As a lot of you know, my mother died in January after 40 years of hypochondria intermixed with actually illnesses in there somewhere. With the help of friends, I was able to go back to Kentucky to pay my respects and get some closure on a long and complex relationship. Suffice it to say, that still hasn't happened, but going back was a start.
There were a lot of odd things about my mother's death. In a nutshell, my mother had taken so many different medications for so long that her stomach lining was absolutely shot and would spontaneously bleed... quite a lot. Every few weeks, she had to go to the doctor and have the inside of her stomach cauterized to stop the bleeding. Just prior to her death, she waited too long and went into pretty dire straits.
She was taken to a local hospital, quite anemic from the bleeding to the point that she had to be given blood. She had a systemic reaction to the blood for some reason (I was unable to get with the doctor or see a chart while I was there, so I'm relying on lay-people interpretation) and her body started to shut down as a result. She was transported to the more major hospital in the area, where they tried to stabilize her.
She developed an infection and congestive heart failure. They gave her Lasix to take the fluid off and ended up putting her on a respirator to breathe. She was fighting the respirator quite a bit, so they had to medicinally paralyze her to keep it in. She was cognizant a good bit of the time; she just couldn't move.
Her vitals were starting to stabilize and she seemed to be getting better. They told her that if she continued as she was, she could go home soon. A mishap occurred with the respirator and from what I'm told, it was not properly cleaned and malfunctioned. It took the staff a while to realize that the problem was not with her, but with the machinery. As soon as they figured that out, a good deal of damage had been done and Mom was going downhill.
I spoke with her, or rather to her, the day before she died. A decision was being made of whether or not to remove the respirator and allow her to die. A good quality of life was not projected for her. She was still lucid from time to time. I was unable to be there at that time, stuck in California. I encouraged her to fight if she wanted to stay, but to go with our love if it was time for her to leave. They told me she got much better after the phone call, but I don't know if that was true or just placations. Later that day, my brother called to tell me the decision had been made to take her off there respirator if there was no change by morning.
That night, I dreamed that I was in her apartment with her (I'd never seen the apartment before in real life). She showed me all of her "pretties" and we talked all through the night and played her old records and laughed and played Parcheesi. She really laughed when I told her that everyone thought she was going to die the next day and assured me she wasn't ready to go and would be around for a long, long time.
I woke up the next morning confident that some miracle was going to occur and she'd be fine after a while.
My brother called and said there had been a delay (?!) and that "it" wouldn't be happening until later that day. I was encouraged. He said he would call me when it was "time" so I could tell her good-bye. I wanted to tell him about my dream and started to, but immediately, he was called away and said, "Kathy, I've got to go" and hung up the phone. I was unable to reach him again.
I prayed. I waited. I said, "Mom, kick a tray... scream... do something to keep them from doing it."
Ed called me and told me she was gone. She had died. I was genuinely stunned when Ed told me that this. It just felt...wrong. They asked her if she wanted the respirator out and she said she did, so they removed it and she died. I understand that we can go from the perspective of everything happening for a reason and blah, blah, blah, but it just felt wrong and still does. Ed is a good man and I know they made the best decisions they could under the circumstances. Somehow, he thought I didn't want him to call me before it was over. She was gone. He said she turned her head to look at him and then slipped away.
I went to Kentucky and felt extremely uneasy as Ed told me about the look of extreme love that my mom gave him as she died. It should have reassured me, but it creeped me out badly.
THEN at the funeral home, I talked to my cousin, Donna, who had opposed the removal of the ventilator and actually took legal measures (unsuccessfully) to prevent it. She is the Director of Nurses for that hospital and had an ethics committee review the case. That was the delay of what Ed had spoken. They also determined that the respirator should be removed given the projected quality of life for my mother. All I could think about was all of the time my mother had beaten incredible odds and bounced back when no one thought she would. In my head, I had buried my mother a hundred times. At the funeral home, Donna said that like me, really would have preferred for the antibiotics to have a few more days to work.
That's when I got REALLY uncomfortable. Donna is very level headed and a really good gal. She told me that Mom had been improving and they had told Mom so, even going so far as to say if she continued to mend as she was, she could go back home in a few weeks. Then the respirator malfunction occurred and her condition worsened, which was when the family decided to remove the ventilator. Donna pointed out that she was often lucid and should be consulted. I mentioned that I was under the impression that she HAD been asked about the situation and what her wishes were.
According to Donna, when they went back to ask my mother what she wanted them to do, they never asked her if she wanted to die. They asked her if she wanted the ventilator removed. Of course, she wanted the ventilator out. She hated it. She indicated that she did and they took that to mean that she wanted to die. Donna claims that my mom was unaware that if they removed the ventilator, she would die.
Donna did say that she was fairly sure that if they had not removed the ventilator, the outcome would likely have been the same, but she did feel my mother had not had the opportunity to give informed consent and to understand the gravity of the choice she made. That really left me with a heavy heart, but it made me understand my dream a lot better.
Saturday night, after the funeral, my cousin Delena, her son, Brandon and I went to my mother's apartment. The first thing I noticed was that the apartment was exactly the same as it had been in my dream except that my mother's things were all piled together. The air was really dense and we were all fairly uncomfortable there, knowing that we were surrounded by my dead mother's possessions. The rest of the family had been through scavaging and all that was left was the Goodwill Store portion. We found a little stuffed monkey and dubbed him "The Monkey of Death" in an attempt at levity. (no go) He now sits on a shelf in my family room.
We noticed the uncanny
number of Bibles that were there. We counted about 40 and I took two of
them with me. I knew my brother already had taken the family Bible.
The energy in the room began to get very uneasy, confused and, well, sorry to be
cliché, but cold. The temperature dropped easily 10 degrees
all at once. [Of note here is that when my brother and uncle went to get the
rest of her things the following day to take to Goodwill, they only found 1-2
When we got back to Delena's house, I went to bed later on and I couldn't stop thinking about what happened. I tried to contact my mom to help her out and all I could feel was lots of fear, confusion and anger. I tried to get the energy to calm down and focus, but it was really erratic and intense. I felt like at any minute, it was going to turn on ME. I finally had to white light the house and try to get some sleep. I still couldn't sleep and had to go out to the futon in the living room where there was more light.
I left the next day, still very disturbed by all that had happened. I hadn't felt my mother at the funeral home or funeral at all. Not even a whiff of her presence. I didn't see her body. I didn't want to. When my father died, my family pushed me to look at him and his dead body is now the immediate image that is conquered up when I think of my dad. I didn't want that to happen to my mom. I remember her as happy and smiling, so I don't regret not seeing her body. Yes, those were the hands that cradled my face and the lips the kissed my owies and the eyes that looked at me with love, but I didn't want to remember them that way. It was just vehicle her soul drove around this earth.
To this day, my mom is with me here in my home. She isn't as angry and confused as she was, but she is still not ready to move on. We talk a lot and spend a good deal of time together. She's very possessive about her material items I brought here. She had a beautiful bracelet I'd given her for Mother's Day one year and I wanted to pass it on to Eric's mother. She hid it from me (her items are kept in a trunk that I know the kids can't open) until I'd chosen another gift for my mother-in-law, then it turned up on my dresser, where I'd never put it (this was over about a week's time). When I took her watch and replaced the batteries so I could use it myself, a flower showed up on my dresser. It was a dogwood blossom, her favorite flower, and we don't have any dogwood trees around here.
She has a lot of pain over not being able to say good-bye to Junior, her boyfriend, who was also sick in the hospital when she died. I know part of the reason why my mom can't rest is that she wasn't ready to go and part is that she is worried about Allen, who is not ready to be on his own, even though he is going to be 36 in March. He's...odd and was always Mom's favorite. The administration of her estate is going very, very badly because Allen is refusing to allow her house to be sold and her outstanding debts are a real problem (he does not contribute to their resolution, he's just against selling the house because he lives there).
This all flies in the face of what I presumed happened after death. I figured on some great rejoining with the Universe and becoming all knowing and understanding the things that happened to us in life. It doesn't explain why I'd find her photo albums out of the trunk and open.
So Mom and I are sticking it out until she's ready to go. She seems more peaceful every day and it has been nice to have her around. I'll be happy for her when she's ready to move on, but meanwhile, I'm getting used to having her here.
And that's my Mom story.