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The ticket

Friday, February 01, 2013

My mother passed away last Saturday.

It was not unexpected.

She has had Alzheimer’s for eight years…and the disease has slowly taken her away from us. She was been my best lifetime friend. My true sister, my confidante, my advisor, my supporter. She always had my back….There have been many, many goodbyes over the past several years. But, despite the fact that “my mom” was really gone, I dreaded the thought of the finality of it all. I was scared, for fear I couldn’t face the trauma of losing her. I am only one of two people I know at my age who, up until a week ago, had both of their parents still alive. I didn’t want to NOT have my mom alive.

I got a call from my dad on a Sunday afternoon. He asked me to come down as soon as possible. So within three hours I was on my way to the airport. A few hours earlier, I’d had an amazing experience with a Southwest Airline agent, who took a ticket that I'd gotten at a REALLY great price (that I was scheduled to use this week…) and allowed me to use it with no extra charge. When I was wheeling my bag onto the plane, tears streaming down my face, I thought how sweet she was to give me that ticket…and then the voice… The voice that said SHE didn’t give you the ticket, *I* did. Whew. I was taken back to a familiar place from my past. To a story I hadn’t thought about it for probably 25 years!

Years ago, I read an inspiring book called The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom. And not too long afterwards, I had the honor of caring for her when she was admitted to the hospital I worked in. She shared a story (which was also in her book) and although I don’t remember it verbatim, it was related to a question that was asked of her. “HOW did you endure all those horrible experiences? I don’t think I would have the strength to do it”

She asked the question back, “When you are a child who is going on a trip with your father, does he give you your ticket months in advance? Absolutely not. He knows that as a child you would lose it before the time came when you needed it. No, he gives it to you just as you are getting on the train… And so it is with our strength. We get it ONLY as we need it.”

Was it an easy week? Although the hospice agency was to provide 24 hour nursing coverage, my dad was very anxious, and asked me to sleep in my mom’s room at the Alzheimer’s center. I can only imagine what it must feel to lose your life partner of almost 70 years. But, do you know what it feels like to sleep with a strange nurse in the room, and oxygen concentrator running, and all the lights on? To have only two changes of clothes (one that you slept in every night???), and no shower for five days? (Yup. I perfected the Shirley Maclaine role in Terms of Endearment). Worse than that was watching my mom struggle to breathe, and simultaneously struggle to let go. Having to suction her myself because the hospice agency failed to send nurses as promised, and when they did, they sent a one who couldn’t stay awake at night (therefore I did, for three consecutive nights), and an evening nurse who was so sick she had to be sent home. (Yes, I WILL be following up on those issues….). Throw in typical family dynamics, and planning a memorial with my dad and you begin to get the picture. It was probably the most challenging week of my life. But, every time I thought I was going to totally lose it, I reached into my pocket and held onto “my ticket”. And you know what? I found strength that I never knew I could have. I found courage, compassion, and patience. I went to many other previously unknown and beautiful places on my “train ride”. And as painful as it was, I would not have traded that experience for anything.

It was like I always knew it would be. The two of us together at the end. Not my sibs. Not my dad…just us. I was able to hold her hand, stroke her head, and play her favorite music (see links below) as she transitioned out of her prison of a body with a demented brain. I was there to whisper words of comfort in her ear. And now, she is free now to visit me once again. I feel her smiling as I write this and it brings a grin to my face.

Now, just to prove everything was as it was meant to be? I was upgraded to first class (complementary) on my way home, and my first day back (yesterday) I had the most amazing massage and an acupuncture treatment. AND…I am eating really healthy to compensate for the chocolate I ate last week, and to boost my immune system before we leave on our trip to India in 17 days!

Life goes on...
These are the songs I played. In sequence.

The Jazz Band Ball Orchestra sang this to my mom on her birthday in 1989.

She used to play this on the piano. Many nights as a child I fell asleep as she did.

Josh Groban, her favorite. As this was playing, the angels lifted her up and carried her away. No better way to go.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • v JAVAJO47
    Just started coming back to SP and was very saddened to read of the loss of your mother. I could feel the pain and heartache in the blog and I'm sure you have been mentally and physically exhausted! To say I'm sorry seems so inadequate at a time like this but for lack of a better sentiment, please know I will keep you and your family in my prayers. Anyone who has lost one or both of their parents can certainly relate to all the emotions you are going through and I wish nothing but better days ahead and some smiles as you recall the wonderful memories of days gone by.

    On another note, I was very intrigued to read that you were taking care of Corrie Ten Boom at one time. I read her book as well and saw a movie about her and her sister during the Holocaust...what a truly inspirational woman. It must have been awesome to have had conversations with her.

    Take care and hope to hear about your India trip sometime.
    Jo Ann
    1231 days ago
    It is so good at times like these (and at any time) to be a child of God.
    What a wonderful story. Thank you! Thank you!. God is so good and the same yesterday, today and forever. I know your mother is looking down on you from heaven and awaiting the day to see you again. God bless.
    1255 days ago
    I lost my Mom 3 years ago. I had spoken to her the night before and lucky me for that was the last time I had. I can't imagine what you went through but can understand why things happen the way they do. We are all stronger from our experiences.

    1267 days ago
    Happy to come by and read your story today. Deeply saddened for your loss as I consider the age of my own confidant and best friend, my mother. Thinking of you this week.
    1268 days ago
    I'm sorry about the loss (and gain) of your mother. You had quite a time - and found blessings in your heartache. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope your dad is coping and can find some comfort in the memories made with her during those 70 years.
    1268 days ago
    I'm so happy you had the time you did with your mom! My condolences on her passing! emoticon
    1268 days ago
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. I am so sorry for your loss. emoticon
    1269 days ago
    You were a true blessing to your Mother and you can be assured that she felt your presence and heard that beautiful music. It is truly amazing how we sometimes get a comforting message from above.
    May we all remain in the palm of his hand, Elaine
    1269 days ago
    I am so very sorry, love. While I agree you DEFINITELY need to follow up as planned on the lack of appropriate care your mom received, perhaps a bright side is that, had your mom still been aware and fully present, is sounds like she would have felt very secure in the knowledge that you were there, knowing you would take care of her and fight for her no matter what. For what it's worth, you have given me yet another reason to thank God my mother is, as yet, young and healthy.

    1269 days ago
    Life not only goes on, as ONEKIDSMOM says, Life is GOOD!
    emoticon for sharing a powerful story and allowing us to accompany you on a short step in your journey.
    1269 days ago
  • v MIATIA1
    I am so sadden for your loss yet I encourage you to look at the gift your mother has now received, freedom from a body that has kept her a prisoner. I know how hard it hurts to lose a parent for I lost my dad from cancer when I was 25 and alone at his bedside for my mohter had just stepped out to talk to the Dr. I wish I was more religious so at times like these I too could recite some special verse or prayer but know I'm thinking of you and so proud of you for all the strength you have shown and will continue with to bring you through your pain.... emoticon
    1269 days ago
    Stephanie, it was one of the worst moments if my life. There WAS no equipment at her bedside. There WAS no hospice nurse that night. It was only because one of the two (non medical) staff in the building (guest home, not a nursing home) heard me and was able to get the suction machine to her bedside, that she did not die at that moment, gurgling in my arms.... Like I said, there WILL be some follow up. I have been my mom's health care advocate for many years, and will be even now. And I will try to ensure that no other family has to go through what we did with a hospice agency. You may be reading about this case in the future....
    1269 days ago
    Wow!! What if you had not known how to suction her? How very fortunate that you did. I'm glad you will deal with those issues at some point as they need to know.

    What a wonderful gift you gave your mother and yourself, as hard as it was. Big hugs to you, my dear. I'm thinking of you ...

    1269 days ago
    So sorry for your loss of your mom. But you were blrdded to be there to hold her hand as she passed to be holding Jesus' hand. Isn't it a blessing to be a child of God!!! May your memories of your mom be happy and blessed. God is good all the time, all the time God is good.
    In Christ,
    Marcia emoticon
    1269 days ago
    I too am so sorry for you and your dad but at the same time glad she is not suffering. Too bad that the proper medical treatment wasn't there and you had to step in, same thing with my mum too.
    HUGS to you and many happy memories and as you say she has escaped her tortured mind. HUGS to your special mum watching down.
    1269 days ago
    oh at love i am so sorry but at the same time glad that you had this experiance and had the time to say your goodbyes.your mom is in a better place now.if you need to talk know that i am here for you haveing lost both my parents i can imagine how you are feeling right now.take care and keep smiling emoticon
    1269 days ago
    Sorry about your loss.
    1269 days ago
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