Thursday, July 18, 2013

Blog 74: My Mom Is An Angel in Heaven

I don’t even know where to begin to describe the past three weeks.  Oh, how life changes in an instant.  I always said life is precious and you should never take it for granted.  I started this blog post a couple of times and just couldn't find the words to express my pain and heartache.  I will try again.  I am in mourning and grieving the loss of the most wonderful mom I could have ever had.  Blogging doesn't seem important now.  I just need to tell you all that my mom is gone.  She is gone.

I flew back to Chicago on June 27th for one of my regular visits with Mom.  I was feeling pretty good about things for a change.  On June 30th I was sitting on the deck of the group home with my mom.  We were enjoying the beautiful sunny day.  I looked up to the sky and saw this cloud, in the shape of a heart.  I felt like this was a sign that everything was going to work out.  Everything was going to be ok.  Plans were being made to move Mom back to her hometown and the meeting with my sisters was finally going to happen.  The next day, on July 1st, all of my sisters got together and we visited our mom before we had our important meeting.  Annie arrived late so she wasn’t with the rest of us when we visited Mom, but she went to see her after our meeting.  She said she walked in and Mom said, “Annie!”  Annie hadn’t been to see my mom in six months.  Not that she didn’t love her, she was just having a hard time accepting everything Renee put us through.

Mom seemed tickled to have us all there and she appeared somewhat sad when we said goodbye.   We girls went to a restaurant to have our family meeting to discuss what to do with our mom now that her money was about gone.  There we were, all five of us sitting down and talking.  Finally!  We got along with each other, though I have to admit there was a little tension and apprehension.  After all, it had been four years since we ALL sat down to talk.   We came up with a plan for the next phase of Mom’s care.  After considering the possibility of me coming back and hiring help and renting an apartment for us, it was agreed upon that Annie was going to bring Mom home to live with her in August.  She has her husband and daughters to help her.  I was so surprised that Renee agreed to it, but we were all facing the only other choice we had, which was Mom going to a nursing home with a Medicaid certified bed.  None of us wanted that.   I think Renee finally realized that being with family was better than that option.  Mom was finally going home.  I felt good about our meeting and reconnecting with my sisters. 

The next day during my visit with Mom, I told my mom that she was going to go back home.  She didn’t fully understand, but when I told her she was going to get to see her great grandson more, she did understand that, and she got choked up. Things were looking good.  Mom was doing as good as could be expected.  She was still recognizing her daughters, though she couldn’t say everyone’s names.  She still called me Lizzie.  Mom even let me give her a foot massage.  I was surprised to see how pretty her feet still looked.  I sang You Are My Sunshine to her everyday and held her hand and told her I love her many times during my visits that week.  Mom often told me she loved me back, though sometimes she would just say, “Good, I’m glad.”  Or, “I know you do.”  We had our usual golden moments, when Mom said something so meaningful, just out of the blue.  I am so glad I took notes and have a record of those meaningful things she said.  I took pictures and videos, and thank God I did a lot of that.  The last video I took of my mom was so cute.  She was smiling, laughing, and whistling.  Then at the end of the video I told her I love her and she said, “I love you, too”, with a smile on her face and that endearing look of a mother’s love.   I wish I could post that video right here, but I am still wanting to protect the privacy of my family. 

On July 5th, I arrived at the group home and I could hear Mom whistling in her room.  Whistling and whispering were her new things.  We had an hour together.  It was to be the last hour that I could share beautiful moments with my mom.  The last time I would hear her voice and hear her say she loves me, and the last time I would see her beautiful blue eyes.    I fed her lunch during that hour.  She ate a jelly sandwich and I gave her some chocolate afterwards.  She chatted with my son on the phone from California.  Then, everything changed.  An aide arrived and took my mom to the bathroom for her bath.  I was in another room talking to my sister on the phone and I turned around to see the aide raise my mom from her chair.  

In an instant, life as we knew it changed.  My mom went into the bathroom a whole person, and she came out about 20 minutes later with a broken body.  She couldn’t walk and she was bent over and trembling.  I rushed to the bathroom and saw her like that.  Something happened in there.   The aide said she needed help and I called out to the caregiver to bring the wheelchair.  They put mom in the wheelchair and took her back to her room and then put her in her chair.  The aide said nothing to me or anyone else about what happened.  Mom said she hurt and the aide said she’s never seen my mom like that.  

After the aide left, it didn’t take long before I realized my Mom was really hurt.  She was clearly distressed.  Not knowing the severity of her injuries, I tried to calm her down and reassure her that everything will be ok.  Mom was making comments that she didn’t like the aide and that she couldn’t move her arms and that it hurts.   I felt up and down my mom’s arms and noticed she had a hard lump in her left arm.  I didn’t know it was broken.  I thought it was a pulled muscle, maybe.  I just had no idea.  The two caregivers there put cream and an icepack on it.   One of the caregivers was a nurse for 30 years.  Mom’s arm began bruising in her armpit area and down the inside part of her arm.  Finally, after repeated attempts to reach Renee, she showed up.  Several hours after the incident, Mom was transported to a hospice hospital, at Renee's direction, and four days later she was dead. 

Not only did my mom suffer a spiral fracture of her humerus on her left arm, but the next day they found that her left hip was broken too.  The doctor said she was too weak to survive these kinds of injuries and surgery was not an option.  At first Renee was talking alone to the nurses and doctors, but she finally let us all in to hear what they were saying.  She didn't need to be secretive anymore.  I couldn’t believe my mom was going to die.  Mom was put on a very low dose of subcutaneous Morphine, which the doctor said was kind of like a vicodin.  I asked why she won’t wake up and the doctor said, “because your mom is dying.”  Eventually they had to up her dose of morphine because Mom was in too much pain. 

I stood at her bedside and watched the life go out of her. Was this really it?  Was this how she was going to die?  It wasn’t going to be a peaceful death either, because she was hurting!  It wasn’t fair!!!  I watched her wince in pain and I saw the fear in her face.  She tried to say something to Renee and me.  We couldn’t understand her and she seemed a little frustrated as she repeated herself.  We could not make out what she was trying to say. Maybe she was trying to tell us what happened to her.  Mom couldn’t eat, not even ice cream.  God, that hurt to see my mom like that.  I could hear her tummy growling.  She was starving, but she was dying, too.  I could hardly eat.  In fact, it was days before I could eat anything without crying and feeling guilty.  I just couldn’t eat when my mom couldn’t eat.

My sisters all gathered together and some of us spent the night and slept on couches.  We took shifts holding our mom’s hand.  Mom squeezed our hands and we didn’t want let go unless there was someone else there to take over.  We didn’t want her to be alone or to be afraid. We wanted to be close to her and we all assured our mom that we love her and always will.  All of us took turns saying what we needed to say.  We told her that we are all together and we are all good, and for her to not worry about us.  We said we’ll take care of each other. The doctors had told us that she can hear us even if she can’t respond.  We made sure she knew we loved her.  

Towards the end it was just awful.  By then several of Mom’s grandchildren were there.   Annie arrived late, but she made it in time.  She got there after the nurses moved mom to her final resting position.  They placed her on her side so that her breathing would be easier.  Two chaplains had paid a visit on that last day.  Prayers were said, tears were constant, though we tried not to let Mom hear us cry, and Mom was slipping away fast.   We didn’t want her to die but it was too painful watching her die that we just wanted it to end.  But how could we survive without her?

The chaplain told us that she may want to go alone.  Mom knew we were all in the room with her, once Annie finally arrived.  Mom even tried to raise her head when she heard Annie's voice.  Mom was a very private person and she cared very deeply for her family.  I think when my mom knew we were all there, that’s when she was ready to let death claim her.  We all took turns saying goodbye and telling her how much she means to us and that it’s ok to go now so she doesn’t have to be in pain.  I told Mom to not be afraid.  Her body was trembling.  I said Jesus is waiting for you, Mom, and we will be together again one day.  I told her we will take care of each other until we see her again.  I told her we will never be apart, that we will keep a piece of her with us and she will take a piece of us to Heaven with her.  

It was just too painful to watch her as she was showing all of the signs that the end was near. The nurse said Mom was semi-comatose.  We reluctantly all left the room, in case Mom wanted to die alone.   The chaplain stayed with her for awhile.  I went down the hall to call my son.  A few minutes later my niece ran to get me and she said, “She’s gone.”  I ran down the hall, as I saw my nephew running to get his mom, and others running into my mom’s room.  We were all there within seconds. She was just laying there, lifeless, with Annie holding her hand.  Annie had slipped back in the room and she was there when Mom took her last breath.  There was no more struggle to breathe.  She was free from the pain, but our pain was unbearable.  I dropped to my knees and held on to her and cried MOMMY!!!!  I was a little girl again, who needed her mommy.  Everything was so surreal.  The crying, everyone crying that awful cry when someone you love dies.  The chaplain was crying, too. 

Mom passed away on July 9th at 10:45 P.M.  My family moved about, going in and out of the room.  Those of us who could, and some couldn’t do it, but those of us who could, sat with her and talked to her some more.  Annie didn’t want to leave her.  She kept rubbing mom’s arm.  I held my mom’s lifeless hands, still being careful not to hurt her broken arm, and I said goodbye to my mom.  I walked out of the room and turned around to have one last look at her, with tears streaming down my face.  I wondered how I could ever survive life without my mom.  My hero was gone.  

Annie told me when she walked into the room our mom was looking straight ahead.  She was already on her last breath.  Annie told her to go to Grandma and Grandpa.  She said they are waiting to take her to Heaven with them.  She said that is when Mom took one more breath and then she stopped.  My daughter said that she had a vision of my grandparents standing behind Jesus, with open arms, reaching out for my mom.  I believe that happened. 

Sadly, an autopsy had to be done on my mom.  I hate that she had to have that done.  We have the preliminary report that said she didn't have a heart attack or stroke.  We are still waiting for the final results but we know what it's going to read.  Mom died as a result of her injuries. We are just waiting.  One thing I am sure of, my mom didn't fall.  She didn't have any bruises on her hip or the outside of her arm. The coroner's report is what everyone is waiting for, though I don't know if I will be able to look at it.    

My mom’s funeral was on July 12th.  It was a beautiful service with more people there than I ever expected to see. It was so nice to hear the wonderful comments about my mom and see all the people who cared about her and our family.  I prepared a letter to my mom that I read during the service.  It was so hard for me to read it, through the tears, but I did it for my mom.  At the burial site, my sister's son, the oldest of the grandchildren, gathered all of us girls together.  He said that it took our mom a lifetime to build up this family and make it the loving family that she was proud of, and in a period of three years, we dismantled everything she worked so hard on building.  He asked us what he thought our mom would think about that, and he asked us if we are going to let this be it or are we going to work on making our mom proud of the legacy she left behind.  It’s something I always wanted, and I think we all did.  We just couldn’t get it together.  We hugged in a huddle and promised we will make our mom proud as she looks down on us from Heaven.  It will be a struggle at times since there was a lot of hurt and anger, and it will take time to heal, but I am hoping we can pull through this and be there for each other. 

I had to leave and go back to my home in Arizona, and I felt so terribly sad to leave my sisters behind.  That oldest sister in me, nurturing, wanting to comfort, wanting to protect my sisters, is back.  (She never really left.)  I feel for them because I am also feeling that same, awful pain they are feeling.  We describe it as feeling empty. Lynda said she feels like an orphan now that both of our parents are gone. Before I left, I went to a Monument place and picked out a headstone for my mom.  I selected a precious moments angel to go on the headstone.  The angel is releasing five hearts from her hand, representing my mom’s five daughters. 

I know my mom is in Heaven with Jesus and she is whole again.  She is no longer in pain, no longer living with Alzheimer’s, and she is an angel who is watching over her family.   She is not fully gone from our lives because she is living through us, it's just hard to not be able to see her again for the rest of my life.  After the funeral my family went to dinner and we talked and shared stories.  We even laughed.  Yeah, we even laughed, though we cried, too.  All of us girls stood outside in the parking lot after we finished our meal (which by the way, was the first time I could eat without crying), and we talked for another hour.  Just like old times, we had so much to say.  We have lots of catching up to do. We went for ice cream afterwards, and as my four year old granddaughter was licking her ice cream cone she walked over to a young couple sitting there and she said, “My big nana is in Heaven and she is an angel now.”  She is proud of her big nana, and to her, she is happy she's an angel.  She, and my wonderful family and friends are helping me get through this.  I didn't think I could go on, but somehow, some way, I am finding the strength to live.   

By the way, I will continue this blog.  Our journey is not over, so please check back from time to time.   


  1. it is so hard to have to trust strangers with a loved one with Alzheimer's.. The Alzheimer's person can't tel you how they are being treated and some unscrupulous (underpaid) staff know this. My heart goes out to you. My dad is 70 years old and in the final stages of Alzheimer's. We placed him on hospice Monday.

    No ones knows how truly tormenting the Alzheimer's battle is until they have gone through it.
    May your mother rest easy now. I am so very sorry for your loss.

    1. Thank you, Teri. That is so true. We may never find out what happened in that bathroom but I pray the investigation in the matter gives us answers. I appreciate your condolences and I wish you all the best with your dad. I understand what you are going through, all too well.


  2. I'm so sorry! I've followed your blog for awhile now. I was really shocked to hear this. Your Mother is at peace. It's so hard ..

  3. As I saw you had a new post, I thought of how I would miss your blog if your Mother headed to Heaven...and then I started to read. My heart and prayers are with you and your family. When our Mothers leave, it is the hardest loss since they have been with us since our beginning. I am thankful you were there for the time as her spirit knew yours so well. I am sure that was a comfort to her as she travelled Home. God bless you all!

    1. Thank you, Harrison...

      That part of our journey is over but I intend to continue this blog for awhile, though I have no idea what direction it is going to go. Please continue to follow along. I appreciate my readers and hope that through all of this, through all of my tears, and sharing my story, that I am making a difference in someone else's life..


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