I recently went to a Mother’s Day Grief Group. Thank God that there are caring and compassionate people who are there to help the bereaved. For some, the process of grief is longer than others. My process with the loss of my mother has been reoccurring, interrupted, then abounding. I will never be the same person again without her, and moving on is the only option.
I am so glad that I had the time that I was allowed with her during the last two years of her life. We became friends and I got to know the strength of a woman with the kindest heart imaginable. During those years, she was the image of grace and fire under the pressure of a such unimaginable physical adversity. She was the elegance of laughter when inflicted with pain. How she could smile through her misery is absolutely astonishing and I will forever be amazed with the love that was displayed by her beautiful and gracious spirit.
I recall that morning so clearly. “Kelsy, I can’t move my head. I can’t get up. I have pain in my neck.” I knew she had fallen the night before, but she was moving and climbing stairs afterward. She appeared to be okay. But then at 5am this call jolted me out of bed. Her neighbor was beside her and I asked her to press her Life Alert button, and all was in motion. Before I knew it, mom was being med-flighted by helicopter from Manchester NH to Boston Mass General Hospital. Then all would never be the same again.
Mom, who had recently been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, was now in need of a brain surgery and we were told she had a 50% chance of living. Her cerebellum was bleeding significantly and we were told that she may stop breathing before they get her into surgery. Her clotting factor for surgery had been interrupted due to Coumadin that she was on for Atrial Fibrillation (a heart condition), and the doctors were trying to reverse the process. That wasn’t going so well, and we were told she had four hours to live. How could the unimaginable happen so quickly? The sense of loss of control was frightening. I was her protector from the moment my father died a few years earlier. I had failed! Though as if in a movie, we were all saying our goodbyes as she was falling unconscious and then being ran on a stretcher up to surgery.
She made it through the surgery, and to see her hooked up in the SICU in Mass General was a heartbreaking experience. She had a halo of sorts around her head and a neck brace. She was on a ventilator that was breathing for her. Tubes and IV’s were coming out of all places. Mom was truly fighting for her life. She was kept in an unconscious state for weeks, then the doctors would wake her up for brief periods of time to see how she was responding. I remember always wanting to be there because I could gather her attention enough to have her look at me during those brief moments. The doctors would do quick neurological checks to see how she was healing, then quickly back to sleep. This cycle repeated itself for weeks. She got infections, had elevated fevers, was put on ice mats, but she fought.
I travelled back and forth to Boston once or twice a day for however long this took place. The days, weeks, months molding into one another. Then as quickly as she was transported there, I was being asked where rehabilitation would occur. I was told in the first rehabilitation facility that she had no chance of recovery. I was told she would never feed herself again, walk, go to the bathroom, or get herself dressed. She was transported back from there to Mass General due to an infection, then a new rehabilitation facility took over.
I think the hardest part for me was not talking to her once, twice, or more times a day. She no longer could answer the phone, and learning words, meanings of words, and motor functions was challenging for her. This new facility did an amazing job with mom. They never gave up hope. She was now closer to home and seeing her everyday was much easier. I tried to never miss a day, or at least have that day covered by somebody. We, as her family, were her advocates and her voice. I was my mom’s Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, and I took that responsibility very seriously, and with me being a nurse that made that responsibility all the more powerful. I was a knowledgable person who was engrossed in all aspects of her care. I was professionally, emotionally, and spiritually attached in all aspects. My mom was my every moments thought and we became bonded as if one. She relied on me for every decision, and I relied on her loving acceptance. We became an unbreakable bond.
And I so miss her…