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Archive for the ‘Death of a Loved One’ Category

On May 14, 2016, my mother finally found peace in the arms of our Lord.  My father, my sister and I were all with her, holding her hand, rubbing her arms and telling her just how much we loved her when she took her final breath.  It was very peaceful.

The task of telling our eight year old granddaughter that Granny had passed fell on my husband’s shoulders.  She had been staying with us for about a month.  After sharing with her that Granny was gone he asked her thoughts.  My beautiful, intelligent granddaughter said, “I think everyone around Granny is sad.  But I believe Granny is on a great adventure.”

So now, whenever I feel down, whenever I am especially missing my mother I just look towards the heavens and say, “Mom, I know you are on a great adventure!”

I love you Mom.

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Uncle C finally did it.  He took the plunge.  He jumped over the edge into the darkness, into the great unknown.  He had been talking about it for a couple of years, wanting it, yearning for it.  The “it” being death. But yet he was scared, scared of that unknown.

Uncle C talked about death often. Daily he’d tell us that this day would probably be his last. He talked about wanting to get his hands on some sleeping pills so he could just go to sleep and not wake up. Honestly, I don’t think he would have ever done it because of the fear that plagued him.

One second Uncle C was “waiting for the hearse” and the next he was trying to talk my hubby into bribing someone at the DMV so he could get his driver’s license back. Up until the very end Uncle C held out hope of driving again, traveling to those far away places that he and his beloved had seen and loved.

Uncle C’s heart and lungs were failing, but he never believed it. To him, he still had the heart of an 18-year-old. But when the end finally came for him, Uncle C went to sleep and didn’t wake up. It was a very peaceful death. He was surrounded by people who loved him to the end – me, my hubby, my daughter and a wonderful caregiver.

We will miss the old fellow. But he had 95 terrific years of life. What more can one ask for?

So…to Uncle C I say, it was an honor and a privilege seeing you through the last few years of your life. I have learned much from you. Go forth and join your beloved wife of 70 years and find peace. I love you Uncle C.

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This blog began as a way for me to understand, deal with and accept the slow loss of my mother as I know her.  And it has helped me tremendously.  For some reason writing down my experiences, my feelings, writing about the ups and downs of this horrid disease called dementia has become my retreat, my therapy.  In the beginning it was just about my mother and my dealing with her decline.  But along the way I felt compelled to include the many other things going on in my life – the death of Aunt J and the decision my husband and I made to share our home with her loving husband of 71 years.  It hasn’t been easy.  None of it.  If I could change things I certainly would.  My mom would still be prancing around in her little matching outfits with matching jewelry, make up on and not a hair out-of-place.  She’d still be talking nonstop about something or other and we would still be laughing about mom always having something coming out of her mouth.  Oh how I miss that.  And if I had some magical powers I would bring Aunt J back, tell her how much I really enjoyed our time together, our chats, our visits and just how much I love her.  But the one thing I would not change was our decision to bring Uncle C into our home. It’s been hard.  Very hard at times.  But caring for this old man has been an experience I will never regret.

After two weeks Uncle C is finally home from the hospital, but he’s not himself.  He’s tired, physically and mentally.  He’s tired of life and ready to move on to the next one.  I feel so selfish when I think that I’m really not ready for him to go yet.   I’m pretty sure that at 93 I’ll be ready too.  But it’s very difficult to watch this man slip away.  I feel like I am watching a slow death unfold before me, in my home, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.  It’s difficult.  It’s depressing.  It’s sad.  Try as I might I can’t find a silver lining in that scenario.

And there’s the damn owl – hooting, hooting, hooting at night.  He’s close, very close.  The first time I heard the legend of the owl was when a friend died of a heart attack in his early 20’s. His mother told me that she knew death was near because of the owl that had been hanging around her backyard.  I really never gave that much thought until last week when the owl kept hooting, waking me up at night. It was near, very near.  And when I mentioned it to our sitter she immediately said, “That means death.”  Yea, I’ve heard.

But Uncle C does seem to have 9 lives so maybe, just maybe, he’ll recover again.  I’m just not sure he really wants to.  And that makes it even harder to witness.

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My oldest daughter and I were on our way to Houston when we got the call that Aunt J had passed away.  My daughter was very upset that we had not made it there before her passing.  I, on the other hand, was at peace with it.  I thought it best that Uncle C have the last minutes with his beloved wife without having to share her with others.  We spent the next two days going through mail that had not been opened since they entered the hospital, gathering documents that we would need and readying Uncle C for the trip.  For all we knew, this could be the last time he would ever see his home.  Aunt J was very specific about how she wanted things handled after her death.  She had everything organized and written down.  She wanted to be cremated and her ashes buried next to her parents in Shreveport.  We quickly found out that in Texas it takes forever to have a body cremated.  It was two weeks before we could have the memorial service to bury her ashes.  It was very difficult for Uncle C as he could find no closure.  In the meantime, my husband was scrambling around trying to organize a memorial service, secure hotel rooms, order flowers, all from 200 miles away.  Although there is family in the area, no one offered to help.

The first few weeks was a big adjustment for all of us.  Uncle C was very concerned that he was imposing and we did our best to make him feel welcomed and loved.  He is the easiest, most accommodating person I’ve ever met, but moving a 92-year-old into our home came with many challenges.  I didn’t always handle them well.  One huge challenge was trying to juggle caring for an elderly man in my home without neglecting my parents’ needs.  At times I felt like I was being torn in many directions and running, running, running – all the time.  I was exhausted.  My life had become one big monotonous day after another – wake up, go to work, go to grocery, go to parents’ house, help them, go home, relieve sitter, become caregiver, cook supper, clean up, wash clothes – then throw in the many doctors’ appointments – augh!  I often felt like I couldn’t stand another day of this.   And my husband was working double time trying to stop me from getting overloaded.  Too late!

The other issue that I really struggled with was having no time to myself – ever.  I dreaded going home because once home I either had a sitter hanging around, which was just weird, or I would release her for the day which made me the caregiver.  Gone were the days when I could just come home, relax, read a book, sit on the patio with a glass of wine and enjoy life.  On one rare occasion when we were able to go out alone I tried to explain my feelings to my husband, but he just didn’t get it.  I ended up crying through the entire meal at my favorite restaurant.  The next day he asked if I still wanted to kick Uncle C out.  Really!  That’s what he got from our conversation??  I felt like I had poured my soul out to him and he didn’t understand a word.  Why oh why, God, did you make men and women so different?!

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My husband and I have often talked about just how blessed we are that our parents are still alive.  Here we are in our fifties and all four are still with us.  We also are thankful that our children, mid to late twenties, have been given the opportunity to know and love their grandparents.  Many people are not that fortunate.  I never knew my paternal grandfather as he died when I was a year old.  I feel like I really missed out.  We also feel fortunate to have had Aunt J and Uncle C a part of our lives for all these years and although we do not see them often, we truly love them.  Many times we have talked about how difficult it will be when the first goes, the others certainly soon to follow.  Their ages range from 77 to 92.  We have not encounter that yet.  But it was facing us now.

We received a phone call from the rehab hospital on a Monday informing us that Uncle C was being released that Friday.  Since he was 92, still weak and certainly not able to care for himself, a decision had to be made as to where he would go and who would care for him.  We offered to take him into our home, at least until something could be figured out, and Uncle C accepted.  My husband was to drive to Houston on Friday to get him.  In the meantime, we were scrambling around trying to line up sitters for him since he was not capable of staying alone and local doctors willing to treat him on such short notice.  Thursday around midnight we received a call from the lady sitting with Aunt J stating that she was very agitated and throwing up something that resembled coffee grinds.  That didn’t sound good.  At 5:00 a.m., she called again and told my husband that he should leave for Houston very soon as her health was declining quickly.  My husband left immediately and I stayed home to finish getting things ready for Uncle C.   Things indeed did not look good.  On Friday, Uncle C was released from the rehab hospital.  It had been 3 months since he had been home.  Aunt J passed away the very next day.  My husband watched as Uncle C lovingly held her hand as her breathing slowed and she peacefully passed away.  And Uncle C wept.  They had been married almost 71 years.

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