On June 4, 2018 my mom went home to be with Jesus. I don’t know about you but when I see obituaries in the paper, particularly of young people I want to know what happened. Why did they die? I guess that seems weird or morbid or something but I think it comes from a place of wanted to control things. Death is out of our control and scary. We want to know other people’s experiences of it, so that we can understand it more and maybe not be so scared. It’s not that I don’t have faith that I will go to heaven, it’s the process of leaving this earth and getting there, that scares me. It’s like labor. When a baby is being born it’s scary. You don’t know what will happen. Anyway, many people have asked me what happened with my mom, since it seemed to those around her that she passed away rather suddenly. So, I will tell her story.
On September 29, 2017, I found myself in the exact place I didn’t want to be, the ER at Presbyterian hospital. You see, exactly one year before, I was at Presbyterian giving birth to our stillborn son, Andrew. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. So, one year later I was sitting in the ER waiting room at the same hospital listening to this baby lullaby that is played each time a baby is born at that hospital. It was pure torture.
Two days before, my mom went to the hospital for a routine heart procedure. It’s basically an echo cardiogram from the back side of your heart. You swallow a camera and they look at the heart with it. It’s very routine and simple and very low risk. While she was there they discovered she had a fever, and upon testing that she had an UTI. So, they gave her antibiotics and sent her home. I called her the next day and she was still feeling bad and running a fever, but since it hadn’t been 24 hours since she was on antibiotics, I didn’t think much of it. The next morning, I called her again. She was running a higher fever and still feeling very poorly. She didn’t tell me at the time but she had also not been able to walk for the past day or so. So, I told her to call her doctor and see what they said. She called me back almost immediately and said she was on her way to the ER and a friend of ours was taking her, and could I meet her there. So, I packed up my 2 year old and headed to the ER. I am convinced that if I hadn’t listened to my intuition that something was wrong and called her, she would have died within hours.
When I got to the ER our friend Don was in the waiting room. So, I went to sit with him. One hour passed, then two, and they still wouldn’t let us see her. I knew something wasn’t right. Thankfully, I had my rambunctious two year old Luke to distract me. Finally they called us back and we went into the intensive care area of the ER. It’s not that it said “intensive care” anywhere but I’ve been in enough ER’s to know how this works. She was clearly very sick. They said she had a UTI and Blood infection known as sepsis and her kidneys were not working well. I knew that was very bad. They were transferring her to the intermediate cardiac unit as soon as there was a bed. So, I said goodbye but honestly she wasn’t really with it enough to really know I was in the room and Don stayed with her for a while. I came home to make dinner for my kids and then go visit the grave of my son Andrew we had lost the year before. We were placing his headstone at his grave that night. I did all that honestly believing I might not see my mom again.
The next day I went to the hospital, and she was doing better and that day after that, even better. I was shocked, honestly. Then they told me they were going to discharge her the next day. At this point she was doing very well but really couldn’t walk well or take care of herself. Up until that point, she was living alone completely independently. I knew she couldn’t go home alone. So, my cousin who just happened to be at the hospital visiting that day (God works these things out) and I convinced her to move into my house. We told her we thought it would just be temporary but I knew that was unlikely. So, on the way home from the hospital I called Don again and asked him to bring his truck and help move in my moms stuff later that day. Through all this he was there at every turn doing whatever needed to be done and for that I am grateful beyond words.
The next day I picked her up from the hospital and moved her into our house. Thankfully we had a spare room we had just a month before moved our youngest son out of, again God works these things out ahead of time. Thus began the great adventure of living together for the next nine months. I will not say it was all easy. I love my mom and she loved me but we were still two adult women trying to live together who are both fiercely independent. The hardest thing about it is slowly becoming the parent to your parent. I realized quickly she couldn’t do a lot for herself physically and she was forgetful mentally. I tried to allow her to do what she could for herself but always tried to walk behind her, figuratively, to make sure nothing was missed, usually without her knowing it so I didn’t insult her. She didn’t realize she wasn’t completely up to par. That is a delicate balance, especially for me. I have two special needs kids so I am used to managing peoples lives, particularly those who have physical or mental needs. It was hard not to treat her like another child. Some days I found myself in my garage crying because the weight of it all was just too much. Emotionally, I was grieving the loss of our previous relationship as we tried to figure out this new territory.
The next month was full of doctor’s visits and me cleaning our her house to sell as we both realized quickly it wasn’t a good idea for her to live alone anymore. She had been failing physically for a while but never told me. I was busy to say the least. Then in November she got sick again and was in the hospital with a UTI again. One step forward, two steps back. She came home just before Thanksgiving and we went on to have a wonderful Christmas and celebrate her 82nd birthday in January. I am beyond thankful for those moments together, since it would be our last holiday together. Then in March she went into the hospital again with another UTI, was released only to go back two weeks later with the same thing. She stayed a week each time. In late March she was released and did ok for a little while but was back in the hospital in April. At this point I realized her heart wasn’t doing well. I asked the doctor’s how long they thought she had, but no one could say. She had lived with heart failure for years but now it was progressing. I knew in my heart it wouldn’t be long.
They sent her home in April and when I went to pick her up she was barely able to get into the car. I was very concerned at this point and scared, to be honest. I didn’t know how I would care for her in this state. She came home and was only home four hours when she fell twice trying to walk with her walker. I then made the difficult decision to put her back into the hospital and then into rehab at a nursing home. You have to go through the hospital to be put into rehab for Medicare to cover it. I learned a ton about Medicare rules during this time. So, I called 911, which I had done so many times they knew us by name. They transported her to the hospital again where she stayed a week and then I got her transferred to a rehab facility two doors down from us. God again had worked that out in advance. It was gut wrenching to tell her I couldn’t care for her anymore. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. I called my mother in law and she came right over and just let me cry, after they took mom away in the ambulance.
When mom first entered rehab she was doing well. She had physical therapy every day and she was making some progress. At that point she couldn’t get out of bed on her own, even with a walker. As long as she made progress Medicare would pay for rehab but if she didn’t progress they wouldn’t. Finally a few weeks into her stay the social worker called me and said she was refusing to do her therapy and they were going to have to kick her out since Medicare wouldn’t pay for it. So, I went up there and talked with her about it. We had a coming to Jesus meeting. That was on a Friday. On Sunday Glenn went to visit her and he said she just wasn’t herself. So, I went to visit Monday and I too noticed that she was sleeping more than usual and something wasn’t right. By Tuesday I was convinced something was wrong and asked the staff to have the doctor look at her but they couldn’t find anything wrong, but I just knew there was something. On Wednesday I got a call that she was in the ER with a nose bleed. I am convinced God had sent the nosebleed just so we could get to the hospital. When I got there she was sleeping pretty much all the time and they said her heart wasn’t doing very well and she would be admitted to intensive care. The next day, on Thursday she was still in and out of it, but they were hopeful she would come around. That day when I was there she woke up and was talking to me and asked me if I saw the party they were having out her window. Her window was 5 stories up and below was a parking lot. There was no party. It was then that I remembered she had told me two other times earlier in the week that she saw parties outside her window. I realized at that moment that she was seeing Heaven. It was so awesome to witness her seeing heaven but at the same time humbling because I knew soon she would be crossing over.