The Caramels

I know that it has been awhile since I’ve last been here with a story.  Though today something has been pushing me to write.  Maybe it is the holiday. Maybe I’ve lost my mind. Maybe its just a story that I need to share.

Yesterday I received an email from a daughter of a client that we had taken care of for many years. We actually took care of both her mother and father until they moved into assisted living and then memory care. Thus we stopped caring for them. She was wondering if I would stop by and see him. His wife passed away a few months ago and I told his daughter I would drop off caramels for him. For three years I have made an extra batch for him. And brought him gin a time or two. Like a good nurse.

It is no secret in our office that I adore George.

When I could not visit them for some reason and another nurse needed to do the visit, I would always remind them no matter how much they loved George, I would continue to be his nurse. No matter how much they begged. You can’t have favorites.

Until you meet George.

When I first met George years ago, we found out that he had worked for Cenex and his route included Starbuck, my hometown. We have no doubt that at some point, he met my dad over the years. His name for me was “Starbuck Girl”. I still love that.

Over the years, George has lost his sight and his hearing. He is blind and deaf. This does not stop him from being productive, trading stocks, writing emails or being able to tell you are in the room. He knows me by smell, which I am not sure is good or bad.

Today I stopped by to see him and he is back in his apartment in assisted living. He had briefly moved when his wife was in memory care. He was a devoted husband.

When I arrived, the first thing he said was, “You look beautiful!” It is our running joke since he is obviously blind. It still makes me laugh when he tells me this.

We had a quick lunch together, catching up on our families and I made him some hot chocolate while he ate his caramels.

When I came back, he took my hand and told me how much he missed his wife. He had spent 2/3 of his life with her and this was the first Christmas without her. Just his tone, his love for her softly spoken. He missed her and stated grief has been hard.

I told him that Christmas was just as hard for me. Both my parents are gone and I haven’t felt like celebrating for awhile. Their absence felt. Just like his wife.

We agreed that he should put up his tree, hide his caramels from the staff and that I would come again soon. He has missed our talks. I have just missed his kindness. So similar to my dad’s. They are ironically the same age, though my dad is gone.

Grief is a bugger at the holidays. I know that many of you feel it. Many of you have lost loved ones and friends this past year. Its a hard time. I know…

When I left, he asked when I would come again. I told him that I would bake him a treat in January and he requested cookies. He also thanked me for taking care of him and his wife.

That got me.

I hope you all have a George in your life. Kindness, love and devotion.

Happy Holidays to all of you! Thank you for still reading my stories. Thank you also for reading The Lemon Bar Queen. Your messages about the book have been emotional and unbelievably touching. Your love is felt.

❤️🎄

Jodi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Third Year ❤️

The third year…1,095 days to be honest.

I really debated all week if I was going to write about it. Like last year, I don’t want people to think that I think about her all the time and I still consciously try not to talk about her. But she continues to dwell in my heart.

This is the time of year that is hard for me. It is her birthday, anniversary of her death and Mother’s Day all within a few weeks. Its hard not to think about her and miss her.

Summing up the third year has been a mix of emotions…

Like we have done the last few years, my brother and I gave away Dairy Queen Blizzards last week on what would have been her 92nd birthday. The first 100 people would get her favorite treat in honor of my mom, though they have discontinued the Snicker’s Blizzard which was her favorite. We even had a donation bucket and including on-line donations, raised over $500 for the Alzheimer’s Association. As I have mentioned before, she loved her hometown Dairy Queen. A place she knew when she would get turned around walking. It was centrally located to her walking and when her confusion took over, she knew where she was. Thank you to Carrie and staff for helping plan the event.

I have finished the manuscript of our memoir. It has been a labor or love. And I do mean labor. At times, I am very proud of it. There were many parts that were tricky to write about. I don’t want to embarrass her or write about something she would not want me to describe. I’ve added, taken out, changed things and tried to honor our time spent for those long eight years after my dad died. At times, I am terrified that people will be upset about decisions I made or that I have exploited her in some way. She knew that I started to write about her when we entered memory care and she felt she was a terrible topic. I beg to disagree. If I have helped one person understand the loss of a mother or anyone to this horrible disease, it will be worth the hundreds and hundreds of hours I have spent describing our journey. It will now go to the copy editor and book designer. I’m excited about the whole process. Many of you know of my love of books and the whole thought of putting this whole thing together is mind-boggling for me. I am hoping for a November release in honor of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.

Grief continues but has lessened.

Next Thursday, I am having minor surgery. I was in the ER a few weeks ago and I have a mass on my left ovary which is large. A lab also came up high for ovarian cancer but the doctor is very optimistic, as am I. They will be taking the mass, ovary, and two Fallopian tubes which I obviously have no use for any more. When I was in last week for my pre-op, we discussed my mom a little. I don’t have a health history due to my adoption and he was intrigued of why my mom could not have children. He confirmed that if the same thing happened maybe twenty-five years ago, she would have been able to have children. I love that he spent the time with me discussing her history. Those are the moments I wish she was here. Not only to hold me hand but to tell me everything will be ok and to have faith. She had enough faith to go around.

I continue to miss her voice.

Parenting is hard and 90% of the time I feel a failure. Truth. On a particularly bad day with my teenager, she stated I have been angry since my mom died. “You have lost your smile!” I don’t feel she is completely accurate but at times, I have lost my smile. I think when you take care of loved one for that long, go through the highs and lows of a devastating disease, and then they are gone, its hard to get that smile back. The worry. The insecurity. The loss. The grief.  The sadness. No one to share certain things with.

I continue to miss just being her daughter.

I miss her calling my name or calling me on the phone.

I miss being able to ask her a cooking question.

I miss her hugs.

I miss the time that we spent reading together or watching the birds.

I miss her stating, “Let go and let God”.

High up, above the clouds, I  hope that she is happy with my dad, drinking coffee, reading, working on her tan in a big beautiful garden and humming a song. I hope she is looking down and me and she would remind me to smile. I hope that she is also happy with the story I have told about a mother, a daughter and the love that kept them together.

Happy Mother’s Day next week to all of you with your own mama’s. And to all of you who have lost your own Mom’s over the past year, remember to find your smile.

Jodi

 

 

 

The Tree

I am hijacking my mom’s space just for today and I am writing about my dad. On Friday he will be gone ten long years. He would be 91 if he were still alive today. There is hardly a day, like my mom, that I don’t think about him.

After my dad died, my neighbors generously gave us a gift certificate and Steve and I purchased a beautiful flaming red, maple tree from Bachman’s. The three of us found the right spot in the yard and we planted and watered it and watched it grow for ten years. Steve and I argue on many occasions of the need for it to be pruned. I cringe of the thought of it being cut back, as if it were actually human. I finally allowed him to have a company prune it last year and admittedly, it looks much better. It is called, Papa’s Tree.  On the base of the tree is this:

Now that I look at the tree, I realize that it sits perfectly outside of the girls room. Looking over them with its long, hardy branches. It’s stood the test of bugs, windy days, pouring rain and our beagle, always wanting to urinate at the tree base. It’s a beauty and it reminds me of my dad everytime I look out the window or read on the deck. In the past few weeks, a cardinal has sat on its branches and watched me read. Not singing, but just watching.

It is hard to believe he left us ten years ago. I feel like he just walked me down the aisle, cradled Sophia in his arms and told Steve naughty jokes. There is a piece of him in my heart that will forever be imbedded. Right beside my mom.

I think that when we think of our loves ones we mostly think about the good things and there were many. My dad was also a complex man with many faults that we ourselves share in this complex world. No one is perfect. What I want to remember him for is this…

He once drove four hours round trip to deal with an unsavory car dealer who felt he was taking advantage of me. He was correct, I know now as an adult.

He also drove four hours round trip to help me change a tire on my tan escort that I drove into the ground as a young adult. I’m sorry about that Dad.

When he knew I was not making the wisest decision, he would type me a letter on his old, green typewriter. Tap Tap Tap. I can picture him at his old desk, coffee brewing near by, Pall Mall sitting in an ashtray.

He loved being a Papa, but only getting to watch Sophia grow to be four. Emme not getting to know my dad or his fierce love I can imagine he would have for his girls.

I remember after a long day, working in the farm fields, he’d get out of his tractor and shoot hoops with me on the basket attached to our garage. He loved watching me play sports, at times yelling things at me, like only a father will do. “Go Tiger!” I can imagine that he has a special spot, right above the clouds, watching his girls play their games. I sometimes wonder if I can hear him from up above.

I loved how fiercely he protected Mom, so concerned about her even though he knew he was dying of cancer right before our eyes. He was well aware of her memory issues.

I loved that he walked me down the aisle to marry his favorite son-in-law two weeks after he had open heart surgery. He left early but still was present and beaming that someone finally married me. Oh, Dad.

I was reminded of him weeks ago when a man I take care of hugged me goodbye. I could smell Aqua Velva on him and immediately thought of my Dad. Such a nostalgic smell.

I grew to understand his politics that we didn’t always share. I remember when we had a mock election for a president when I was in elementary school and I came home so happy that the man I voted for, won the school election. Jimmy Carter. He looked at me and didn’t say a word but I could tell on his face he was disappointed and upset. I wonder what he would think of our crazy world now.

I love that he picked me to be his girl. Out of all of the babies, he picked the fattest, two month old screamer with the big brown eyes.

I don’t miss his banging a cup for the waitress to bring him more coffee. I think that is the only thing I don’t miss. Tap, Tap, Tap. Just like the typewriter.

I hope he and mom are up there, where Emme thinks they are at. High above the clouds, finally together. I hope he watched me take care of Mom and was proud.

Miss you, Dad. xoxo

Jodi

 

 

 

 

The Piano Player

It’s been a long time since I’ve wanted to share a story. I know I wrote my last post in May and at that time, it had been a year since my mom’s death and now it has been another six months without her. Time moves on.

Over the last few years I have been writing about her, I have shared stories about the holidays and many of the issues we went through. For many people, it is a time for family, being around our friends, good food and parties, faith and traditions. For others, it is a hard time mixed with sadness, grief and a sense of nostalgic meaning.

I have a fairly new hospice case, a sweet gentleman with a shy grin and a constant baseball cap on. This week it is a U of M cap, slightly tilted off to the side with a smudge of dirt on the front of it.

He is happy to see me and pats me on the back. I know we aren’t supposed to have favorites but in all honesty, I love coming to see him. Our banter has been the same over the past few weeks.

He: “You are here to set up my rat poison, I see.”

Me: “I see that you haven’t used your oxygen all week!”

I enter his warm kitchen and we sit down at the table. We talk a little and I start to set up his meds. I can tell he is watching me, just like my mom used to do. I can tell he is a little winded and he is telling me about riding a bike at the Y today. I warn him that he needs to keep that quiet or he will be kicked off of hospice. He gives me a mischievous grin. I grin right back.

I finish the medications and he is quiet. I know he has gone through a lot this year. It’s been hard for him and at times I know he struggles with family issues. Same issues I struggle with.

He confesses he is not excited about the holiday. I want to agree with him but I don’t. I just listen. He talks and I listen some more.

At the end of our visit he stands up and like he always does, goes to his beautiful baby grand piano. I have heard the story of the piano before.  After many years of admiring it at the home of one of his customers , he bartered a job for him and the customer let him have it. Unbeknownst to him, he got it home and it was built the same year he was born. He felt this was a sign and I agree.

He asks what I am in the mood for and I respond…holiday music. He starts to play, no sheet music and eyes shut. He plays a jazzy version of a song I can’t name but I recognize, and then he plays Silent Night. I wish I could explain how beautiful it sounded. He is now breathless from playing but still refusing the oxygen I have encouraged. I could listen to him play all day, he is that good.

We get to the door, I am running behind on my visits and need to go. I remind him I will be back the day after Christmas and he pauses. “That’s my anniversary!” I know he has been missing his wife, she has been gone for a few years. He gives me a look that I recognize and he gives me a hug. I know how hard this is for him and all of us at the holidays. Loss, grief, longing and his own mortality.

He wishes me a Merry Christmas and I yell back to him…”Wear your oxygen!” He laughs.

The Piano Man almost moved me to tears on his snowy, cold sidewalk.

I have had friends lose their mother and their father this year. Friends have also lost their brothers and their sisters. Grandparents, neighbors, Aunts, Uncles. Thinking of all you who have lost a loved one this year.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Jodi

 

 

 

The Healer

Last month, I bought a groupon for a massage/healer. Its the first groupon I have ever purchased and I love to get a massage, yet I wasn’t quite sure about the “healer” part of it. After a few emails back and forth with Kimberly, we set our appointment and I found out it was very close to my work. There is nothing better than a massage and I was excited to get one.

I had a morning appointment and I was a little apprehensive because I wasn’t quite sure where I was going. Her office is shared with another office (a therapist) and I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place or not. I was starting to get a little nervous for some reason, almost worrying that I was the victim of a scam.

After waiting for about ten minutes, Kimberly came out and introduced herself. Her office was warm, inviting and smelled softly of  lavender. I was nervous and did not know what to expect but she put me at ease. She asked  if I would lie on the table and I could stay fully dressed. Huh? I didn’t need to get into a robe or crawl under the sheets?

She started to gently touch my feet and they suddenly became very warm. Actually, I became really warm all over. She was doing some reflexology on my feet and it felt really good. If you have every had your feet massaged, you know the feeling. In the mean time she put something in my hands to hold, almost like a small upright weight. I’m sure she told me what they were, but I don’t remember. Almost like a tuning fork?

I’m now wondering what kind of groupon I have purchased but yet her rubbing my feet is pure heaven. Kimberly starts by saying, “When you walked in, so did a small, older woman with permed hair”. She asked if my mom had died recently and I told her she has been gone since May of last year.

“You are not your mother’s child”. I am confused. I said that I was my mother’s child and then I remembered (duh) that I am adopted. Its not something that I always carry with me or think about. She is quiet for a while and started to talk about the cosmic world and energy. “Did it take a long time for your parents to adopt you?” I answered that she tried for twenty years to have children but was not successful. She said that her being unsuccessful was meant to be and her adopting my brother and I was the cosmic universal plan. I was trying to take all of this in…trying to believe but having a very confusing conversation in my head. Do I believe this? She went on to say that it was meant to be that she brought you up and loved you in this world and that you helped her gracefully leave this world. She asked if I knew what this meant.

I did.

Now she has my attention.

All this time she is gently touching my hip bones, my ear lobes, my forehead…I feel like my body is floating. I was trying to tell Steve that I was light as a feather. No pun intended. It was like whatever she was doing, my sadness and worry was leaving. Its very hard to articulate.

She also stated that my mom likes to sit in Emme’s chair at night. Now I’m a little scared. My last story that I wrote about was Emme’s chair. For the past few months she has been having bad dreams. For a week straight, she woke up in the middle of the night scared. I’m not sure of what is causing her distress. Its been hard for her and I wasn’t going to tell Kimberly anything but I shared with her Emme’s issue with her room. She told me that your mom, Emme’s Grandma, watches out for her and that she also loves your kitchen. I told her, that would make sense, my mom was a baker/cook her whole life and loved our kitchen. Kimberly stated that I could talk to my mom and to tell her to visit during the day vs the night, if it is scaring Emme. She feels that Emme is very sensitive to things we can not see. Super. Like that doesn’t freak me out at all.

“Your mom also sends you love.” And then I can feel that warm tears are starting to flow. She told me that she has crossed over and that she has a very important job. Her job is to take care of a big, beautiful garden and that she is the “greeter” for people that have crossed over. She waits in a tunnel and greets family and friends. Wow, that is a lot to take in.

She knew that my dad has been gone for a while and that his job was to help all of the vets cross over. She also asked if our lights go on and off. Ok…that freaked me out. I’ve shared with a few of you that our sun room lights go on and off on command. This thoroughly freaks out only one person in our family. Me.

She laughed a little and said that he is a character (indeed) and that if it bothers you, he will stop. That was absolutely crazy that she knew that. I’m ok with it. If my family doesn’t mind, I guess he can continue.

We talked about other things; she picked up that I help people cross over. I laughed a little because I hoped she didn’t think that I really “cross” people over. She also laughed and said that I knew what she meant. She wanted to be sure that people didn’t attach themselves to me. Ok, I’m freaked out again.

Finally, our visit of over an hour, was over. I’d like to think of myself as very neutral thinking when it comes to healing, psychic things and the unknown. I think all nurses have seen their fair share of strange, unexplainable things. Myself included.

I think she lifted my soul a little, made me more peaceful and I kept thinking of her conversation. Sure, its easy to read about someone, maybe she read parts of my blog but some things I do not talk about. She described my mom to a tee and stated she is always around. That I still could talk to her and she would hear me. That gave me peace.

So we have talked since then. I asked her not to sit in Emme’s chair at night but to still watch out for her. I told her its ok to hang in our kitchen, I like that image. I told my dad that my girls think its funny, I will get used to his playfulness. Someday. Well, not really.

In the end, I never got a “massage” but had a bit of healing that was unexpected.  If you need her card, let me know. She was a healer.

Jodi

 

 

The Parentless Daughter

A few weeks ago, we buried both of my parents. The heat index that day was way over 100 degrees, but I know that my parents would have loved the beautiful day. There were boats on the lake, the pretty flags flying in my hometown and the Dairy Queen bustling with people. It was a perfect summer day and a special day to honor my parents.

wpid-2015-08-14-16.53.16.jpg.jpeg

At age 45, both of my parents are gone and I feel a bit orphaned. I know that when they both adopted my brother and I, they were older parents already. They were both 43 when they adopted me, twenty years older than some of my friends parents. I’ve always known how much they wanted children and overall, I think they adapted to being “older parents”.

I think my brother and I were lucky to have them for as long as we did. My dad died at age 81 and my mom lived two weeks past her 89th birthday. That is a long time to be loved by them. We were both lucky to find one another and bridge the gap.

I have lived many adult years but I think I will always be a child in relation to my parents. Even taking care of both parents before their deaths, it is still my parents of my youth and childhood that I buried. I have been doing a lot of reading lately and author R. Scott Sullender says in his book, “The world is a different place after our parents die”.

My relationship with my parents wasn’t perfect. Few of us have trouble-free relationships with our parents. I know some of us look back with maybe harsh words spoken, deep rifts and missed opportunities to express love. I am confident that our parents forgive us and we need to move on.

Nothing will ever be the same after losing my parents. Mom and Dad will not be there to applaud my accomplishments or give me direction at a critical crossroad. They won’t be able to see Sophia do well in school or watch Emme sing in the choir. They will miss many of our life’s events but they have left a mark on my world.

I’m moving forward by remembering all of the treasures from childhood and adulthood advice that they gave me. All of those hard learned lessons that they tried to teach me. Some successful, some not so much (like sewing!).We are who we are, thanks to their love and nurture. They have tried to guide me as best as they could.

For all of you who have lost a parent or both parents, hang in there. Sorrow is very deep and very real. Talking to my family and friends has been very helpful. Grief is present but not overbearing.

For those of you that still have your parents, enjoy them. Really enjoy this time with them. I love getting to see all the grandparents at hockey and baseball games and getting to see all of my friends parents. Our parents are a gift that lasts only so long. Ask questions about their lives, be involved in their care (if able) and remember that we are all getting older. Don’t let pride stand in the way of a past issue. I had a client’s family tell me today that the time with their mom was not enough. She is dying from breast cancer. She reminded me of myself four months ago, while I watched her sit with her mom and just holding her hand. Life is very short.

Jodi

The Blue Dog

wpid-20150730_205839.jpg

Emme has been full of questions for me lately. I know she has been missing Grandma, as we all have. Here are some of her questions:

*How do you become a Grandma?

*Once you are a Grandma, do you stay a Grandma for your whole life?

*Do you think Grandma can see me from where she is at?

*When do I become a Grandma? (That was tonight)

This whole week, I have tried my best to explain the term “Grandma” to her. I even told her that I had an adopted Grandma named Julia growing up because one of my Grandma’s died before I was born and the other one died when I was young. We adopted Grandma Julia Danielson and we showed her pictures. She knows that I am adopted and we talked about Grandma not being able to have children and why. I think her brain was on overload today.

Today she again asked me if Grandma watches over her. We have talked about heaven and our beliefs but I feel like she looks at me and wonders if I am telling her the truth. In the past few weeks she has asked if Grandma lives above the moon. She has also asked if she lives on or above the clouds. People have also told her that Grandma lives in her heart and how can she live in her heart? Seven year olds take things very literal.

Today we talked about Blue Dog, my Mom’s stuffed animal. I thought about this a lot today and I told her that I think that Blue Dog is here to watch over her for Grandma. I reminded her how much Blue Dog brought Grandma comfort. This seemed to make sense to her. Guess where Blue Dog has been today?

*It went down the slide with her many, many times today.

*He (I think it’s a he) ate cereal with her in bed.

*He went in the car with her but I wouldn’t let her bring it in to Perkins.

*Its been in the baby stroller, watching the kids play.

*He took a badly needed nap this afternoon

*He wrestled with her, along with her dad.

I hope that I’m not confusing her. As a parent , I wonder what to tell her. I miss her Grandma too.

To be seven again and wonder what this world is all about. Blue Dog is in for some adventures, along with her favorite animal, Lambie.

Suggestions are welcome…

Jodi

The Grief and The Gratitude

wpid-20150511_214439.jpg

Perhaps they are not stars in the sky but rather openings where the love of our lost ones shines down to let us know, they are happy. -Eskimo proverb

I’m up early again, the breeze is coming through the window, Barley has had his treat and everyone is still sleeping. It is a quiet time for me to write. Its been thirty days since my Mom has been gone. One full month. This is the longest period of time I haven’t seen her since my Dad died, almost eight years ago. The void of her has been hard.

Grief is a tricky thing. Just when I think that I am doing ok, I see or hear something that reminds me of a memory. It ebbs and flows through me and it seems to be almost constant right now.

Grief seems to be all around, with friends also experiencing this shadow of pain. I have friends with a new loss of their Dad and sister. I have a friend who lost their family home. I have friends in the hospital and client’s families trying to work through their own grief over their loved one. Grief really does not discriminate.

Yesterday, I was at an assisted living building completing a medication change. I wanted to get in quickly and leave but when I was entering the building, I stopped to watch a daughter trying to get her mother in the car. I watched for a while because I noticed she was having a hard time getting her in. I noticed the loving care she was providing and my own thoughts went to my Mom’s car ride, only six short weeks ago. I completed the medication change and was teary in my car. I miss the simple act of getting her in the car.

I think part of my grief ties in with gratitude. I have been simply overwhelmed with gratitude from my family, friends, neighbors, strangers through my blog and clients and their families. Who knew my 89-year-old mother touched so many lives. I wish my mom could have known the generosity of people in the past month.

Since her death, I could not begin to tell you how many people have helped. It was almost like a revolving door at our house with people bringing over food. Really, really good food. My eleven year old daughter, Sophia, told me, “So when people die, you bring people food? I hope this never ends!” Thank you for all the food you have brought so we didn’t have to cook.

I have received food baskets in the mail, along with chocolate dipped strawberries. I received a book in the mail from my friend Lisa, in California, that was called H is for Hawk, about death and hawks. (I cried like a baby when I got it). I have received beautiful wind chimes that play a soft melody in the breeze. My work gave me a beautiful stone that I can put in my garden, along with time off and loads of food. Also, a special thank you to my friend Joanie. We forgot our dresses for the funeral in our garage (yes, I know) and she drove to St. Cloud to deliver them the day of the wake. Bless her.

And the cards…I have finally read all of them, plus I am still getting them in the mail. I hope you realize, it will  take me one year to thank you all. I know Emme counted them as a project, as there are over 400 people to thank. Yes, 400.

She was a blessing.

There are times in the grief and gratitude that I feel her around me. I don’t want to sound crazy but I will tell you I really do feel her presence. For the first week she was gone, I kept waking up at 4:20 AM, the time she passed away. I’m not sure if it was conscience or not, but it started to be really annoying. Plus, those that know me know I’m not an early bird.

A couple of days afterwards, I had to run to Macy’s to grab Steve a new shirt for his suit. There was the sweetest woman helping me, I was in a hurry to get other things done. We found a shirt fairly quickly and we got to the register and there was a line. She let me in first, explaining to the line that she had been helping me and it would take a minute. In the line, there was an older woman. Hair perfectly done, Burberry rain jacket and a cloud of perfume. She was angry and stated, “Well, we really don’t have a choice, do we.” I was quiet for a while, now feeling bad that the Macy’s person helped me first. I softly said, “I’m sorry, my Mom just passed away and we are heading out-of-town.” Her response was, “Well, that’s too bad!” still in an angry voice. By this time, I’m upset. What I really wanted to say to her was almost out of my mouth. Really bad things that are not my normal. But for some reason, words popped in my head, along with the bad words. Take the high road. It was my mother telling me that its ok, not everyone is kind and understanding. I walked away, taking the high road. But if you know this woman, maybe remind her that she may be in the same situation some day.

I also feel her around me when I watch the birds at her bird feeder. We put the feeder in my garden, right outside our sunroom. I have been watching the birds joyfully feed and think of my Mom watching her own birds at the memory care unit. I think birds have become more meaningful for me, thinking about that one bird, knocking on Mom’s window waiting to fly with her. Hospice sent me a beautiful card this week, with all the staff signing it. Kind and special words spoken about my Mom and I. On the outside of the card was this…

wpid-20150601_220556.jpg

There is that bird that came to the window.

When I was putting away some of her things, I also noted some things that she had written on a piece of paper. For the last few years, she had a difficult time remembering my birthday. She would always ask and a few times, I could tell she was writing it down. While putting away some pictures, I found this…

wpid-20150524_201422.jpg

I know she is around me. Gosh, I miss her love. I hope she knows that both Blue Dogs are very loved and that I made her rhubarb dessert this week. I hope she knows that Sophia got a special award at school this week and that Emme proudly made it to second grade. I hope she knows that I drive past Clare Bridge every week, because we have two clients near there and it hard to know she isn’t there any more and I drive right on by. The hardest day for me was cleaning out her room. All of her memories and stuff, hospital bed long gone. I took this last picture, were you can see the view she saw for almost three years. The birdfeeder visible, along with the bench we frequently sat on and talked about life.

wpid-20150513_113154.jpg

The days, weeks and months will continue and I know that she is where she wants to be. Grief and gratitude will also continue but hopefully one of them slowly fades.

Jodi

The End

wpid-img_20140905_191738.jpg

I am up early on this Saturday morning. I can hear the birds talking and can see the beautiful sky slowing waking up. I can’t sleep. Sleep has been my enemy this past week and I can feel that I am exhausted while I type this.

Early Wednesday morning, my Mom left this world. 4:20 am to be exact. I’m now up at this time and I feel she is shoving me out of bed. I feel she wants me to write but I’m not sure quite what she wants me to say. I will do my best.

For the past year she has wanted to die. This is a fact she has repeated over and over again along with wanting to go to bed. She has asked me this questions in the car, in her bed, on the toilet, watching the birds and at meal time. Sometimes she looks at me to say, “Hey, I’m talking to you. Yes, you!”. I’ve talked about this conflict in past stories.

Last Wednesday, she was not feeling good. She was sick at dinner, refusing her medications and getting weaker. Friday, Cathy the nurse, talked about starting a little Morphine for her but I wanted to use Tylenol first. I don’t think she has ever had Morphine before and I was worried it would sedate her too much and if the Tylenol helped, lets start with that.

Saturday came and I was really worried about her. We had taken her off her Aspirin and I was worried she had a small stroke since she was leaning so much. We couldn’t get her to eat much and her head was tipped down so it made it hard to feed her. We were having a birthday party for her on Sunday since most of the family could not see her on her actual birthday. I called the family to update them and hope that everyone could come.

On Sunday, we got her out of her beloved bed and put her in a tip back chair so we could attempt to feed her. Most of her family came and we sat in a lovely courtyard with the birds flying overhead and the breeze on her face. She would wake up every once in a while and I would tell her who was there. It’s the last time she also had her beloved coffee, only taking small sips. It was nice to spend this time with her, along with her family.

On Monday, I knew that it was serious. I found her in bed with my bright shirt on, hair neatly combed and she looked like the bed could swallow her up. Her mouth dry and we worked on getting small sips in her. Through out the day, she kept trying to tell me something. I could tell she was frustrated that I didn’t understand her. At the end of the sentence, what came out clear was…I love you. A little garbled but I got it. Over and over again.

I had a special moment with one of mom’s aides when she told me that Mom was her favorite. She said that they didn’t hit it off at first but that they grew to love one another and spar back and forth. We had so many people checking on us. My Pastor Beth came to see her and gave her a blessing and anointed her. That was a very meaningful moment since her faith has been so important to her. I left about 9 PM, telling her what was in my heart and not expecting her to be alive much longer. When I left, she just patted my left cheek, the same one that I had dreamt about last week.

When you are a nurse, you are the one to get the call that a Client has died and its so difficult making that call to let family know of their loved ones death. All night, I kept listening for the phone to ring. It didn’t.

Tuesday, I got my kids to school and headed over there right away. When I arrived, a male volunteer was holding her hand. He really loved my Mom and he came in early, before work, to say goodbye. He liked to call her Mean Jean. It was a very touching moment.

Mom was now not able to talk. We had started a small amount of Morphine for her to keep her comfortable. When I would say the word “Mom”, her eyes would flutter. What an important word for her. Mom.

It’s hard to express how kind people were. We had a busy day of people coming and going. The nurse, the social worker, massage therapy, music therapy and two Pastors that again blessed and anointed her. I love that she was blessed twice. The room smelled of oil and lavender. I swear a bird came to the window and knocked as if to say, “Hey, I’ll fly with you when you are ready.”

When I left on Tuesday, I was exhausted. My enemy, sleep, was winning. I had fallen asleep twice in her chair and tried to lay by her side but the bed was too small. They traded out her normal bed for the hospital bed. All those months of crawling in with her, I could only sit by her on the bed.

When I left her, I knew. I knew that she wanted to die without me there. I told her she could go and that her job here, was done.

My phone rang at 4:20 am and she was gone. Her soul at peace.

As you go about your days and weeks, remember my Mom when you see or smell:

Lilacs. We had them on the farm and she loved to put them in a pretty vase.

Fresh brewed coffee. Black, as it should be.

A Snicker bar. You can have more than one, my Mom says its ok.

A rhubarb plant or stalks. I think she would love if you made some for me!

A child’s laugh. She loved kids to the moon and back.

A Dairy Queen. Boy, did she love our hometown DQ. A small cone or if she was really crazy, a Snicker’s Blizzard.

Lemon Bars. I made her recipe yesterday and it filled the house of her memory..

A choir singing. Picture her humming along.

Any kind of book. She taught me that the best escape is a book.

Finally, do some random act of kindness. She was all about helping her family and friends.

Thank you for all of your sweet messages via FB, email, texts and calls. I only can read a few at a time. Your words are important in getting me through. One of my friends said, “You loved her well”. I love that. We both loved one another well.

Jodi

The end of hospice.

The Hospice End

On Thursday of this week, I met with our wonderful hospice nurse, Cathy. I had been prepped last week that Mom would not qualify for hospice any more. I know the rules have become much tighter regarding who can stay on the program and you must be actively dying to be on it. I understand it, but to be honest, a part of me is happy and sad all at the same time.

Actively dying is such a funny term we nurses use. I think we are all actively dying to some extent but some of us are really, really dying. Like today. Mom has not lost any weight, has been feeding herself (!) as of late and just keeps holding her own. With the highs and lows of this year, I can hardly believe she is still here. She is a wonder.

The wonder of her going off of hospice is, that I still have her. I still get to see her, hold her hand and just love her. That part of me is overjoyed. Almost like we jumped a high hurdle and made it. Success. We beat the odds and I know how rare it is to go off of hospice. In all my years of nursing, I would guess I have had five people discharged from hospice. They just weren’t ready to leave this world.

The hard part of her going off of hospice is that she is still here. I can hear my Dad somewhere yelling “BOOOOOOO!” I know he is patiently waiting for her, along with all of the friends she has lost. She sits in her chair and states every day that she wants to die. Every single day. I know it, I feel it and I understand it.

It’s not that I want her to go, please don’t misunderstand. I’ve spent all of these years with her and watched what an amazing life she has led. She will be eighty-nine in April and has graced this earth with all of her being. She’s made an impact. She has loved to love.

But as a nurse and a daughter, its hard for me to watch her. Slow, weak, disjointed at times, foggy, displaced, sad and overwhelmed with her life. She is not who she used to be and even with her confusion, she is justified in wanting to die. I can’t bring her back to where she was ten-years ago, but I can be with her and peacefully get to the end. It just isn’t going to be right now.

There is hardly a week that goes by that I don’t think of loss.

Over the past two weeks, my mom’s roommate has died, along with the loss of four Client’s plus someone important in our office. Even my favorite Parkinson’s patient had to put his beloved dog to sleep last week. This dog had been very important to him, 15 years of love and companionship. We have watched the dog suffer over the last few months and its been hard for him. I sat with him the day before and he was struggling. He said, “I’m the only one who wants him to live, none of my family wants to keep him alive.” I reminded him that not being able to get up any more is not living. The dog was helpful in getting him through sobriety and had a purpose. He was a very loved dog. I have heard before that we treat our pets much better than we do humans. Somewhere that all connects with Mom.

So on we go with the days, weeks and months. The paperwork will return and I will continue my fight with Hennepin County and the hours spent figuring out her medical assistance and waiver status. Last Wednesday I was on the phone with them for two hours, including hold time. Crazy system.

She was on hospice for officially 171 days and we continue to live. ❤

Jodi