anything to drink in case we needed to be ready to drive. I was in standby mode. Unfortunately I can’t continue like that. We have to move into 3 different household in less than 3 months and I am behind. I am stage managing a community play that opens in 2 weeks, I have a senior in high school coming into a very busy time for seniors. Life has to go on somehow, as hard as that may be.
I don’t know what to expect in the coming weeks. It’s too much to think about all at once. I am trying to take it a few days at a time. I know I am not alone and that helps tremendously. Chad has been my rock, even though my mom has been part of his life since he was 16 and he is feeling the same things I am. My kids check on me everyday to make sure I am ok. My sisters and I are talking now more than we have in years. And my friends have been bringing over food so that my mom and all of her visitors have plenty to eat and don’t have to cook. “Do you want a sandwich” has become a running joke when people stop by to see her.
I feel a little stronger today. It’s been a week since the word Hospice came up and it has sunk in. I know I need to honor her wishes and let her do this her way. I’ve spend a lot of time with my mom lately and in my heart I have said my goodbye. Every time I see her now it is like a bonus.
I am going to try to focus on being thankful for each extra day I can spend with her. I don’t know how else to get through this.
Last Mother’s Day