I know it isn’t Sunday and I don’t usually blog this frequently, but this is tugging at my heart and I think I just need to get it out.
Momma was initially diagnosed with lung cancer back in the fall of 2009. This was very unexpected, especially considering she NEVER smoked and neither did anyone in our household. Anyway, she was scheduled for surgery and they removed the lobe of her left lung. It was a tough surgery and she was in extreme pain afterwards. But the good news…The surgeon said they got all of the cancer and she would NOT have to undergo chemo or radiation! Nonetheless, she was, of course, as insurance demands, kept the minimum amount of time in the hospital and came home sooner than what was probably healthy. Within a few days, she was running a fever and feeling really bad. She reluctantly went back into the hospital and apparently, an infection had taken residence in the empty space where that part of of lung that was removed had been. It was determined that another surgery would be necessary…The surgeon said that happens sometimes and they needed to fill in that empty cavity. They would do that by cutting a tendon in her back and wrapping it around the front to fill in this space. As bad as that sounds…it was much worse.
The surgery was very tedious and long. And when she finally got out, she was in ICU, of course, and was put on a ventilator, with IV fluids, tube feeding, and a catheter. She had so many tubes and wires, and bags, and buzzers, and bells. And even with major pain medication, she was in severe pain and suffering greatly. The physicians were not overly encouraging that she was going to make it. She fought the vent and would moan in pain when she moved or was moved. It was so hard to watch her go through this and it continued for several days. Finally, she came off the vent, but she had a very large wound to heal and she wound up being diagnosed with MRSA. She also went through a period of having hallucinations and significant depression. She was such a trooper, but she just wanted to come home so badly. We tried to get to Evansville to see her as often as we could. She was still in the hospital on Thanksgiving, which was really hard for her because she always hosted our holiday gatherings. I remember doing it, so we kept tradition alive and making her a big plate of her favorites, especially dessert, and delivering it to her and spending Thanksgiving evening with her at the hospital. But even as much as she wanted to come home, she was her same sweet self and all of the nurses and aides went on about what a good patient she was and what a trooper she had been. She wasn’t one to complain and always thanked the staff for taking care of her. And they took very good care of her.
She finally came home just a little before Christmas, but was still very weak and not feeling that well yet. I Christmas shopped for her…for the grandkids and other family members and my neice, Skylar, and Brad and I had a gift-wrapping bonanza to help her out because everything had to be wrapped or it just wouldn’t be like Christmas. She reluctantly agreed that it would be best if we had our family celebration at our house this year. She continued to get better, but never fully bounced back, in my opinion. And she was so tiny.
So fast forward to June 2014….As we sat in the oncologist office together, holding hands, awaiting news we really didn’t want to hear. But there it was. Her cancer had returned, but it wasn’t isolated to her lungs. During a PET scan, it was determined that she had a few areas of concern…one being her lower back, which had been causing her a lot of pain. The new oncologist was a female and she was very kind, but very realistic, and suggested that Momma was not really strong enough to do anything extremely aggressive or radical to fight this returning cancer, so she said her suggestion would be to use a newer chemo pill that had been noted to have less side effects and could be stopped once it was started, if it started causing problems. She said she would recommend a little radiation to hit the spots that were causing her the pain, but told Momma she felt like her quality of life would be much better by going this route and that basically, the cancer could not really be “cured”. Momma asked the hard question. “How long do I have?” The oncologist said that if they followed the protocol she suggested, she should have at least 6-8 months, and again stressed that her quality of life should be much better by going with this course of treatment. So Momma said “okay”…She told the oncologist that she was going through a divorce and enjoying her life right now, so she didn’t want to be spending her time in a hospital.
As we drove home, Momma was pretty quiet, as I expected. I asked her if she was scared and she said she was. I told her I was too, but that we would just try to make the best of it and that if there were things she wanted to do, now would be the time. She said she wanted to get her divorce over with. I told her we would update her attorney and try to get it moving along faster. We had already had to postpone a couple of appointments and such because she had become ill.
So, within a few days, she was scheduled to start radiation the following week on the spot in her back that was causing her pain. She had the first two sessions and she seemed to do very well. By the time she had the third one, she started having some nausea. We let her oncologist know and she prescribed some medication for her to hopefully help with that side effect. It did seem to help a little bit and she went through with a few more scheduled appointments and the nausea worsened and I could see Momma getting weaker. I hired one of my friends who was a nurse to come in and sit with Momma on the days that Brad, my younger brother and I had to work.
The Fourth of July that year was on a Friday. We stayed home and had some family and friends to our home to just hang out by the pool and relax. Momma got up that morning, but said she still didn’t feel well and didn’t want anything to eat. She hadn’t eaten since a little bit of food the day before. She laid down in the family room on the loveseat. Our rescue Boxer, Milo, laid down on the floor right in front of the loveseat and basically did not move away from her. A little later when she needed to go to the bathroom, she said her legs were too weak to work right. We called around and borrowed a wheelchair from a friend and to help her. She was weak, but more worrisome was that she was starting to seem a little disoriented. I had seen this happen to her before when she had gotten dehydrated and her potassium level had gotten very low. Brad, my younger brother and I talked and decided to talk with her about going to the Emergency Room. I figured she would fight us on it a little bit, but she actually agreed that it was probably a good idea, but she didn’t want to be any trouble…That was my Momma. She never wanted to inconvenience others. We asked her if she wanted us to call an ambulance and she did say she would rather we took her if that was okay. So we pulled the car up to the back deck and Brad and my younger brother, who was staying with us, physically helped her into the car. My brother and I accompanied Momma to the the hospital in Evansville.
Keep in mind that it was the Fourth of July, on a Friday evening…the beginning of a long holiday weekend. So we get to the hospital and sign Momma in and as expected, the place was pretty busy. I felt she was given some priority, but we still had to wait a while. So when she finally got to go back to be seen by a physician, my brother and I waited out in the hall while the doctor examined her. He came out of the exam room and said she was very dehydrated and was really sick, and he had noted in her record that she had recurring cancer. He then asked us if we wanted her to be a DNR–My brother asked what he meant, and I told him that meant “Do Not Recusitate”. I asked the doctor what Momma had said about it. And he then rudely told me that she was not able to make that decision. I told the doctor that Momma was an adult and that she was her own guardian and that was her decision to make. He reiterated that she was not in a condition to make that decision, so we needed to. I told him to wait right here and we would go ask her what she wanted.
So we went in to Momma’s exam room and she was obviously not feeling well, but still knew who we were and that we were there. She was able to see us and talk to us. I told her that the doctor that had checked her had asked us if she wanted to be a DNR. She asked what that meant and I told her it would mean that if her heart were to stop, and/or she stopped breathing, that the doctors and nurses would not perform CPR. In other words that would just let her pass. She didn’t say anything for a minute and I wasn’t sure what she was going to say. And then she looked at us like we were crazy and said, and I quote….”Well no! I don’t want to die yet!” That was all my little brother and I needed to hear. We told her we would let the doctor know her wishes. So we told him we had talked to her and she did NOT want to be a DNR, so we asked that they please do everything they could for her. He said okay and they started an IV of potassium, and said they would also try to find something that would work on her nausea.
We stayed with her until she got settled into a regular room and we got a report from her nurses that they would be monitoring her regularly and would give her something to help her rest and sleep. We drove back home that night. I called and checked on her before I went to bed and they said she was sleeping and stable.
So the next morning, Brad and I drove back to the hospital and found that Momma still hadn’t eaten anything and she still said she felt very nauseous. We asked what was going to be done about this and stressed that she hadn’t really eaten anything since Thursday morning. Finally later in the day, I asked to talk to an advocate because we didn’t feel they were doing everything that could be done. At that point, it was agreed upon to get a tube feeding going for nutrition and the doctor told Brad that he felt when they got some nutrition going that it would make a big difference and he anticipated that she would likely be ready to go back home by Tuesday. The feeding tube was to be put in on Sunday morning. So we stayed until bedtime and then we came home and told them we would be back first thing in the morning so we would be there while they were doing that procedure.
So Brad and I went back to the hospital Sunday morning and later in the morning, they proceeded to put in the feeding tube. Momma was obviously not feeling well, but was still coherent and knew us and was communicating with us and the nurses and aides, as well as some other family and friends that came by. On Sunday afternoon, my dad’s two neices, who were at least in their 60’s, came to the hospital. They were coming through the waiting room toward Momma’s room as Brad and I were going out to get some lunch. They asked us how Momma was and we told them a very shortened version of what had happened between her and dad and that her cancer had returned and they said they had no idea that my father had tried to shoot her or any of this. They told us they had only been to see my father once and that was to take him some food. They also said they didn’t condone anything like that and the younger one mentioned that was why she had left one of her husbands. And the other said that was why her daughter had left her husband. They also said they had always loved my Momma and they wouldn’t want her to go through that. Still…Something just didn’t feel right, as we knew that they had been up to my father’s on a few occasions because we lived next door and we had seen them there. We had even seen their mother, his older sister (the one he didn’t talk to for 45 years because her son told me I was adopted at the beach in Florida) in the yard up at my father’s house one day. These neices had not called or stopped by our house to check on Momma since she had left my dad. So we followed them back in the room. They basically just walked in and seen that she was awake, but obviously really was ill. It was very strange because they didn’t really bother her or talk to her, and then they left.
Brad and I stayed until bedtime and Momma seemed to be resting pretty peacefully. We decided to go home and go to bed.
We drove back early in the morning and Momma’s best friend, Sue, had also come down early too. When we got there, we learned that Momma had somehow pulled her feeding tube out in her sleep during the night. We questioned whether they would be putting it back in and they said they would, but were waiting for a particular physician to come in to do so. After checking on Momma and learning that Sue was there with me, Brad decided to head back home so that he could get back to his mowing business. Sue told me I could ride home with her.
About a half an hour later, one of the nurses came in and told us that my father was in the waiting room on the floor we were on and said he was here to see your Momma, and there was three women with him. (We had told them when Momma was admitted that she was in the process of a nasty divorce and she had reportedly been in an abusive situation. We had also let them know Momma, and Brad and I, and my younger brother had protective orders against my father.) Momma got panicked, and said she did not want to see him and they told her that was fine….They would tell him he couuldn’t come back. We told them we were very nervous about them being there because if it was the two neices with him who were here yesterday, they knew where Momma’s room was. We also let them know that he had reportedly threatened to kill her. The Social Worker came in and talked to us and told us they had decided to be proactive and said they were going to move Momma to a new room….so this was done. In the meantime, I called Brad, who was almost back home and told him I felt like he needed to come back to the hospital because my father was in the hospital and was trying to get back to see Momma. He said he would be back as soon as he could get there! Momma was visibly shaken and to be honest, so were Sue and I…Just knowing my father was there in the building was unnerving.
In the midst of all of this, my neice, Chance, who is the daughter of my older brother, and her mom, who was my sister-in-law at one time, came in to see Momma. We told them what was going on with my father showing up and they couldn’t believe it!! They also confirmed that they saw him in the waiting room and he was with the two nieces who were there the day before, plus another niece of his. The Social Worker came back in and said they were ready to move her to a different room on a different floor.
So she had to go through this move and stress and worry. We all stayed with her. I called Brad to let him know where she had been moved to, so he returned shortly thereafter. And even though the hospital staff wasn’t supposed to tell my father where Momma had been moved to, they somehow found out and my father and two of the nieces were in the waiting room on that floor when he returned. The other niece was leaving Momma’s room when Brad was coming back in. Brad said that my father was on the phone in a heated conversation when he came through the waiting room, but just figured he was arguing aand carrying on about not being allowed back to see Momma.
We asked the nurses when they were going to put Momma’s feeding tube back in as it was getting later in the day. They said they were waiting for a certain doctor who was very skilled at placing those tubes to come back in to do the procedure. I was aggrevated that they weren’t taking care of getting her nutrition going more quickly because she was obviously getting weaker, more lethargic, and less responsive. Momma’s friend, Sue, my niece, Chance, and her mother stayed, as did Brad. My nephew, Cody, Chance’s brother, also arrived. We all vowed to watch over Momma and to not leave her alone so my father and these neices couldn’t bother her. It was nerve-racking to put it mildly. We were all on pins and needles and kind of in disbelief at what was happening. And Brad and I felt particularly betrayed by the two neices we had talked with the day before, as we felt like they had just been there to spy and get information to take back to my father! I was infuriated with them, to say the least!
At around 5 pm, the doctor and social worker came back in to let us know that my father had provided them with a “Living Will” dated several years back and signed by Momma and him. My father had evidently insisted that it be followed since they were still, in fact, married. Reportedly, the hospital’s legal department had reviewed it and decided that they had to honor it because they were still legally married. We were in total and complete shock…How could this possibly be?? By this time, Momma was weaker and more out of it, so they didn’t feel she was capable of making a decision. We asked what other recourse we had and they said we could petition the court for temporary emergency guardianship, but for now, they were bound to follow the “Living Will” my father provided. I was literally physically sick, but immediately called Momma’s attorney’s office. But guess what, it was now after hours…And we got the answering machine?! So we left an urgent message for him to call us the minute he got it.
In the meantime, the procedure to re-insert the feeding tube was cancelled. The IV fluids were stopped, as well as anything else she was getting through an IV, and all of Momma’s medications, except for pain relief were stopped, per this order. So no nutrition and no fluids and none of her regular medications….You can’t even imagine how frightening this was? My Momma was on a lot of medications, including anti-anxiety medication, medication for her Multiple Sclerosis, a blood thinner to reduce the risk of a stroke, etc., etc. She took several medications, so was she not only not going to get them, she was also probably going to experience some withdrawal symptoms. The hospital staff did finally ask that my father and these nieces leave the premises. At this point we weren’t sure Momma understood what was happening, as she was getting weaker. We just tried to love her and reassure her that we wouldn’t leave her.
Needless to say, we watched Momma go downhill pretty quickly. Her friend, Sue and I stayed overnight with her. Chance and her Mother left in disbelief, but Cody stayed with Sue and me for quite a while longer. Brad went home because he did not want our son to be there alone with my father next door. Later that evening, my older brother, who had been spending a lot of time at my father’s showed up and took a seat by Momma and started talking to her and doing some sort of chanting or something. She wasn’t really responding. But it seemed to be upsetting to her, so Sue and I told him so and, he stayed for a little while longer and then he left.
Sue and I slept on the sofa and in the recliner and did not leave Momma alone for a minute. I don’t think either of us slept a wink. I had called her family and friends so I could let them know what was going on. The next morning, Brad returned early and we heard from Momma’s attorney and told him what had happened and what we wanted to do and he agreed to draw up the emergency guardianship paperwork and bring it down to the hospital for us to sign so we didn’t have to leave her. In the meantime, Momma was kind of in and out of it, as she was getting strong pain relief. More of her grandkids arrived. My son and daughter and son-in-law and grandsons came in. My younger brother brought his kids back in. My neice Gracie from Tennessee came up and she was going to stay with us. Cody and Chance came back. And one of my best friends since childhood came to be with me too. It was comforting having them there. Momma (MeMe and Ma to most of the younger ones) was able to talk to them and still knew everyone when they came in, but kind of drifted in and out due to the pain meds given in her IV. She got lots of hugs and kisses and she seemed to be loving that.
Around noon or 1 pm, Momma’s attorney showed up with the Temporary Emergency Guardianship Papers to get Brad’s and my signatures. He explained to us that it would give us the authority to make medical decisions on her behalf and that if needed, it would give us the authority to make her final arrangements. Wow. Her final arrangements….That was definitely a trigger for me, and I temporarily lost it. No! We did not need to make final arrangements…We were going to get her the treatment she needed! But nevertheless, we signed the papers. The Attorney said that he had included a provision that my father would be able to see my Momma in the hospital if it became imminent that she was going to pass. Brad and I argued that we did not like it, but he said he felt it would help it get approved and signed by the judge. So he rushed off with it to take it an hour away to the courthouse in the county we all resided and to try to get it signed by the Judge.
My head was now spinning…Final arrangements?? What the hell?? No…This can’t be happening, I told myself!! I had prayed so many prayers for Momma to get better and for this nightmare to end. I was in tears and so exhausted. And I felt so defeated. And stupid. Why hadn’t I anticipated my father doing something like this?? I was so determined to allow Momma to make her own decisions and not be controlled by someone else that I wasn’t thinking that by encouraging her independence and choices, I was allowing her to be vulnerable to the evil. Brad was right there trying to calm me down and bring me back to the moment. He asked if Momma and I had talked about her arrangements and I told him we had briefly, in the car one day. I told him I had gently asked her if she had given any thought about her arrangements and she had said “Not really.” I remembered telling her I hated to bring it up, but again, I told her I wanted her to have a choice about where she was laid to rest….That it was her decision. It was not a comfortable conversation, but after she thought about it a few minutes, she said she knew for sure she didn’t want to be buried with my father at the cemetary in their hometown. And she said she wanted her funeral in the town where we had lived. She got real quiet and I knew that she was thinking about dying and it was making her sad, so I didn’t press it any further and I figured we could talk about it more later. After all, she was supposed to have 6-8 months, so there would be time. And now it seemed that maybe there wouldn’t be?!
We went back up to the room with Momma and just sat with her. Her friend, Sue, was still there and so was Gracie, Chance and Cody. Momma was sleeping a lot and we felt if she was sleeping, she was at least maybe not in such discomfort. She would briefly wake up and would tell us she was thirsty and that her lips were so very dry. We let the nurse know and they said they couldn’t give her liquids, but they could get her some lip balm. It was unbearable to not be able to give her a drink of water. Obviously, as she became more dehydrated, she was more disoriented and less responsive.
Around 4 pm, Momma’s attorney called to let us know the Judge has signed the temporary emergency guardianship order, but that the court offices had already closed so the order wouldn’t be processed until the following morning. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing?? We needed this now! However, we were not going to get it till morning. He said we should have it just shortly after the courthouse opened on Wednesday morning. Oh it was going to be a long night?! Gracie, Chance and Cody really were troopers and stayed for a good while longer, especially Cody. They all LOVED my Momma…My older brother had basically abandoned all of them when they were very young and they fortunately got to spend time at my parents and Momma was always more than willing to babysit or have grandchildren stay with her ANY time. Brad went home to take care of our dogs and Sue and I spent the night again. Momma didn’t sleep as well on this night and we could hear her having some difficulty breathing and she would occasionally sigh or faintly moan. It was absolutely heart-wrenching. My older brother had showed up again earlier that evening and was once again repeating some chants or something sitting by Momma. He stayed for a while and then he left.
Sue and I barely slept again, and were up early. Brad came back first thing. Momma seemed more out of it this morning and seemed very restless. At a few minutes after 8 am, we were told there was a fax for us. We got it! And it was the temporary emergency guardianship order! And it gave Brad and I the authority to make medical decisions on Momma’s behalf. We asked for the doctor and social worker to be paged so we could talk to them. They came in and we showed them the signed order and told them we wanted them to do whatever they could to save Momma and gave them permission to restart her fluids and meds and to get the feeding tube re-inserted.
I was in no way prepared for their response…They explained that Momma’s internal systems had already started shutting down. And that IF they restarted all life-saving measures, that it would cause her extreme discomfort and pain AND that it would be unlikely that it would be successful. I was totally and completely crushed at this very moment. I was trying to be strong and professional, but inside, my heart was breaking into a million tiny pieces and I pushed back the bile in my throat. I managed to tell them that Brad and I needed a few minutes to talk. We were both crying by this time and so was Sue. We decided we could NOT put her through any more pain and suffering than she had already been through and told the doctor and social worker what we had decided. They were very kind and said they understood what an awful decision that was to have to make, but they felt like we had made a wise decision and were doing the most humane and loving thing we could do at this point. They promised that they would do everything the could to keep her as comfortable as they possibly could with pain relief medication. They suggested we call in anyone who might want to see her….
I was beside myself and really just in shock, but there were tasks to do. Sue called a few of Momma’s closest friends. Brad and I called some of Momma’s family including my younger brother, her remaining siblings, including her sister in Henderson and her brother and sister-in-law in Florida, and her nephew so he could inform her other brother; however, he was in a nursing home and had Alzheimer’s. Brad let his family members know. I let my friends know and a few people that I worked with, as well. We also contacted the Pastor where Momma and I had been going to church.
As this day went on, some of Momma’s friends visited…One in particular still sticks out in my mind. It was a neighbor who lived close by. Momma was mostly just sleeping by this time, but she would grimace or moan or groan occasionally. It was painful to watch. Anyway, when this neighbor lady, who is one of the kindest, most Christian- like ladies, I know, asked what had happened and we told her, she said “Wow, your father is killing her…He is going to make sure she doesn’t make it out of this hospital!” I said “Yes, it would appear so.” She just hugged me and Brad and she held my Momma’s hand in hers and she just cried. It was about more than I could take. One of Momma’s other best friends came in and said she was so very sorry about what was happening. We told her about the temporary guardianship order and let her know that we would be making her arrangements. I told her about the conversation I had with Momma about her NOT wanting to be buried by my father. I asked her if Momma had said anything to her about making arrangements? She said that she hadn’t directly, but that when the two of them would come to Evansville, they often visited the cemetery where Momma’s parents were buried and that Momma had always commented about what a nice cemetery that was. She went on to say that she felt that would be where Momma would want to be. Sue thought that was an excellent idea. So after most of Momma’s visitors left, Sue and I told Brad that we were going to go check out that cemetery and see if they had a plot available and get it purchased, if he would stay with Momma. Cody, Chance and Graceie were back there again too. Momma was really mostly out of it.
So, Momma’s best friend and I went to the cemetery which wasn’t far from the hospital and visited the office for some help. We let them know where her parents were buried and told them we would like something within close proximity, but preferred that it be across the road, where she could have an upright stone, rather than a flat one, and if possible, the shade would be nice as she never really liked sitting in the sun. He said there were fewer “single” plots available, but that there definitely were some and we were welcome to take a look at them. He showed us three or four and then he showed us THE one….I knew that was it as soon as I saw it. It was under this big beautiful shade tree and just down the hill from her parents. I asked if there were any empty single plots in close proximity to it? I wanted to make certain that my father couldn’t come in and buy a plot close to this one…Because after what had happened in the past few months, absolutely NOTHING would surprise me…Well, until later. That’s another blog for later. There was nothing else available around it, so I told the person who was showing them to us that I wanted to purchase it for her. So we went back up to the office and completed the paperwork and as sad as it seemed to me, I felt a little bit of…relief. Very bittersweet relief, but at least I felt like I could protect her from my father by not allowing him to insist she be laid to rest with him. It was still unbelievable to me that she was actually dying…right now. I just couldn’t wrap my head around how this could be happening…It seemed like a horrible nightmare and I kept praying I would wake up soon. But that didn’t happen.
We went back to the hospital. Brad was still there and so was Cody, and Gracie. Sue came back with me too. I remember as we walked into the room how so very tiny and fragile Momma looked. It was so heartbreaking. And I felt so helpless…There was nothing I could do but to keep praying. And ask others to pray for her too. Brad said he was going to go on home and take care of the dogs, but for us to call if we needed anything and he would come back. We took turns going to get food in the cafeteria because we didn’t want to leave Momma alone. We told the kids they might as well go home and get some rest…I knew they were exhausted too. They said they would be back tomorrow. And they hugged and kissed Momma and Sue and me before they left.
A short time later, my cell phone rang and it was an Evansville number that I did not have in my address book or recognize, but I answered it anyway. It was KAY Jewelers in the local mall. Momma’s ring was in. Wow. Momma’s ring. I had forgotten all about it?! After she had been diagnosed with her cancer returning and after one of her doctor appointments, we had stopped at the mall to pick up something. She was sitting in the cafe court with her friend, Sue. I had picked out a Levian diamond ring for her that was just beautiful and purchased it. I took it to her and said it was sooooooo beautiful, but, of course, wanted to know how much it cost? I told her it didn’t matter, because she deserved it. I told her I remembered that she had talked about missing having a ring on her finger since she didn’t want to wear her wedding band anymore and we had talked about how she had never really had a real diamond ring. So she agreed that she loved it. I told her she needed to walk back to the jewelry store with me to have it sized to fit. The salesperson that helped us was so kind and sweet and said it was definitely too big; however, in order to get it to really fit her tiny, tiny finger and go over her knuckle which was swollen and inflamed from arthritis, the salesperson had suggested having a local jeweler put a clasp on it so it would expand to go over her knuckle, but then once fastened, it actually fit her tiny finger perfectly. She didn’t want to have to do anything that was any extra trouble. I told her it wasn’t any extra trouble, so she agreed it would be nice. And so, it was sent to another jeweler for the special sizing. And now, it was back and ready to pick up. I asked Sue if she would stay with Momma that I was going to go pick it up so that she could have it. She agreed…So I did. The salesperson who had originally helped us waited on me and said she hoped my Momma liked it. I told her what had happened and she was genuinely sad to hear it, as she said she remembered what a sweet little lady my Momma was. I told her I was trying to get it to her so she could see it…before…And she understood what I meant and again told me how sorry she was.
When I came back, I was able to wake Momma up enough to tell her I loved her (again) and that her diamond ring was here. I put it on her ring finger on her left hand…where her wedding band had been. And it fit PERFECTLY. And she managed a faint little smile. She was 76 years old. And dying. And she just got her first actual diamond ring. I wished I felt like she was going to get to enjoy having it.
Shortly after, my cousin brought in my Momma’s sister Becky, who lived over in Henderson. She couldn’t believe the difference in Momma from a few weeks earlier when she they had all met up at Cracker Barrel. She talked to Momma and Momma woke enough to acknowledge her and her son. She hugged her and kissed her and hugged me and said she was so sorry this was happening. They didn’t stay very long because she rarely drives anymore and her son had to go work shortly and had to take her back home first. I told her we would keep her updated.
My older brother came in again on this evening and walked over to see Momma. He almost immediately asked where that ring came from and what had happened to her wedding band? I told him that was her new ring and that she didn’t want to wear her wedding ring anymore because she didn’t want to be married to our father any more. He told me I needed to get it back on her and I told him that wasn’t happening. He stormed out into the hall mad and got on the phone. I could hear that was on the phone talking to my father…telling him about the ring. He came back in and sat down by Momma like he had been doing and started his “chanting
and saying things Sue and I couldn’t really understand. It was so strange. After a little while, this really seemed to be irritating and bothering Momma. Sue spoke up and told him that Momma was in a lot of pain and she let her be so she could rest peacefully. He got up and went back out in the hall to make another phone call to my father to “report” again. While he was out in the hallway, one of Momma’s nurses who was a very large man came in to check on Momma. We told him that Momma seemed really restless, especially since my brother had gotten there and that he was sitting close to her head “chanting” or something and that we felt it was really aggrevating to her, as she kept shifting around in the bed and kept moving her legs. He said if it continued to let him know and he would deal with it. So my brother came back in and sat quietly by Momma for a little bit and then started in again. And again, Momma seemed to start to thrash around in the bed and be more restless. She even groaned a couple of times. This time I didn’t say anything to him, I just walked up to the nurses station and told the nurse that he was doing the “chanting” thing again. He said he would be there shortly. So a few minutes later, he came in and witnessed this occurring and Momma being very restless. He asked my brother to please stop what he was doing as it was apparently causing his patient to be uncomfortable and she was bothered by it and that if her was going to stay in there, he needed to stop agitating her. He again went out in the hall and called our father to give yet another report. Sue and I went over sat and stood where my brother had been to kind of shield her from him.
It was starting to get late and we told my brother we were staying overnight when he came back in. We also told him that we would like to go to bed, as we were beyond exhausted, and we wanted Momma to be able to rest comfortably. So he left.
Sue and I got as comfortable as we could and started the beginning of what would be a VERY long night. We talked softly and we cried. And we prayed that Momma would not be in such discomfort. But it didn’t really work. Momma seemed to become more and more restless as the night went on. She would moan and groan occasionally and a few times, she actually cried out in pain. And Sue and I cried. And wished there was something we could do to help, but there wasn’t a damn thing we could do. I am pretty sure that I might have slept a half an hour throughout the entire night. I will never forget the obvious pain and suffering Momma was in during that night. We tried to comfort her, but she was mostly just unresponsive at this point. It was awful.
Brad came back early the next morning and when he came in he said that he had just ridden up the elevator with my father, my older brother, and a “preacher” friend of theirs. A few minutes later, a nurse and social worker came in and said that my father was here to see Momma. I immediately reminded them there was a protective order against him. They said they knew this, but that the judge had granted him an exception to come in and see Momma since she was obviously not going to be with us a lot longer. I asked them if they knew what had happened and they didn’t really, so we gave a quick run-down. And I told them this “If my Momma happens to come to and opens her eyes to see his face, she will, without a doubt in my mind, have an actual heart attack?!” Brad, Sue and I all stressed how afraid of him she was. They told us they understood, but they had to allow him in….However, they promised us that they would give her enough morphine to make sure that she would not wake up while my father was there. They said they would give her another dose and have him wait until they were certain it had started working before allowing him back. They said they felt that it would be best if we left the room when he came in. I asked if they would be in here with Momma. They said they would not, but that there were two others with him. Sue and I agreed to leave because frankly, I did not think I could hold it together if I actually had to face my father and what he had done to my Momma, especially over the past few days. Brad; however, told them he wasn’t leaving. And they really didn’t argue with him. So Sue and I went to the cafeteria and Brad stayed.
He texted us about an hour later and said they had left Momma’s room, so we went back. We asked what had happened. Brad said that it was pretty uneventful. And he was certain Momma never knew that he was there. He said my father said to him “Brad, you know that I have no hard feelings for you and Sherri through all of this.” Brad said “There’s none here either, but I told Sherri’s Momma I would protect her the rest of her life and that’s why I am still here.” He didn’t speak to Brad again. He also didn’t really try to talk to Momma. He just stood there and looked at her. He said the “preacher” did most of the talking and they prayed and then they left.
My good friend came back to sit with me. The Grandkids were in and back out and sat down in the waiting room together for a while. My younger brother came back. Another of Momma’s best friends came down and told us how sorry she was and told us to just know that she would be in a better place soon and would never have to be mistreated again. One of my best friends from work texted me and told me she and two of our mutual friends were downstairs and asked if I could come down. So I went down and they just wanted to give me some hugs and have a good cry with me. As they were leaving, my boss came in and he hugged me and told me how very sorry he was and to let me know that he had been praying and wanted me to know to not worry about work, and that he and my other friend who was just there and some of my other co-workers were keeping the lid on things and would handle whatever came up and to know that I could take off whatever time I needed….Family First. He had been such a father figure to me for many years….I had learned so much from him about our field, and dealing with people, and business, and just life lessons, in general. He helped to build my confidence and had faith in me to do things I didn’t know I could do. I had always wondered what it would be like to have a dad like him who adored his daughter the way he did? He had always encouraged her and supported her in what she wanted to do and they had a sweet closeness that I had never known. And she was successful in sports, and academics, and work, and her marriage and she had beautiful twin baby girls, who he also adored. Him making the trip to Evansville to tell me that, meant so much to me. Thank God, I had an employer who had a heart.
Momma had basically not been responsive to any of us all day. She was fading fast and they had her extremely medicated. It was killing me to watch her like this. My friend asked if we had picked out a stone yet, since I told her I had called the funeral home just so they would be ready when we needed them. I told her we had not picked out a stone. She asked if I wanted to get out for a little while and Sue and Brad encouraged me to go. She and I had a good talk. And she said she wanted to show me where they got her dad’s stone. It was in a neighboring town. We got there and there were several on display…And there was one that immediately caught my eye. It was a rose quartz with a really beautifully shaped top and a flower vase on the side, and it had a rose engraved into it. I talked to the salesman about it and asked how long it would take to order and get one like that and he said if I liked that one, we could purchase it. I told him I wanted to bring my brother to see it, but I was pretty sure that would be the one. He said it wouldn’t take that long to do the engraving. So my friend was driving me back and I told her to go to the cemetery because I wanted her to see the plot I purchased. She agreed that the stone we just looked at would be sooooo perfect there. She then took me back to the hospital and said she had to go because she had an appointment a little later. I hugged her and thanked her and told her to keep on praying.
I also got a call from Momma’s attorney to let Brad and I know that he had gotten the Judge to agree to letting Brad and I plead Momma’s divorce case tomorrow afternoon at 1 pm, so that it could possibly be completed…Since we were her Temporary Emergency Guardians, he said he would allow it. I hoped we could at least do that one last act for her.
My daughter called and asked about her MeMe and I told her she had basically been unresponsive all day. She asked if I would come home and said if I would, they would come out to our house and bring my grandsons and we would have dinner together. I didn’t really want to leave Momma, but a good long shower and a home-cooked meal sounded so perfect. Sue said she wouldn’t mind to go home for a while either. She asked if we were going to come back to spend the night? I told her we could touch base a little later and decide for sure. The nurses told us they would call us if there was any change, but they didn’t really anticipate her becoming responsive again. About the time we were leaving, my older brother had shown up . I didn’t really like leaving Momma there alone with him, but since the nurses had said she was going to continue to be unresponsive, we hoped he wouldn’t agitate her this evening. We talked to the nurses about it and they said they would keep a close watch on her. We had also pointed her new ring out to them and asked that they make sure it didn’t disappear. We hugged her and kissed her good-bye and told her that we loved her and then we prayed some more.
So I went home with Brad and the kids were there making some dinner when we got there. I hopped in my own shower and put on some comfy pj’s and we ate some dinner and then I got lots of grandson lovin’. They helped me so much. We read a book and sang some songs and we just cuddled.
Around 9 pm, I called the hospital to check on Momma and they said she was basically the same. Still unresponsive. They did indicate the my same brother was still there, but had not seemed to be agitating her. I asked if they would call if anything came up and they promised to.
So I called Sue and told her I really wanted to sleep in my own bed tonight as I was totally exhausted. She said she was okay with that, but to call her if I needed her or if anything happened.
So the kids and grandkids left and Gracie and Alex were hanging out downstairs, as Gracie was staying with us. Roger and his kids were, of course, still there too, so Skylar was in that mix of the teenagers.
Brad and I went to bed and it felt so good to hit my own mattress, but about 2:30 am, on what was now July 11, 2014, I heard my cell phone ring. And I am pretty sure my heart stopped at that moment. I reached for the phone and saw it was St. Mary’s. I didn’t want to hear this, but I answered it anyway. And sure enough, it was one of Momma’s nurses letting me know that she had just passed. I asked if she had been all alone and the nurse said that my older brother had been there…I had very mixed feelings about that, but nothing I could do about it now.
Brad and I got dressed, hopped in the car and took off for the hospital. We got there before 3:30 am and stopped at the nurses station and they told us we could go in and say our good byes and gather up anything we wanted to take home. They asked what funeral home we wanted her taken to and we told them. They said they would make that call.
We walked down the hall and my older brother was out in the hall on the phone, on what appeared to be a phone call to my father. We went in Momma’s room and told her good-bye, and kissed her sweet face. She was cold. And it really hit me. She was gone. My Momma was gone. I stood there with Brad holding me tight and had a good long cry. I felt like I could barely breathe. But in a bit I pulled it together. We then gathered up some of the things of hers we wanted to keep and said our last good-byes and let the nurse know we were leaving. She said they had called the funeral home and they were enroute.
Brad and I walked out of the hospital and it was probably around 415 am by then. it was still dark, but immediately I noticed the deafening sound of the birds singing and chirping…..really loudly. This doesn’t usually happen until the sun starts to rise, so I took it as a sign that it was Momma letting us know she was alright. And I couldn’t help but to smile just a tiny bit. I made some calls on the way home that I didn’t get made on my way there.
Brad drove us home and we decided to lay back down for a bit because we would likely have a busy day ahead and thought we could get a little more sleep. However, around 530 am the phone rang again and it was St. Mary’s. I just figured it was an update that Momma had been transported to the funeral home, but no, that wasn’t it. It was one of the nurses there letting me know that my father had called them and told them to take Momma to a different funeral home. I told her that we had the authority to make her funeral and final arrangements. She told us that he was saying he should be making those decisions. I told her that it was in the guardianship papers. She said she had just gotten there and just found the papers. She said that she read them and agreed, but was going to have legal look again to make sure and she would call me back. I asked her if Momma was still there and she said “Yes, they will just keep her in the morgue until it is determined by legal what needs to happen.” So now we are most definitely up. For the day. And we are waiting on pins and needles for the next phone call. It arrived an hour or so later and was positive news. Legal agreed that we did have the authority to make the arrangements, so we decided we should get up and go to the funeral home and get things picked out and taken care of….