My mother went to heaven on November 8, 2017. Nine years before her passing she lost her beautiful daughter in law on the same day. They both fought a good battle. Two very beautiful women who had so much love to give. My mother was a gentle kind soul. Who gave her family and friends so much love. My mother is now reunited with my father in heaven after 22 1/2 years of separation. All she ever wanted was to be with my father. He loved her so much and it showed every day. My parents taught me and my brothers the true meaning of loving someone unconditionally. They opened our home to all our friends. Our home was the party place growing up. Everyone loved to hang out here. Our friends could sit and talk to both my mother and father for hours. They made sure we had everything we wanted in life. We never went without. My mom use to always say if there was something we wanted my father went out and got it and we would have by the next day.
My mother was selfless, she always thought of others first. She helped us with our homework, made sure she participated in PTA when were in elementary school. She quit her job to stay home and raise my nephew when he was born so my brother and sister-in-law could work. And when they got divorced, her and my dad took custody of him so he could be put on their health insurance and go to better schools. My mom paid for my braces when I was in junior high so I could have straight teeth. Her love for us is just beyond words.
When my mom had her first stroke in the summer of 1999. I was so thankful it had only took her short-term memory and peripheral vision in one eye. I taught her how to read and write again and how to cook. It was hard for her in the beginning but eventually she was able retain some new memories. The following summer in 2000 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and her breast had become infected and the surgeon had to teach me how to clean the wound and pack it with gauze until it healed. Once it healed I took her to University Hospital in Cleveland five days a week at 7am for the next 8 weeks to get radiation treatments. She was strong, I never saw her cry or complain about having cancer. She didn’t lose hair but it did thin out some. She never questioned why this was happening to her. She would get tired after radiation and I would bring her home and give her orange juice and have her lay down. She was such a fighter.
Mom continued to have Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) and Transient Global Amnesia over the years and eventually developed seizures where she couldn’t respond to me. It was scary every time it happened. Because of this she developed vascular dementia. Each stage was so different. Every TIA she had would change her personality. We would fight all the time and I never understood what was really happening to her. Eventually, I started to understand more about her illness but I would get so angry and frustrated with her in the beginning of it.
The last two years just kept getting worse with her falling, hoarding, repeating herself. She would hide things like food or candy. Nothing can be worse than watching someone you love slipping away from you right before your eyes. She began having what is called sundowning. She would become more agitated and confused in the later afternoon to early evening. By 6:30pm she would want to go to bed. Then during the night she would get up and think it was morning and she would get up and get dressed and go downstairs to watch tv. I would find her in the family room and have to explain to her it was the middle of the night and she needed to come back up to bed.
She started to use a cane and eventually we made her start using a walker. Around Christmas time of last year she started losing her appetite and was growing weaker. The doctor order physical therapy for her and we had bought special shoes for her to help with her balance but her appetite kept decreasing. In April of this year she was too weak to get out of bed because she was eating and was failing to thrive. For Easter she was in the hospital and had failed her swallow test and we had a PEG tube placed in her stomach. The doctors said she was in entering the last phase of vascular dementia and that we could just let her come to die with hospice. My brother didn’t want to see her just waste away like that. When she came home from the hospital she had become completely bed ridden. I had to feed her threw her tube five times a day. Change and clean her and groom her in her bed. Her tube came out and we had to go back to hospital to have a new one placed in. But for months she couldn’t keep her food down. She continuously threw up daily until the doctor sent her back to the hospital to have another one put in as the second one was clogged. Once third tube was in it was much better but she could only handle three cans a food a day in smaller amounts.
Mom started becoming short of breath and getting sores on her stomach and back. Her skin became so thin and fragile. She would get worn out just rolling her on her side to change her or bath her. A catheter was put in and oxygen was ordered. On the day of her death her body had started filling up with fluids and she became swollen all over. That evening she was gurgling so much in her throat that she couldn’t talk and couldn’t clear her throat. I tried using the suction machine as I saw her choking and gasping for air she stopped breathing and I performed CPR on her. I became hysterical. This my mom and she was dying and I was so not ready even though I knew it was inevitable. My husband had called for the ambulance and I could see in their eyes as they came in and took over as I was trying to revive her that she was not going to make it. I called my family to tell them to get to the hospital so they could say their goodbyes. She had her family around her and she knew she was loved as she took her last breath.
In my heart, I know I did everything I could for her. I know she is my father in heaven and is happy, free from any pain or suffering. She is whole again. Young and beautiful as she had always been. I left my job more than a year ago to take care of her full-time and I don’t have any regrets. I will continue to love her and miss her until we are reunited again some day. Now I need to start living because I know that is what she would want for me.