Last year, on the last Sunday in September, I remember stopping in to visit Mom and Dad at the adult family home in the mid afternoon. Mom was sitting in the living room, calling out, "Mama, Mama, Mama.", barely showing any sign of recognition when I walked through the door. Dad was with her, concerned and doing what he could to comfort her. I tried not to make too much of her behavior; the day prior she had been much the same when I arrived but seemed to snap out of it during my visit.
I may have brought her a small single serving of ice cream that day although I can't quite remember. If I did, she ate it with enthusiasm. She wasn't eating much in those last weeks but never turned down ice cream. I tried to bring her things that might bring her some joy and momentarily distract her from an ever flowing sense of anxiety and dread. Ten minutes with some mint chocolate chip ice cream drove her demons off, at least for awhile.
On that particular day she never came around and her agitation escalated. Nothing the caretakers or I did seemed to make any difference. She would sit for a minute, then want to get up and walk and once up (a struggle with her worsening weakness) she wouldn't know where she wanted to go. The endless calling out for help was making all of us feel concerned. She didn't have a fever. She didn't seem to be in pain. I wondered if she might be septic, infected somewhere and hoped there would be a simple fix for this problem. In my heart, I obviously knew there was not going to be a simple solution.
How did I know? I just re-read my blog post from that day; that's how.
I felt so bad for my Dad that day. He knew things augured badly for Mom even if he couldn't verbalize to anyone what he felt inside. His face told the story.
I remember one of the paramedics who attended Mom at the house and escorted her on to the gurney and into the ambulance came back into the house after they got her situated. She wanted to find out "if there was anything else" she should know about Mom. She found Dad and me in Mom's room both of us in tears, trying to comfort each other. She remarked that she could tell we were worried and that our love for her showed. "Here, let me give you a hug", she said. This sweet gesture from someone none of us knew was the best thing she could have done in that moment. She knew as well as we did that this was the beginning of the end and none of us was really ready to face it.
Mom spent just over a week in the hospital. There was nothing "fixable". She wouldn't eat; she was confused and restless much of the time, calling out endlessly for people who were long gone from this world. Was she making her way to a new place even then? These questions are among the great mysteries of our worldly existence.
I'm beginning the process of anniversary grieving. I feel the loss of my Mom but worse, as I felt that Sunday night last year, I am overwhelmed with concern for my Dad. He's aged so much in the last twelve months. Today he could barely walk from the living room to his bedroom; so short of breath and frail looking, each step an enormous effort. As I sat with him, I read the newspaper and he stared solemnly ahead and at last nodded off for a bit. He was glad to see me but had little to say. By the time I left an hour later, he looked better, smiling and thanking me for visiting. "I'll be back tomorrow, Dad", I reminded him.
Mom died on October 12th last year. What I'd like to do in the coming days is remember not not only what happened over those sixteen days leading up to her death but also reflect on the memories of the better times, the times when Mom was Mom, full of life and love.
I'm hoping to tease out from the thousands of memories I have of my Mom, pivotal lessons she passed on, funny, quirky comments she made, and thoughts I've had about her life that have came to me more in retrospect as I've looked back on her life and influence.
We'll see what comes up for me in these early days of fall when leaves are turning and we move into a time of reflection.