missing mom

My mom’s dog Ellie on her perch keeping watch

For many months now my family has been struggling to understand why my seventy-four-year-old mother was so sick and what we could do to help make her better. She has a somewhat rare form of COPD called bronchietasis, the cause of this illness is not well understood and unfortunately the treatment for it has been limited and unsuccessful. For quite some time we have been walking that heartrending line that those with serious illness and their families must walk, that difficult path where hope and acceptance meet and retreat then meet again. My mother has grown weary of the dance. She has stepped over to acceptance and she is asking us to do the same and so we are going to begin hospice care.

I sit and talk with her about her death now. She wants to know how long it will take. I tell her I don’t know but we will do everything we can to keep her comfortable. She says there are things she wanted to do, get organized. I tell her that she is still here and we can still do them. She says she wanted to write each of her children a goodbye letter. I tell her that she can dictate the words and I’ll write them down for her. She says she wanted to clean out the desk and throw away old bills. I reassure her that my dad will take care of that. She told me that her little dog Ellie is going to miss her and I said, “Yes, you’re right mom, she really is going to miss you.”

I could add a few words of wisdom about now, something about it all being okay because it’s the natural cycle of life, or she’s crossing over to a better place, or she’s had a good long life. And sometimes that is how I feel. But the truth is, most of the time it’s not okay. My mom is dying and any way you look at it…it is simply unacceptable.

*I wrote this post the day before my mother passed away. It’s been two months now and I just came across it while cleaning up my draft files on WordPress. This Saturday we are having a big open house in honor of my mom and I really do look forward to seeing family and old friends we don’t often get to see anymore. I’m still searching for those words of wisdom that will make everthing okay, but the thing is I want to lay my head down on my mother’s lap, feel her stroke my hair gently, and hear them from her.

my mom

That’s my mom Carol and her brand new great-granddaughter, Aryielle. My niece Christy gave birth to her this past Thursday, on Friday my mother celebrated her 73rd birthday, and on Saturday we took her to the ER because she has been having terrible shortness of breath. She has congestive heart failure and is now in the CCU while they try to figure out how they need to treat it. Not one of our better Mother’s Days, although the new baby has brought us all joy, especially my mom. My mother had no history of heart disease but the shortness of breath has been present for some time and she kept thinking maybe she was just getting old, or it was a lung problem like COPD, a condition a doctor once told her she may have. The point I’m trying to make is this, if you or someone you know has been experiencing shortness of breath and made lifestyle adjustments because of it, shortening an evening walk, letting your once perfect garden go to weeds, buying fewer groceries because it’s too hard to carry them in, sleeping on more pillows at night so you can breathe better….go to the doctor and demand to be screened for congestive heart failure. My mom went to the doctor last week but because she didn’t have all the warning signs her family doctor did not catch it. We finally took her to the ER hoping they would figure out what was going on, and thankfully they did. We hear a lot about heart attacks in the media but the onset of congestive heart failure is often insidious, yet just as dangerous to the health of your heart. My mom is having a heart cath today so they can see what might be causing her symptoms. I wouldn’t mind at all if you could send some prayers and positive energy our way.