Authors: Debbie White
I knew there would come a time when I wouldn’t be going anywhere, let alone to the store. Soon, that’s just how it happened too. I’d give Carole the shopping list and she’d go to the store and get my toothpaste, snacks and anything else I needed.
With each change in my life, it wasn’t just me who had to adapt, the kids did too. We did it beautifully, though. I’d heard it time and time again from the Hospice staff and the caregivers. They’d never seen such a supportive family in all their dealings with the sick. That made me feel good and I know it helped the children continue with their love and support during this tough time.
I could see and feel a difference in my body. It was changing. I wasn’t eating or drinking like I used to, my appetite decreasing. Nothing tasted or sounded good.
My caregivers were great about getting me soup and quiche, two things I enjoyed and were easy to digest. I didn’t want to alarm the kids, but things were happening, and they were happening faster than I wanted. I really wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. I guess I saw it as a sign of weakness. I never wanted the children to think I’d given up when they’d done nothing of the sort.
I insisted every day on doing my regular daily routine. Get up, get dressed – even if it was just a clean nightgown, eat a little breakfast, take a few sips of my coffee, and brush my teeth and hair. Then I’d sit on the couch for hours dosing, and perking up only when I was asked if I wanted to go outside.
I loved being outside. I could breathe easier – get rid of that darn oxygen tank, and loved seeing the green and flowers everywhere.
I loved the weekends because I’d usually see each one of my children. They’d take turns and push my wheelchair outside, we’d sip on cold water while lounging outside, and we’d always check out what was going on in the activities room.
For Cinco de Mayo, they had music, margaritas and sombreros along with Mexican food. Carole and a caregiver took me. We had so much fun. Carole took a picture of me with that big hat on. I think if it were in my younger years, I wouldn’t have participated by wearing a hat. It’s funny what you do when age creeps in.
Carole and the caregivers were concerned that I was getting too much sun on our little outings. Carole came to the rescue as she’d done many times before. It was for Mother’s Day.
“Here Mom, these are for you,” she said handing me a large gift bag.
I was having difficulty getting the contents out, so she helped. “Oh, this is beautiful,” I said as I admired the beautiful sun hat.
“I liked it so much, I bought myself one too,” she said as she placed it on my head. The caregiver nodded her approval.
“There’s more in the bag,” Carole said peeking inside.
“You shouldn’t have,” I jokingly scolded. She’d given me three new dresses, the cotton kind I loved so much and received many compliments on.
“Now if you don’t like them, I can return them,” she said while putting the tissue paper back into the gift bag.
“Are you kidding? I LOVE them!”
It was becoming increasingly more difficult to even get around the apartment. Most of the day was spent sitting on the couch, using the restroom, and my outings outside or down to the music center. Carole was worried I was getting depressed. I was. I didn’t share that with her, though. They were doing everything they could to help me, there was no way I was going to burden them with an added thing, depression.
Carole came bouncing in the apartment one afternoon with a hummingbird feeder, a wind chime that was an angel, and a couple of hanging baskets of colorful flowers. Also, she had a bamboo blind for the balcony.
“What’s all of this?” I inquired.
“I’m going to hook you up with a beautiful balcony,” she said getting to work hanging baskets. “Dad’s rose bush is lonely out there.”
“Ah. Dad’s rose bush,” I said recalling how she and I went to the gravesite and Carole took a clipping of the rose bush that was planted there. She nursed it, and now it was thriving. I admired it every day, and the caregivers would clip a rose every few days, and put it in a bud vase on the table near me so that I could really appreciate it.
When she was done, my balcony was transformed from an ugly, bare one to one that had colorful hanging baskets, a hummingbird feeder, and a wind chime. The bamboo blind was wonderful too because when the sun was too intense we just rolled it down. She thought of everything. I really enjoyed looking out the patio now, and believe it or not, hummingbirds came all the time.
One afternoon the caregiver went outside to water the plants and came right back in saying, “Pat, you’re not going to believe this.”
“What is it?”
“In the pot with your husband’s rose bush are three four leaf clovers growing!”
“You’re kidding!” I said shocked.
She quickly got me in my wheelchair out and wheeled me out to see. There, growing in the pot, just like she’d said were three four-leaf clovers. I took it as a sign. I called Carole to tell her. She was just as surprised. I could hear it in her voice.
During the scheduled nurse visits, they’d take my vitals, talk to me, and then be on their way. We all knew what Hospice was, comfort care. I was hoping for a little more, but I knew my age and my current state of health was what brought me to Hospice in the first place.
My mind was as sharp as ever, though. That was the hardest part. I could think for myself. The frustration that came with knowing, but not able to do, was tough for me.
Thursday was a rough day for me. I woke up crying, and upset. Something the caregivers had never seen before. I tried very hard to be strong for everyone concerned. Maybe too strong.
We made it through the day, but the next couple of days was more of the same.
On Saturday, I woke up crying again. The caregiver helped me out of bed. I felt different. I’d been having a bad couple of days and wondered if this was the end.
“What day is it?”
The caregiver confirmed it was Saturday. I’d see the kids today. I knew when they came I wouldn’t alarm them by telling them how I felt. I’d just let God and nature take its course, but I felt this was the day I was going to be with their dad. It was the day the angels would sing, and carry me off to a world free of pain and disappointment. I knew it would be a sad day for them, but I was ready.
Carole came over to see me. I was not feeling well, but I knew she was there. We talked a little in and out of my drowsiness and hallucinations. I still managed to crack a few jokes, trying to make her feel better. I could see it in her eyes, hear it in her voice, she knew if it wasn’t today, it would be soon.
She knelt down on the floor and took my hand in hers.
“Mom, what’s going on? Do you feel ok?”
“No, I’m hurting. I’m in pain. I’m hurting just like when my ribs were broken.”
She squeezed my hand. I opened my eyes and looked at her. The expression on her face told me I didn’t look too well, and I might be alarming her, but I didn’t want to lie to her.
“I’m tired of fighting; I’m tired of always being in pain.”
“Mom, you don’t have to fight anymore. It’s ok, you gave it your all,” she said, her voice cracking with emotion. “You are one of the strongest women I’ve ever known. You can go be with dad now.”
I heard her tell my caregiver she was going to call the others. She stepped out of the room and contacted them.
She stayed for a while, but then told me she was going home, but she’d be back. All the kids lived within a couple of blocks from me, Carole right around the corner. She mentioned taking me outside when she returned. I knew I wouldn’t be going outside, but I played along.
“Ok, hon. See you later,” I said.
I know she would have stayed longer if she really thought that today was the day. But I also know she probably didn’t want to be alone with me if it was. However, I’d wait for each child to visit me before I would depart. That much I knew.
The boys came by later that day. We made small talk, and I could see it in their faces, and hear it in their voices they were concerned. There wasn’t much that could be done. My old heart was giving up. It had served me well for the past eighty-six year. I couldn’t really complain, I’d lived a good, long life.
It happened so quickly. One minute I was sitting on the couch trying to visit with them and the next thing I knew my two sons had carried me to bed.
I could hear voices. I had my eyes closed, but I could hear them clearly talking about me and what was about to happen. Peter called Carole and told her to get over here, and quickly. I was focusing on letting go, and not feeling any pain, but I’d wait for Carole.
I didn’t want them to witness my dying, but that’s the way this was going to go down. I had no choice. My only prayer was for me to go peacefully. God promised me that much.
“Mom, it’s Carole. I’m here. It’s ok, you can go be with Dad now. I love you.” I’d clearly heard.
“Mom, I love you.” I heard Peter say.
“Mom, you’re free to go. We love you and don’t want you to be in any more pain,” Charles Jr choked out.
But then the last thing I heard before I went was how much Carole would miss me and all the time we’d spent together. She said she’d always cherish the last ten years she lived nearby and wished it had been more. I couldn’t tell her, but it had been more than enough. Her time with me was indeed special, and it was her love and patience, along with all the children that kept me going as long as I did.
And then, I was free. Free of pain, free of guilt and soaring high with the angels. I knew I was happy so I was hoping there’d be a smile on my face. I was going to join Charles in Heaven, and I was going to set my children free. Free from being a caretaker, free of worry, and free to live their life as their father and I had so dearly wanted.
The kids had given the ultimate sacrifice. They’d given their love and time to me, and I would never be able to thank or compensate them enough. But rumor has it, they’d do it all over again and not one of them would complain.
A Word From The Author:
As Mom had hoped, the caregivers did share with us all her private thoughts. She asked them to please let us know how much she appreciated everything we’d done. She knew she didn’t have a lot of money so we’d not get repaid that way, but she said her wish and hope would be that we would get rewarded another way. And, she was right. We would not have traded that experience for anything. We came away better people – and I know in Mom’s eyes, we were already pretty special.
Elder care is on the rise here in the United States. It is not just with duty, but with love for one’s parents that we should offer assistance in their daily care. Other countries do it unselfishly, and we should too. Taking care of our mother ‘til the end was the most meaningful thing we’ve ever done. It was hard, and seeing her take her last breath will live with us forever. But having us there at the end helped her cross over to a peaceful death.
We love her and miss her each and every day. Make sure you tell the people in your life how special they are. It will help you heal when the time comes.
About the Author:
Debbie currently lives in northern California with her husband and two rescue dachshunds, Dash and Briar. She avidly supports animal rescue and happily donates a percentage of book sales to local shelters and rescue organizations.
I hope you enjoyed my book. If so, please leave a review at Amazon.
Other books by Debbie White: