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Archive for February, 2012

I know I was not the easiest child growing up. I was very dramatic and emotional giving my parents and other care takers a very hard time. I suppose that’s pretty normal as I turned out just fine. (Cough) Even though my step-daughter is not my blood child, she sure acts like one.

I was battling strep-throat, bronchitis, and a sinus infection all at the same time and not feeling too hot. It was that time of the evening where my step-daughter needed to take a bath and clean her room. She was only 7 and in the first grade, but she was accustomed to this routine. That’s when it all started.

The screaming began and I tried my hardest to ignore it, hoping it would stop like it usually did when she finally realized she wasn’t getting her way. But it didn’t. The screaming kept on for 45 minutes. I had her sit in various places around the house, hoping it would discourage her from screaming if she had to sit somewhere random until she stopped. It didn’t work.

After an hour, I started to get upset. Despite my years of experience working with young children and my education background, I started screaming right back at her. It was more like muffled scratchy sounds from lack of a voice, but I screamed as hard as I could telling her to stop screaming or I was going to lose it. Not my proudest moment.

As the poor child started screaming more, I called my mom in between painful sobs. Upon answering the phone my mom could hear her screaming grandchild and her sobbing daughter on the phone. She rushed right over. My mom gave her a bath and helped her clean her room, while I cried myself to sleep on the couch.

What would the world be like without mothers?

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Having a pet is like having a child. I have latched on to my 100 lb dog Molly, as if she were my child. When someone I love is injured and in pain, I get really concerned. This includes my pets. After a long relaxing walk with Molly, I noticed blood on the floor and blanket. Molly had broken one of her back toenails very far back and it was bleeding everywhere.

After watching my mom groom for over 15 years, I picked up on a few things. For instance, when a dog’s toenail is bleeding it means their quick is exposed. It’s the equivalent of a person losing a fingernail and their bloody skin is showing. It’s very painful for humans and dogs.

I knew from experience that I needed to stop the bleeding by placing a powder like substance on it like my mom used to use when she accidentally clipped a dog’s toenail a little too far, which was not often. After a speedy search on the internet, I found a vet recommending flour. I doused Molly’s paw in the flour packing it on to her toenail. She really enjoyed licking the flour straight out of the bowl giving her a white face. I also knew that I needed to keep her from licking the wound. I placed one of my husband’s white socks over her leg, loosely taped it around her haunch, and sat with her for hours.

My husband chuckled at me because I kept talking to her and petting her. She was in a lot of pain and I felt like it was my fault.

“My mom would be disappointed in me,” I told my husband.

“Why do you say that? It’s not your fault Molly broke her toenail.”

“Yes it is. I should have had them trimmed a long time ago.”

It’s true. Her nails were too long. She slid all over the concrete floors in the basement. The long walk I thought was relaxing was actually causing pain to Molly’s feet as it fractured her toenail. I should have picked up on her slowing down at the end. She usually slows her pace a little about half way through, but she was much unmotivated this time.

My mom would have lectured me on the importance of keeping her nails trimmed. The problem is her nails are black and very thick. It requires a special tool called a drimal to file down her toenails. I always went to my mom’s grooming shop to borrow her tool while she groomed and caught up with my life. But, she isn’t here anymore, and I don’t have her drimal.

After a few hour stay at the animal hospital, she was all fixed up. They sedated her long enough to clean her wound and trim her nails. She slept most of the day while I lay beside her in the bed, wishing my mom was here to help me take care of her.

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It happened again. Another nightmare; only this time it involved my precious dog Molly. She is a 100lb Rhodesian ridgeback who is nothing but all baby with long muscular lanky arms and legs. In my dream I was trying to carry her up a tall wooden ladder. I was trying to pull her into a tree house when she slipped from my hands and fell to the leaf covered ground. I climbed down the ladder and found her okay, so I tried to carry her up the ladder again! This time, she slipped out of my hands, hit the ground with a thud, but didn’t move. By the time I got to her, she wasn’t breathing. I actually performed mouth to mouth and CPR on my 100lb dog. She never came back. I woke up in screams, called for my Molly, and let her sleep the rest of the morning with me.

 
I still can’t shake the dream, so I decided to look it up. Dreaming about a dead dog illustrates a loss of a close loved one. Interesting.

 
My emotions when my dog died in my dream were really my emotions from my mom’s death. I watched her body slowly stop working, but I did not watch her take her last breath. I wanted to be there, but it didn’t work out that way.

Monday, August 8th, 2011 I drove 30 minutes to the family home to visit my mom like I did every day. I hadn’t seen her since Friday, which was our best visit together. Towards the end, my mom didn’t interact with me the same as she had before. When she talked to me, she didn’t look in my eyes the same as she used to. When she listened, she seemed distracted, nor when she laughed, nor coughed; nothing was the same; except for that one day, her best day, and our last best day together. That’s the day we went through her life nestled away in a wooden trunk. The trunk was located right outside the bedroom door, along the wall, at the foot of the stairs. Mom opened the trunk and got out a plastic bag and envelope of pictures for us to look at. We crawled on top of her bed in the sunny bedroom, my mom lying on her side going through pictures and me sitting in the middle Indian style going through pictures. Every so often I would stop and say, “MOM! You look so beautiful! Look at your complexion! You’re not even wearing any make up! Your hair, your smile, this picture is gorgeous!”

“You’re making fun of me,” she said with a little pout in her voice and with her lips.

“No Mom, for real, you look amazing,” I’d say wondering if Mom was coming back. She for the first time interacted with me in a “normal” way.

“Normal” for my mom was that she always looked at you when she talked to you. She would normally shake her head in agreement and say, “Yea, I know what you mean.” When she was really trying to figure out what you were saying she would kind of squint her eyes like she was trying to see something far away. At that time she’d usually say, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute.” Sometimes she would act really goofy and sigh as if to say, “I’m trying really hard to understand but I have no clue what you’re talking about!” My mom giggled a lot and always had fun with you when she engaged in conversation. She didn’t just sit there with any emotion; my mom wore her conversations on her face with dramatic eye brows, and other facial expressions.

When I got there on Monday, she had completely changed. She was walking around crying, saying she wanted cereal. My mom’s boyfriend, exhausted from staying up with her all weekend, apparently she wasn’t sleeping, went to bed while I made her a bowl of cookie crisp. One thing I noticed right away was that my mom’s eyes were closed. When she tried to open them, they were just slits. She attempted to eat her cereal and then I attempted to brush her teeth. I giggled at her because she was so helpless and cute. She told me to stop laughing at her and then started to cry. I gave her medicine and helped her to bed. I immediately got on the phone with her home health nurse and told her to come over right away, something was wrong.

While I waited for the nurse, who took a few hours, I read to my mom from the Bible. She cried and moaned while I read Psalms and Proverbs trying to help her find peace so she could rest. At this point she hadn’t slept since very early in the morning. Since the diagnosis mom always took naps throughout the day, so I knew something was wrong because she was so restless she couldn’t sleep. When the nurse finally arrived, mom had just dozed off.

The nurse listened to me describe my mom’s odd behavior giving me medical background on why she was exhibiting this behavior. She had entered the stages of dying. In my mind I thought this would last forever. Mom was so agitated and restless I just couldn’t picture her dying yet. While the nurse took her vitals and tried to calm my mom down again, I called everyone I could to let them know it was getting serious. My aunt from Texas got a plane ticket for the next morning, my great aunt showed up in 30 minutes, I woke my mom’s boyfriend up and had him talk to the nurse, and I called my husband.

My mom’s moans and cries from that day will never leave me. She sounded so miserable. The nurse told me that because her body was so young, 49, that it was going to put up a fight and try to hang on as long as possible. It’s called terminal restlessness. Mom couldn’t calm down no matter how much morphine they gave her. It took a few hours, but finally she did calm down and fell asleep. It was then decided that she needed round the clock care in order to help take some of the stress off the family. It was a welcomed relief. I had done really well taking care of her, making sure she ate, took her medicine, had water in the oxygen machine, and rested. When it came down to the very end, I was so numb I barely could take care of myself.

More family began to show up, so I stepped out to call my pastor. I had brought my mom to church a couple Sundays and she had a long conversation with my pastor about relying on God throughout the journey. She rededicated her life to God two months before she passed away. My pastor remembered her saying that she wanted to be re-baptized. I gave him the address and he told me he would be there in an hour.

While I waited, I paced back and forth in the living room, getting anything the nurse needed. Wet wash cloth, glass of water, schedule of her medication that had been given over the weekend was amongst the few items she needed; even the dreaded kit in the refrigerator. This kit was for emergencies and it housed various types of medication that my mom would need towards the end of her life. It sat in the refrigerator for two weeks before she needed it.

When my pastor arrived, he helped us get her hospital bed in the living room for closer monitoring. Once she was settled, my pastor started the baptism. Because he was unable to perform the baptism in a tub of water, for obvious reasons, he asked for a glass of water. I grabbed a yellow coffee cup that had a giant smiley face printed in black on one side. My pastor began with a prayer, quoted the appropriate scripture and then he dipped his finger in the smiley face water and made a cross on the back of her right hand. My mom moaned and turned her head towards the wall, away from us. Afterwards, we all shared in communion, taking the bread, and drinking the juice. My pastor then had us all make a circle holding hands; I held my mom’s hand and the circle wrapped around until my great aunt touched my mom’s foot. We prayed the most beautiful prayer, wiped our eyes, and rejoiced for what had just occurred. It was the most peaceful baptism I have ever witnessed.

Every couple of hours my mom would sit up on the edge of bed and ask for water. Her mouth was getting very dry. During these times we would try to talk to her, asking her if she recognized us. I knelt down looking up at her and asked, “Mom, do you know who I am?” She smiled and said, “My daughter.”

I stayed the night in the living room, while my grandma slept in the front bedroom, and my mom’s boyfriend slept in the back bedroom. I did not sleep. I sat on the couch, leaning against pillows propped up so I could watch her every breath. My mom’s best-friend is a hospice nurse and she told me to watch how many breaths she took in a minute. If it dipped below 12 it’s getting close. I watched the second hand on my watch click by as I counted her breaths, one… two… three… four… five… six… seven… eight… nine… ten… eleven… twelve, twelve breaths in 60 seconds.

For a solid hour I sat at my mom’s bedside, holding her hand, crying softly in my arms. I did finally manage to fall asleep for two hours only to be awoken by my mom moaning and moving to sit up. The night nurse had left and there would be a couple hours before the next nurse would arrive. Luckily my grandma was awake and was able to help me. My mom complained that her mouth hurt from being so dry, so I gave her wet wash cloth to suck on. With her eyes half open, she took the wash cloth and tried to take a bite out of it. She looked at it, tried to look at me, and then threw it on the floor. “What the hell you given me that for?” We giggled a little and gave her a sip of water.

It’s now Tuesday, August 9th, 2011.

Before everyone got there, I sat on the floor next to my mom and read a letter I wrote her on Friday that she never got the chance to read. At one point I stopped. “Don’t stop. I like to hear your voice,” my mom said. Fighting tears I read her a letter that spoke of my undying love for her and listed out all she had taught me in life. By the end of it my grandma was sobbing and told me that was a wonderful letter.

The new nurse arrived along with my mom’s best friend who happened to know our new nurse because they work together. I was relieved and jumped in the shower. When I got out, it was time to head to the airport over an hour away to pick up my aunt from Texas. I leaned in to my mom and kissed her forehead. “Hang on mom; I’m going to the airport to pick up your sister. I love you so much.” She moaned, moved her head a little; rattling with every breath.

We stopped for gas and smokes and headed towards the airport. The drive felt like an eternity as my mom’s best friend and I tried to laugh and reminisce of old times. She dropped me off at the terminal and circled around while I ran into to find my aunt. I’m so grateful for the experience I have in airports because I was able to locate my aunt’s plane on the big screen, find her gate, and wait patiently for the plane to arrive. I watched through the large glass windows as her plane landed and slowly drove up to the gate. She finally walked through the security doors and into my arms for a long hug. We quickly left.

The whole ride back my aunt kept saying over and over, “I hope she holds on. I want to see her one more time.”

“She was talking and moving around when I left, we will make it in plenty of time,” I reassured her. I truly believed this process was going to take a few days and that I had more time with her.

As we pulled in to the driveway I checked my watch: 3:15pm. I took a little longer getting out of the car; my aunt and my mom’s best friend were walking through the door by the time I got to the porch. I heard a lot of screams causing my heart to beat fast while I held my breath. I rushed through the door thinking my mom was sitting up on the bed hugging my aunt and the screams were joy from seeing each other. But that’s not what the screams were for. The screams were because my mom took her last breath at 3:15 pm.

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