Last year this time I was in bed, very sick.
The week of Thanksgiving, I ate some something like crackers in the morning on Monday, and was bed-ridden till Thanksgiving afternoon, when I ate something else like crackers. I dropped several pounds.
That week was a mess, mostly spent sleeping, with short breaks to get up to feed and water Andy and Dougy. During that time, the boys stopped by to hop on my bed to see how I was doing or just left a toy by my bed, hoping I’d play. I was very touched.
Christmas wasn’t any joy, either, as my mother entered the hospital around the 10th of December. I was too sick myself to go see her, didn’t find out she was in the hospital, in fact, until a couple days after she was taken up there. I stopped by the care center to visit her, and found out she was hospitalized.
Because of my own illness, perhaps illnesses, that began in October and lasted until mid-December, I was physically weak. I didn’t know if I had the strength to make it from the hospital parking lot to my mother’s room. I made it, only after a couple stops in the hallway to rest and get my breath.
I arrived at the door into the patient ward, and found I had to wear a surgical mask and disinfect my hands to visit Mom. She was out of it when I arrived, struggling through a reaction to an antibiotic given to deal with an infection that ultimately contributed to her death.
Each day I went up to the hospital, as my own health and weather allowed, Mom was either sleeping, incoherent, or weak and normal, depending on the infection and her reactions to one of three antibiotics she was given at different times. Her doctor and the ward nurses kept me informed of how she was and why. I called my brother and sisters each time there was significant change in her condition, and we prepared as best we could for what would be.
It was grueling, hope one day, mentally planning for a call telling me she died the next.
Mom’s birthday was the 24th of February. Knowing how ill she was and given her age, my siblings and I decided to get together for her birthday on February 24, 2013, either to celebrate her 98th year of life or to celebrate the life she had in a memorial service.
The day she was taken to the regional hospital in Scottsbluff, I ran into her doctor in the hallway. I’d had a call from the hospital early in the morning (which I didn’t hear, but learned of in my messages). Her doctor had had to restart her heart during the night. He told me when Mom came to, she told him she didn’t want him to do that again.
That Mom felt that way was no surprise to me as she’d told me months earlier when she was in decent shape that that was her wish: Do Not Resuscitate.
I arrived moments before the ambulance to take her to Scottsbluff arrived, just long enough to let her know that we kids loved her, that I didn’t know if I’d be able to make it down there but would try, and I had her wedding and engagement ring at home. They’d taken the rings off her finger because of swelling and the fear they’d have to cut them off if the swelling got too bad. The attendant came in the room, and it was time to throw Mom a last kiss. She nodded in acknowledgement.
The doctor there assured me Mom was out of it most of the time because of a reaction to the antibiotic again.
The morning of January 5, 2013, a short time after Mom was transported to Scottsbluff, I got that call I knew was coming at 4:00 AM. Mom died that night, before I made it down for a visit.
I don’t regret anything. You can’t change what’s happened or what hasn’t happened, so there’s no point stewing about that. Yet, I wish, sometimes, I hadn’t had so much sick time in October through December so I could have spent more time with Mom before she died.
A postscript to this: I called my siblings. We did get together for Mom’s 98th birthday, February 24th, a celebration of her life and not of one more birthday added to her total lifetime. She asked to be cremated. The wedding and engagement rings were sealed in the urn with her ashes.
I spent a lot of January putting together a memorial video, using photos my Seattle sister and I had of Mom and her life, a video of Mom singing, and “Amazing Grace” played on bagpipes. (Mom was very proud of her Scottish heritage.) In just under eight minutes, it served as our contribution to Mom’s memorial service since none of my siblings nor I felt we would be able to stand up and speak about Mom.