And Now The End Is Near. . . The Last Journey
Four kids, two moms and two thousand miles. That’s the trip I recently took with my youngest two children (ages 8 and 10) my daughter-in-law and my two grandchildren (ages 3 and 7 months): a trip that crossed four states to visit my dying mother.
Originally, when I started this blog, I still had a grandfather and a mother who I needed to take care of as well as grown children who’d moved home to go back to school and my “second” family of two younger kids who I am still homeschooling. I meant to blog about the challenges of being in that sandwich generation, which is why I called it “Do You Want Mayo With That?” But it turns out I was too busy to get it together as I planned. Then my mother’s health went downhill fast with a life-threatening disease, and I could no longer care for her so she left Texas and went to a nursing home in Indiana where her brother and his wife could watch out for her. Soon after, my grandfather got suddenly sick and died.
The “sandwich” was gone. Oh, I still have older kids at home-some moved out; others moved back, still have the young ones, still feel like I’m smashed together all too often, but the responsibility for my mother and grandfather had ended.
Until it was time to make this trip. Of course, I knew this day would come. It was a tough trip-not only for the young kids-thank goodness for portable DVD players! But emotionally. Knowing that it was probably the last time I would see my mother alive.
I had originally planned to go to Indiana to see her the first week of December-I had a writing retreat planned in November. But then she started to get worse-my aunt thought it was iffy, maybe okay if I waited, but I had a feeling with the numbers coming back on her blood work that I really needed to go as soon as possible. So I rounded up everyone-daughter-in-law thought she had another month to prepare but gamely agreed to go earlier-and we threw things in the van and took off.
I’d prepared that my mother was sick, but the day we got there, she’d had not one, but two falls in the last two days-one which had sent her to the emergency room. And yes, she did look worse than I expected. But she did recognize us and was glad to see my youngest children as well as my grandson and the 7 month old granddaughter she’d never met (her great grandson and great granddaughter). We stayed until she drifted to sleep, then I went back the next day with her little dog who’s been staying with my aunt and uncle. My mother was happy to see the dog but barely had the strength to pet her.
And then we had to return to Texas.
And I wished I didn’t have to go. I really wanted to be able to stay and hold her hand, she looked like she needed someone to sit beside her. My aunt and uncle, their son and his wife visit often, but it’s not the same as someone staying there minute by minute, hour after hour. Holding her hand. And yet I couldn’t do that. Although my aunt spends hours with her, she couldn't do around the clock sitting either. But we did bring in hospice to give her extra care which does bring some measure of comfort.
The kind of childhood I had I learned it was best to keep my emotions to myself. Which is probably a big reason I write-I process my emotions through writing, never really having learned how to process emotions in real life. And that’s why I’m writing today. After a brief rally where it seemed maybe it’d just been the knock(s) on the head that had her so out of it and hope that maybe she’d be alive so I could go visit again in the spring, she took a turn for the worse last night. No one is expecting her to last the week, certainly not the month.
I’m glad I followed my instincts and went for a visit when I did, and so glad my daughter-in-law was able to go with me to take the grandbabies, so my mom will die knowing she is leaving a precious legacy behind with my six children and now the two grandchildren. (I'm an only child.)
My mother and I have never had a good relationship-it’s actually been quite contentious. But she’s still my mom, and I know she did the best she knew how with the knowledge she had. I know she’s scared now-earlier today she’d asked her roommate to please not leave her alone because she was scared. This afternoon, apparently the ammonia levels are rising and her brain is getting foggy so I don’t know if she’s cognizant enough to be scared any longer.
It is my sincere wish and prayer is that it’s an easy passing for her-that she’ll close her eyes, drift off to sleep…and see her mother and daddy waiting alongside God to greet her with open arms.
And why the title of this post? Elvis Presley’s rendition of "My Way" is one of her very favorite songs…the lyrics start off "And now, the end is near…" I’m playing it for you, Mama. Elvis Presley: My Way