Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On Losing a Mother

Mother - she is the one with whom we experience our very first relationship. From the moment of conception we are bonded to her.

She is the first voice we hear.
The first face we see.
The first touch we feel.
She loves us unconditionally and without reservation.

So is it any wonder when we lose our mother that the loss runs so much deeper than we could imagine.

I lost my mother on July 18, 2012. She had reached the marvelous age of 87 years and 8 months.

There still are no words to describe the loss that I feel on having her ripped from my life. I was her primary caregiver for six years - helping her with all her banking/financial needs, taking her shopping, attending to all her medical appointments, ensuring her medications were properly counted and in the last year arranging for her pharmacy to use convenience packs and deliver her medications to her door. I was her liason to the outside world. If there was a medical emergency, I was there day or night. I spent one day every week with her and enjoyed a lunch at the retirement home where she lived. I even got to know her friends and enjoyed their company too.

So when she suffered a catastrophic fall in the early morning hours of July 9th, I was called to the hospital at 3:11am.We had just been at the hospital on July 7th for pain she had been suffering in her thighs for a few months. It has escalated to a point that she could not bear it any longer, so after spending 7-8 hours in emergency with no real answers, she was discharged with a prescription for strong narcotics. I remember questioning the doctor on call - would she be alright to go home where she lived alone on such a strong drug? She had already been given quite a lot at the hospital and was in and out of consciousness from it. He reassured me that she would be fine and signed the discharge. I took her home and stayed with her until the following night when I was so exhausted I had to get home for some sleep. I left her in bed, then called her at 10:15pm to ensure she was still in bed and alright.

Then came the call at 3:11am from the management where she lived. The story was sketchy, but she had fallen sometime between my phone call and midnight, suffered shock and crawled around her room looking for the emergency pull cord which she finally found around 2:00am. The fall tore chunks out of her right forearm, put her into acute renal failure and rapid onset dementia. She also was put on oxygen full time as her saturation levels would drop the moment it was removed.

So the next 11 days were spent with her writhing from the thigh pains which brought on muscle spasms every minute or so. She beat her legs begging God to take her life, then in the evenings she "sundowned" which is a term for nightly delusions/hallucinations and rather surprising bouts of strength in a dementia patient. She would call for help as she thought she had been kidnapped and insisted that we get the police to come. She would try to get out of bed, tearing at her clothes. It left me feeling so helpless, so angry, so overwhelmed with emotions I could not control myself. To witness this - my mother in such excruciating pain, such confusion, delusional and in and out of consciousness was overwhelming for me. It became so unbearable and emotionally draining for me that I too begged God to take her and stop her suffering.

Finally on July 18th, she suffered a setback and the doctor suggested to me that the family come in if they could. She was lucid enough that she was able to spend a little time with us, but slipped into unconsciousness around 6:30pm and then passed at 11:40pm.

I sat with my two sisters, my brother and my husband as we watched our mother take her final breaths. I watched as her breathing became more shallow, watched as her aura turned black. I held her hand as she took her last breath. As she left I could feel my breathing stop when she passed that moment of transition.

Was it real? Had she really died? It seemed like a dream when the nurse came in and pronounced.

Now four weeks later I am angry. Angry at Oshawa Hospital's emergency department for not keeping my mother in the hospital after administering such heavy narcotics and sending an 87 year old woman home on this same narcotic every four hours. Even the head nurse who helped me get mom into the car said, she should not be discharged in her condition.

Would she have suffered the fall and died if they had kept her? I don't know. Christians believe that our day to depart this earth is predetermined. If that is so, then maybe she could have experience an easier death under different circumstances.

Now I must look ahead and move on through the grieving process. I still wake up most mornings, sometimes in the middle of the night crying. But then life takes over and I put those tears away to get on with my days. Sometimes I want to curl up like a child and just cry my heart out for my mommy....

She was a good woman. She was a good daughter. She was a good wife and she was a good mother. Strong of character, loving and supporting only one man (my dad) for her lifetime. She loved me, nurtured me, taught me right from wrong, taught me through example how to be a kind and compassionate woman and instilled in me the ability to make beautiful things.

Thank you mom.

"If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together.. there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart ... I'll always be with you.” 


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