You don’t know what someone is dealing with…what they’re going through. Sometimes a person can be confident and also anxious, look healthy but be sick, look happy and be miserable, look good but feel ugly, act hopeful but feel hopeless, smile and be broken, or never smile at all and be happy… You don’t know. So unless you ask, don’t judge. Don’t assume. Sometimes a person you see every single day or think you know very well can be fighting battles you know nothing about.
TW: the dying experience. Do not read further if you can’t deal with that kind of reality, or if you’ve had a recent loss that this will gnaw at… • • • • • • • Seriously, I’m going to share this reality so don’t keep reading if you’re not comfortable with this type of thing. This is my coping mechanism. To write. To share with those who can handle and understand it. To feel like my support system is with me… • • • • • • • This morning around 3:30am my mom’s oxygen started dropping. First it was 92. Then it was 90. Then it was 88. Then it was 85. She kept yanking the oxygen away. I stuck it in her mouth until the higher dose of morphine kicked in and she relaxed. Then, I put it back in her nose.
I called the after hours line. I was told I was doing everything I needed to be. I mean, it’s kind of common sense at this point, after the others, for me – but that doesn’t mean adrenaline and norepinephrine don’t fly and dopamine and seratonin don’t plummet…and you need that reassurance because you second guess. You feel responsible for more than comfort. You feel responsible for the pain, too. You can’t help it.
I cranked the oxygen up to 3. I started giving half doses of morphine every 30 minutes. Her chest would rise when she gasped, then cave in. Then the fluid rattle started again with her shallow breaths.
She would draw up in a fetal position, moaning and gasping, still with oxygen in her nose but oxygen levels still rising and falling at will because of the mouth breathing and the breath holding and the inability to get enough oxygen with the fluid.
She has not eaten in 12 days. She has not drank in 3 days. She is in the final phase of the dying process. I knew that. I know that. But nothing prepares you for that. I am grateful that she is home, and that I moved here. I am grateful that it is not the nursing home I fought for, or the hospital, where I likely couldn’t be with her…where she would be alone.
I have laid with her – some would say a gift, and I agree…though in the moment it doesn’t feel like one. I suppose it will one day, just like with both my grandmothers, my Daddy, and Dorie, and pets… I held her hand. I cried silent tears, watching her face grimace and her eyes open with the moans only to reveal cloudy, lifeless eyes. I waited patiently for the nurse.
The nurse came at 8:30. Upon assessment, the things are happening. The limbs are cooling. The bp is dropping. The heart rate is rising. The temperature is rising as her core fights to hang on. All the things.
It could be today, it could be three days. It could be a week – probably not longer than that, because of the lack of food and fluid. I have chosen to make her comfort the priority, with oxygen, and liquid morphine and Ativan. Myself and the doctor have chosen to forego the feeding tube, and IV fluids. There is no point in drawing it out, and a DNR is a DNR – all those things are at this point are life support. She doesn’t want that. It’s documented. I will not allow myself to feel guilty for those choices. She made them long ago – not me.
But it’s not easy. It’s not a happy choice. It’s not a good choice, in many’s eyes, I’m sure – but for her it is the right choice. And I will live with having to make it for the rest of my life. But I will also live for the rest of my life, however long or short that may be, knowing I’ve done all I could and what we felt was best for her. She has fought me tooth and nail, even changing the locks to keep me out of the house and away from her business, and now she groans when I’m not there. My, how things change. How they heal. How they induce growth. How they make you a different person.
I have been many different people the past year and a half, through the worst of all of this – some not always graceful, some quite angry, some extremely depressed…and now, regardless of the amount of time left, I feel nothing but…strength. Courage. And love.
I will see you all on the flip side… Love one another. Be kind. And live with an open heart. 🙏❤️
**Edit: my mother passed away 26 hours after I posted this.**
About five months ago, my mother was mentally bad and had wandered and broken her arm. Three and a half months ago I brought her home from the hospital. For years before this, from about six months after my dad died, I had struggled and fought for her and tried to care for her but she didn’t want to let me. I heard, “I am FINE,” at least 72,000,000 times. We had all made jokes about her condition – jokes about “NaNa” – jokes about how bad she was getting, “but there was nothing we could do…” Yet, I still fought…and I know those battles, and they’re why I’m here tonight.
I wish we hadn’t done that…made jokes, because it’s not funny. But I’m glad I never stopped fighting, even if we never had the mother/daughter relationship I always wished we’d had and even if I didn’t get her the help she needed WHEN she needed it because of a broken system that doesn’t correctly diagnose dementia/Alzheimer’s until it’s too late to really slow it down. It shouldn’t be this way – not with the research and the knowledge we have, medicine we have, and resources we have in this country.
I am at peace with the fact that I did my best – that I did everything I could. I don’t need to be externally validated for that…but it makes me feel and have almost a need to validate others who are or have been or will be in my shoes. All these years…they’ve culminated so quickly – in just a matter of weeks.
Three months ago, my mom looked like this (first photo) when I picked her up from the hospital. Tonight, she looks like this (second photo), grimacing and clenching in pain, almost choking on even oral liquid Ativan and Morphine, and her own phlegm and fluid, coughing like a weak squirrel, moaning and crying out in pain to the God that she believes in and still praying incessantly (again, quietly like a weak squirrel, but in pain all the same, barely able to verbalize it).
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are considered mental health issues and illnesses. Don’t tell me you can’t SEE IT because “it’s a mental disorder.” You CAN see it, right there on the MRI. Don’t tell me it’s not real or difficult or physically painful because it’s JUST a “mental disorder.” That’s what I was told for so many years – she’s just getting older. She’s just getting forgetful. She’s just having “mental problems” because of age. No – not just mental problems. A DISEASE – and a terminal one at that.
And you know what else? Especially if you’re a doctor? Don’t pretend to care when you don’t. When you belittle. When you get annoyed with children who are fighting for a better life and end for the parents. Don’t pretend to advocate because for the moment you feel sorry for someone. Don’t pretend like you’re Gucci just because you give to this or that charity or “buy your way” out of having to actually GIVE CARE.
You know what means even more than your charity checks and your “honest opinions” to families struggling with ANY illness or disease or end of life process when you follow up your explanations with the words, “we care?” When you SHOW THE FUCK UP for them.
I am showing up, mama, and even when you don’t want me here, here is where I will be. Too little too late to heal all the old wounds, but not too late to SEE that bygones can be bygones, and despite all of our bad times, all of the good you’ve done for me.
I’m so sorry for the hell, all the chaos I brought to you. I’m sorry for all the hurtful words and for all the times I fought you. I’m sorry I’m not the daughter you’d always hoped I’d be, playing the philharmonic or writing novels or preaching the gospel…but so many of the good things I am are things that you taught me.
“I didn’t carry you in my belly for nine months, but I carried you in my heart for a lifetime,” is what you’d often say to me…and that “to do your best and leave the rest,” was sometimes the only way to be. These words I’ve never forgotten and these words I’ll never forget.
I will soon, again, be an orphan, a fate you once saved me from…and with these fleeting last moments I am sorry. I know I was wrong. I’ll always be a daddy’s girl, and this always broke your heart…but the reality I thought you lived in was creating jealousy into art. But I always had a mom…
I understand your love tonight and what made you who you are…and that even though we aren’t the same we aren’t that far apart. I want to say, “it’s ok, let go,” though it truly breaks my heart…because I understand after all these years who you really are.
Rest now, precious woman, I know you did your best…and your best was really always enough, though I often put you to the test. I thought you didn’t love me, but you just loved me in your way…and, “rest now, precious woman,” is all I can seem to say…
“What will matter is the good WE did, not the good we expected others to do. May you listen to the voice within the beat of your heart even when you are tired. And if you can wait for me…like I waited for you…I will be there.”
Everything feels so upside down. Today’s doctor’s visit with my mother didn’t go well. I’ve just about gone crazy, and I’m pretty sure that trend is going to continue until I do.
People will tell you not to worry and that things happen as they are meant to but when nearly your whole life is at risk, plus the literal life of someone else if you don’t risk your own situation (in my case, my little farm), it’s really hard to keep your sanity.
It’s really hard to keep your faith in a Creator that doesn’t seem to be paying attention and in a system that has proven over and over again it doesn’t give a single fuck.
It is becoming very clear to me just how emotionally draining caring for someone can be when you’re doing it on your own – and by that I mean not a finger of help from anyone else being lifted, including so called medical professionals.
Caregiver depression is a very real thing, made much more difficult by being invisible not only to those who know you but also by the one you are caring for. I truly don’t know how long I can continue on like this mentally…
It is 6:19AM. I opened my eyes to a faint light beginning to creep through filmy windows and as I began to awaken, I awakened to a realization that I have lost all faith in the what we call “the American healthcare system.” It is willful blindness to believe in it.
There are great people who work for it – people who care and give their all to make sure the sick are well attended and made comfortable. But they work for the system – a system that doesn’t allow them to follow their heart, only the money trail. A system that doesn’t allow them to make decisions based on their gut but forces their hand to do what the rules say is allowed and not what is right.
Now it is 7:06AM, and the light is bright enough to make the film on the windows seem to disappear. The film over my eyes, however, has not, and will not. That said, I am too tired and too weak to fight today.
The pain in both my heart and my uterus hold me down. I don’t mind being here. It’s the place I’ve spent the most time and it’s gotten pretty comfortable. So now, as my eyes grow heavy again, I bid my faith and my life as I know it a bittersweet goodbye.
11 years ago today, where we used to live in Coosa County. Actually this was taken in 2004 but I edited it and posted it 11 years ago today.
A lot of days I miss it. Not today, but a lot of days. I’m also very grateful for where we are now in many ways. Especially with depression, but maybe for everyone, peace comes and goes.
I see people strive so hard to attain peace when the reality is that it just comes and goes. Sometimes, it’s even harder to attain when you’re working so hard to find it. Sometimes, most of the time, if it’s to be had it’s just right there within. That’s been my experience.
We are human. It’s hard to be at peace in a world where you see so much that is wrong – abused children and elderly and animals and women and even men, hell, people in general. Wars. TRUMP. Capitalism. Most everyone getting the short end of a very fucked up stick… Yes – if you have any compassion or heart at all, if you care anything at all about others, it’s very hard to live in this world and have a constant feeling of peace.
But, we can speak kindly, offer a hand, take responsibility and apologize when we have not behaved our best, and do our best not to be a part of the problem. Of course we always will be because for most of us there is no way not to be a consumer. But you get what I’m saying, right? Peace comes and goes. Good times and bad times fluctuate – just like weight and the economy and lots of other things.
The only certain thing for me is that one day I’ll be dead and a few generations after that I’ll be forgotten and cease to matter. I intend to make it count while I’m here – and that’s what we did back then. I’m grateful to be where I am today. I wouldn’t trade a thing for my child. But the days back when this was taken? Not even gonna lie. Best days of my life.
Nothing can beat the freedom of that life. The people I had around me. The beauty and seclusion of where I lived. The lack of worry and responsibility for another human being…. Easy times. And we knew it. And we lived it to the fullest. And I’m grateful for every memory and experience. ❤️❤️