Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Denial: Not a river in Egypt

**Written One Month Ago**
Here I am sitting at my mom's house, I think they call this a vigil.  My mom is "actively transistioning", I don't know exactly what that means but I know she is dying.

In November, my mom sat my oldest brother and I down  to tell us that her breast cancer has come back and was everywhere.  I tried to mask my emotions and remain strong in front of my mom.  I excused myself later and sobbed in the bathroom saying, "I don't want to do this."  This is my mama, and she is broken so bad the doctor can't fix her. 

In desperate times, desperate measures are taken.  My mom started an alternative medical treatment that had shown promise.  Western medicine couldn't save her, so we turned to whatever medicine that claimed it could.  It required waking up several times during the night to take supplements.  My dear sweet dad who never thought he would live long enough to bury his wife, was convinced this treatment would save his loving companion.  In the past few weeks, it became evident that nothing would save my mom. 
My dad pulled me aside just two weeks ago and said, "Your mom needs a new purse, one with pockets. I would love to get her one for Valentine's Day, will you please buy her a fancy one for me?"  
My mom had not left the house in a week, barely gotten out of bed, and was eating two bites of food each meal.  She would not  be leaving the house with her purse the next time she left.  I knew it, my brother knew it, and the medical staff new it.  My dad may have known it, but he did not believe it.  

What do you do?  Buy the purse?  Refuse my father's request?  I wrestled with this for nights, knowing this was just a display of my father's deep denial.  How do you tell someone the love of their life is dying?  Who am I to crush my dad's hope?  How can I help my dad accept the reality of the situation?  Help him grieve?

**Fast Forward 1 month later**

On the Thursday before she died, my mom begged me to help my dad understand that she was dying, she wanted to stop the alternative treatment.  She was ready to die, and didn't want my dad to feel like she had given up on the one thing that could save her.  I looked in her eyes as they pleaded with me. My first reaction was to say, "Mommy, I don't know what to do, I'm seven, you're the mom, tell me what to do?"

I constantly feel like I am seven, I want my mommy.  That whole night I didn't sleep, I wrestled with the task my mom had asked for my assistance in. How on earth do I help my dad come to this realization?  Do I burst his bubble?  My father, is very stubborn, a trait he passed on to me.  What would happen if he dug in his heels and said, "No, this treatment is saving her."   The next morning I called the Hospice Nurse to do our morning check in.  I told the Hospice nurse my concern and she said, the worlds greatest phrase.

Wendy, that's not your problem anymore.  That is my problem, I will handle it.

Where have these hospice nurse's been my whole life?  I just want them to follow me around and remove all my problems from my life.  "Drats, they are out of salami at the store."  Hospice Nurse,  "Wendy, that's not your problem anymore.  That is my problem, I will handle it."

The hospice nurse sat both my parents down and had a very tough conversation, where my dad came to realize that his wife was dying, nothing could save her.  Hospice had come into my parents home at the request of my brother and I, it was not something my father wanted.  Somehow over the course of two weeks, this angel of a hospice nurse had wiggled her way into my father's heart.  He trusted her, and so when she said, "It's time to let her go in peace," my dad trusted her.  It was the right thing to do. 
Letting her go in peace was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. However, hospice provided great comfort in the darkest time. I love this picture of our hospice nurse comforting my dad after my mom passed.   When my mom was given the peace of mind that she didn't need to fight anymore she succumbed quickly, having no fear. She was ready to put this all behind her, and we were ready to let her go.   It was so hard.  I didn't want to do this.  


Helena said...

Thanks for sharing this. ((hugs))

Kellee said...

Oh my goodness. I can't even begin to imagine.

I'm so sorry for your loss.


Dan said...

You write with such eloquence. Your mom was a very special person. She is missed not only by your father but by all who knew her. -Uncle Dan
Note: we had a dear friend fight the battle with cancer. For ten months she endured hell on Earth with Chemo, alternative therapy, and desparate types of treatment. Physically it took her body ten months to die but for any quality of life that ended the day she took her first Chemo treatment.
It's very hard to accept death for ourselves but I think even more so when it is a loved one and you mom was your dad's reason for living. With your mother gone it will be hard for your dad but he stall has his daughter to be by his side. You are a very good source of comfort.

Mindy said...

I did my hospice rotation at the nursing home a couple of semesters ago. It was my favorite rotation so far. Hopsice is a literal Godsend and those who choose it as a profession are God's angels. I'm so happy that you had such a positive experience amidst your trial and grief. Who knows....when I grow up, I "just might" want to be a hospice nurse too ;)

**MIGNONNE** said...

I'm fighting the tears. Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

Anonymous said...

I commented once before on your blog..I lost my Mom in Dad reacted in quite the same way as yours..she passed away on their 50th anniversary..hospice nurses are angels on earth (of that I am convinced!)My Mom went quickly also, when we all let her know that it was ok..the hardest thing I have ever done.."I don't want to do this" was a statement I said/thought a lot..still do some days..I don't think we ever outgrow "needing" our mommies..I miss mine terribly. You write so beautifully, express your feelings so is a joy to read your entries..very moving indeed.

Anne said...

A very close friend died two weeks ago from breast cancer. Her hospice nurse was also a gift from heaven. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Pam said...

((((HUGS)))) I lost my dad last August to cancer. All I can say is that my heart goes out to you and your family. And I remember that the Hospice nurses are angels! I will never forget their quiet strength and kindness. They make the act of dying so much easier for both the patient and the family. As hard as it was losing my dad, I really dread the day I have to say good-bye to my mother. But, by God's grace, we will be surrounded by angels as we were when my dad passed.

Kerry McKibbins said...

I came by to thank you for visiting my blog and I am so glad I did. Thank you for sharing your story. It was beautifully written and brought tears to my eyes.
I am so sorry for your loss. Please know I am sending good thoughts and prayers your way.

Cimblog (tm) said...

I love the picture. Honey, they don't have salami today. How about ham?

CarrieB said...

Oh Wendy, I am so sorry. Thank you for sharing this. I don't think losing a parent can ever be easy. Thank God for the hospice nurses who help ease the unimaginable pain and assist with the transitions. ((hugs))

Kacy said...


Anonymous said...

I am sorry for your loss. :(

My mom died from cancer in 2006. It caught everyone by surprise - she was diagnosed Feb 2006 - and passed in April 2006. Just very thankful we had time with her.

Hope your dad is okay.