Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Thoughts on Death


Ever since Saturday evening at the wedding, my mother and death have been forthmost in my mind. Tuesday, a week ago, mom broke her foot. From there it has been a slippery slope to this evening and my preoccupation with thoughts of death. One moment Don and I are at a wedding celebrating one of life's great joys and the next we are in ER where my mother lies lethargic and unresponsive. The Tylenal 3 has made her lethargic, she isn't eating, she isn't getting enough fluids, she has become dehydrated and has developed renal problems and a bladder infection. Taken separately, these are not big things but in the body of an 85 year old, three years post stroke woman, these are very big things.

In three days she has gone from non-responsive, to alert, to weeping like a helpless child, to sleeping non-stop, to enduring crashing red blood cell levels. As my brother, David, and I stand in the hallway talking with her doctor, we find ourselves agreeing to blood transfusions and exams to detect internal bleeding. All I can think of is my father, his harsh cancer, his nine years of remission, and then relapse and fast decline and death in January 2001.

Back then I was focused on my mother, post-death responsiblities, my devastated 14 year old daughter, and my 19 year old stoic son. The details of putting a life to rest aren't easy and by the time all of this was behind me, a year had passed by. Focusing on my own grief didn't seem to matter anymore. I had gotten through this terrible year. Little did I know that that year would only be a preview of heartaches to come.

When a parent suffers a stroke, you are going to lose a big part of that person without any promise of what parts will come back whole and functional. For mom it was her loss of speech. She has the capacity to understand but to respond is an impossibly hard struggle. When you are 85 and have limited strength reserves, the effort to communicate becomes monumental. Every task that she performs for herself is done with great care and deliberation. There is no such thing as fast movement anymore. I have found that I have lost something fundamentally important with my mother's stroke. Our roles have been reversed and I find myself turning to the behaviors that worked for me as I reared our children only now instead of ushering my children toward life, I am holding her hand and walking with her on her last journey.

When I think of my father's suffering and swift release from life, I'm grateful, but then I can't help but wonder why mom has to struggle so with life when she is so clearly ready to leave it. I ask God "Why". As a Believer, I think that God must have her here for a purpose but I think the lesson isn't for her but for me. Am I getting the lesson, God? What is the lesson, God? Will learning the lesson release her, God? I wonder how much longer a very tired body can support a flagging spirit. Somehow, I think it is too long.

21 comments:

Beth said...

Oh Annie,,I cried on this post. She looks so sweet! I know one day I will walk the same path with my mother.It is hard to understand God's plans sometimes. I struggle every day with "whys". You are in my thoughts and in my prayers.

Ally Bean said...

Both of my parents are long gone. I was 15 my dad died and 39 when my mother died. What I learned was that they needed to believe that I was okay before they'd move on.

I don't know if it's a specific message from God that you're waiting for or just the knowledge that you'll be okay. And when you assimilate that knowledge, you're mother will sense it and be comfortable about leaving you behind.

At least that was my experience. For what it's worth.

You are in my prayers.

trailbee said...

I feel overwhelmed by a deep sadness. I moved to CA in '62 during my mom's illness, with her blessings, knowing it was terminal, and could not return for her last days; didn't even know when those last days were occurring. My dad had died during the war in 1945, and I had met him only one time. I feel like a hollow, unfinished person. Maybe this is just the way of living life, where there are no short cuts. For everyone it is going to be different, even the pain and often the guilt. I remember meeting your mother at church during the reaffirmation of your wedding vows with Don. Smiling, spry, laughing, everywhere at once. Hugs, Anne.

vicci said...

Just know Annie...you are in my prayers...please call me if you would like to talk...I think of death everyday..especially with my Dad being 90..every time I walk into his bedroom..I hold my breath..and say please God..let him be alright! Sometimes I stand in the doorway and just look to see if he is breathing...(like we use to do with our babies)...everything tends to go back to infancy...

pepektheassassin said...

I'm so sorry.

Tammy said...

>>>Annie<<< I'm sorry for your pain. I really enjoyed meeting your mom. She still had a light in her eyes :)

God's peace to you all!

Colorsonmymind said...

I am sorry too Annie. This must be so hard on all of you....

my heart and spirit send you love and comfort.
XOXO

Golden Granny said...

Annie, my prayers are with you. I faced the same thing with my favorite brother inlaw 2 years ago. I asked the same question to God. Why? God has a purpose and I we are not to question him as to what that pupose is for letting our love ones to linger and suffer so. Just be strong and trust Gods Will....Love Lottie

hazzbuzz said...

I am sorry Annie, that's really hard, it seems you have put such a lot into your Mom's life and that will never change. Take care, we'll be thinking of you.
Bridget

Cate said...

I am so moved by your post, Annie. I am so sorry for what you are going through--may you find comfort and answers, my friend.

xo

Daisy Lupin said...

I am so sorry about this Annie. Yes it is so hard when roles get reversed. My mother is 81 and virtually housebound. Although her mind is still sharp, I have noticed how easily she gets flustered by little everyday things and how she worries about nothing. I feel I have to deal with her as I dealt with my own children when they were growing up. It is a very strange thing to have to do isn't it? Thinking of you at this sad time. Love xx

paris parfait said...

Annie, so sorry to read about your mom's health woes. What a terrible predicament! I know this is a difficult time for you and your family. Just know that you and your mom are in my thoughts and prayers. Stay strong, dear heart! Tara xo

Jennifer said...

I'm thinking of you...

Autrice DelDrago said...

Oh (((Annie))) I wish I could be there to hug you in person.

Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. I can't even begin to imagine the pain you are feeling, and the anxiety as you sit helplessly beside her. She knows you're there, Annie. Even if she seems out of it from the meds and her medical condition, she knows in her heart that her girl is there for her.

Take comfort in God. Remember Psalm 121.

We don't know why things have to happen, or why good people suffer, but God does not allow suffering in life as a punishment for us. At times it is a brutal test of our faith. But He's there for you, and her, and we are all here for you in support and love.

Love to you,

Toni

Janet said...

I haven't been reading many blogs the last couple of days so I'm late responding to this entry. I lost my mom many years ago. I can sympathize with what you are going through. It isn't easy. My thoughts are with you, and hopefully you will find the answers you need. Hug the ones you love a little tighter and make sure to tell them how much you love them.

susanna said...

I can't imagine how hard these past few days have been for you and your mom and your family. Wish I could give you a big hug through our computers.

Kali said...

Thinking of you Dear Annie xox

ms*robyn said...

Annie - I have been praying for your mum - I will add her to the prayer blog sometime today. blessings to her xoxo

Rosa said...

My mom is almost 83 and she moved in with us two years ago. I too am finding myself helping her with the "easy" things, cutting meat, walking and searching for "that" word. It is difficult at times and some days absolutely tiring. But, I thank God that she is with us and is still healthy. I send prayers to you and your family. You are a good daughter and you know she will watch over you again one day.

Deb said...

Oh Annie, I can feel your pain. It is an unfortunate part of so many of our lives now - caring for the parents that once cared for us. I pray for whatever peace and comfort you and your Mom can find in these difficult days ahead.

Tongue in Cheek Antiques said...

Annie, I am sorry for you, I feel your tender sadness, I understand what you are going through and my compassion holds you tight!