Monday, August 19, 2013

Blog 76: A Life Without My Mom

Alzheimer’s isn’t a part of my life anymore.  My mom is gone.  Alzheimer’s/dementia and it’s ugliness, and what it did to my mom and my family, is no longer at the forefront of our lives.  That disease tore my family up.  My relationship with my sisters has gotten better, though with Renee, it is going to take longer to heal.  She is no longer in control of anything, though she does have some things of moms that we want to be able to go through as a family.  She said we will.  We’ll see.

Right now, if there is going to be a problem, it is what are we going to do once we receive the autopsy report?  There are two doctors examining the specimens to find the official cause of death.  It’s been six weeks and we are still waiting.  A death certificate hasn’t been issued and won’t be until the autopsy is finalized. 

Mom died as a result of negligence and possible abuse, as far as what me and all of my sisters think.  Renee doesn’t want to say it.  She doesn’t want to admit that because she feels some responsibility for placing mom in that facility, and making every decision solely on her own.  We are not blaming her, we liked that place.  It’s not her fault that this happened.  It’s so hard to just let this go.  We can’t!  Mom should still be with us.  If one of us girls had terminal cancer and an aide came to give us a bath and we came out of the bathroom with a broken arm and broken hip that caused our death, would Mom be thinking, oh, that’s ok, she was going to die anyway?  No!  Our mom would have gone after them and demanded answers.  We didn’t get any answers or explanations.  She would have sought justice for her daughter.  She would not let someone get away with it.  We can’t either.  

Here is a lock of my mom's hair.  I look at it every day.  Sometimes I take it out of the plastic bag and rub my fingers over the softness, and remember when I used to run my fingers through my mom's hair in the recent years. 

I went to my last Alzheimer’s support meeting and told everyone what happened to my mom, as I cried, and cried.  Everyone was shocked, and everyone understood my pain and comforted me.  There were some new people there who are just starting their journey with Alzheimer’s.  Gosh, did I feel compassion for those people.  What a tough road they have ahead of them.  I told the group leader that I won’t be coming back.  I was thinking to myself that it’s just too depressing to be there.

I feel so different now.  This is my new life, a life without my mom.  I remember when I was back in Illinois, visiting my mom at the hospice hospital.   The day before she passed away I went to the local Walmart, and I remember feeling like everyone was going about life like nothing happened.  Didn’t they know my mom was dying?  Couldn’t they see the pain on my face?  Wasn’t it obvious?  Did anyone care?  Why would someone honk at me when I am crying at the stop light and didn’t see it turn green?  That’s sort of the way I feel now.  Everywhere I go I see people going about life.  Heck, I’m going about life.  

With some people I notice a kindness, a difference in the way they look at me, talk to me, are with me.  Total strangers seem to be so nice to me.  I was thinking last night that I wonder if they see pain in my face?  Do they see something in my eyes that show sadness, maybe?  Do they know, is it that obvious that I am this pitiful, motherless person?  I was also thinking maybe it’s me looking at people differently now.  Am I different with others?  Do I have more compassion, am I more sensitive and see what others don’t see?  Am I only noticing those who are ‘this way’?  Do we share a connection that only those who have lost a loved one can see?  I always felt I was a compassionate person before Mom’s death, but maybe now I am just more hyper aware of others.  For sure, something has changed.  I know that the death of your mom changes everything in life. 

All of those signs before my mom’s passing, that I thought were signs that everything was going to be ok, were actually signs that God was taking my mom away.   I read the signs wrong.  By the way, I am not a deeply religious person.  I consider myself spiritual.  I admit that many nights I went to bed deliberately not saying a prayer, because I felt that God doesn't hear me and He doesn't answer my prayers anyway.  I feel that I am closer to God now.  Maybe because I need Him more now than ever before.     

The first sign was me buying a ticket to return to Chicago only three weeks after my last visit.   Usually I go every two to three months.  I was going to be there for three weeks to spend more time with my mom, but also go wedding dress shopping with my daughter (which we didn’t do), and go back to Iowa to visit friends and go to a golf tournament (which I didn’t do).   Instead, the trip back to Iowa was to bury my mom.  As it turns out, I was able to spend a week with my mom before her accident, and then be with her when she passed away, and still fly home on my scheduled flight a few days after her funeral.   God planned that.  He knew I needed to be there.  And I thank God that He put me there the day of the accident, not only so I could be a witness, but, so I could comfort my mom and she wouldn’t be alone. 

"When you look into your mother's eyes, you know that is the purest love you can find on this earth."  ~ Mitch Albom 

Another sign was a dear friend of mine gave me a silver necklace with an angel pendant and angel wing earrings a few days before my trip back to Chicago.  It was a generous and lovely gift.  He knew a little of our family situation and he knew I was going home soon to talk to my sisters about my mom.   We talked about that afterwards, in that it had so much significance in light of what happened.  I wore those angel earrings at my mom’s funeral.  She is an angel now, and I have an angel pendant to wear and keep her close to me.  Neither of us expected that gift to have such meaning.   God planned that, too.

God also made sure all of my sisters got together and talked, and made up, before it was too late.  We had a family meeting that brought us all together.  It was a meeting to discuss Mom going back to Iowa to live with my sister Annie.  That didn’t happen, but we did come together, finally, and Mom got to see all of her girls in one day.   We were also together and loved and comforted each other as we loved and comforted our mom when she was dying.  I’m so very thankful for that.  God made that happen. 

Here is a painting I did for my mom.

The day before our family meeting I was sitting with my mom on the back patio and looked up to the sky and saw a cloud in the shape of a heart.  It gave me a comforting feeling and mom and I enjoyed that sight.  I thought it was a sign that everything was going to be alright, that God was looking out for my mom and my family.  Instead, that was another sign that Mom was going to be leaving us soon. 

God knew our mom was going to die.  He didn’t plan her death to happen the way it did but He knew she was going to die on July 9, 2013.  We don’t have answers as to why, but maybe God saw that Mom had endured enough with her disease, and her daughters had suffered enough, too.  He doesn’t give us more than we can bear, but at times I felt like He almost did.  I realized life does go on, even after losing your mom.  It feels different, and I can’t explain it.  I am still grieving.  I do feel my mom’s presence, even if I can’t see her or talk to her the way we used to.  I have another angel looking out for me and for my family.   She is with me always.  I told her to show us signs that she is around us and I will be looking for her.  She is all around me.  I feel her, I talk to her, and she puts her hand on me when I cry for her.  This says it all right here...

This picture was taken many years ago.  My grandma is on the left and my mom is on the right.  Two beautiful angels.  

Memories are what I hold on to.  I am finding, as so many of you already know, that those memories are what keep us moving forward.  I have a lifetime of memories to carry me through, until one day I see my mom again in Heaven.   Now, my mom is in Heaven with her mom.  She is also with my dad and my grandparents and other family members who have passed on before us.  She has peace.  We have memories.  Life will go on.  I will make my life as beautiful as I can, for her and for the rest of my family.