The source of her constant pain that forced her into a nursing home? My fear of recurrent cancerous tumors was WAY off. She had multiple fractures in her spine. Maybe caused by taking steroids for years for her COPD, who knows?
I recall her last trip away from the nursing home. She was to go to the local hospital for an MRI of her spine. I could no longer transport Joy because her pain was intense and she couldn't make it from the wheelchair into my car. Arrangements were made for the nursing home van to take her to the hospital and I would meet her there. I waited in the large lobby as sunlight streamed through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The van approached the door and the driver got out, went to the back and slowly lowered the silhouetted figure in a wheelchair to the ground. He wheeled her into the bustling lobby as I met them. Mom was severely hunched in her chair and she donned a pained smile when she saw me. In her hands was a large manila folder containing the doctor's orders for the procedure she would undergo today. Her name was written in large print on the outside of the folder. The thing I noticed most about the folder were the 3-inch tall letters, written in bold black on a fluorescent green sticker DO NOT RESUSCITATE!
Mom....you look like a school kid holding your report card.
Joy glanced down at the folder and replied, Yeah, and it looks like I failed!
|The inscription inside the Big Book of Alcoholic's Anonymous Joy gave to me in 1980|
We tried to control her pain. Joy was on a cocktail of meds to regulate her failing systems; any change was a high-wire act performed without a net. The pain patch didn't help much.
Two other developments lowered my spirits to their nadir: Joy kept having bouts of pneumonia requiring treatment with strong antibiotics. One morning she pulled me close to her face as she lay propped on her bed. In desperation she revealed,
Kath, I can't see!
I squeezed her hand.
I know Mom.....I'm so sorry.
I sat with her as we both absorbed the cruelty of Joy being deaf and now blind. Freakin' macular degeneration...they say if you live long enough, you're gonna get it.
I won't go into details of her last days. Made the decision to call hospice, as she had given me her medical power of attorney. She trusted me to make the right decision and I did the best I could. Maybe we could have gotten her through this episode, but I didn't see the point. It was time to let go and let Joy move on.
|A letter I cherish, written to me after a girl's trip to Dallas. We saw an art exhibit 'El Greco of Toledo'.|
One of her last lucid moments was talking to the hospice nurse. He got close to her face and told her he was from hospice and they were going to take good care of her. She was resigned, but she was definitely not HAPPY to see hospice and she told him as much. The nurse thought she was hilarious and full of spirit. Said he loved her spunk.
Thankfully, Joy wasn't in hospice care for long....only 2 days. Not sure what I expected from a dying person. Maybe I thought there would be lots of hand-holding and Joy would slip quietly into the night. That turned out to not be her dying 'style'. Joy fought tooth-and-nail for every last precious breath and moment on this earth. I really didn't expect this, but her dying was like her living: she'd overcome many setbacks and she wasn't going west without a good fight! She didn't need or want any hand-holding or hair-stroking.....the battle was hers to wage. I was simply an onlooker. Good thing we hadn't left anything unsaid.
What did I learn from Joy? Here are some things I keep in my heart.
1. It's never too late to start over.
2. Never....ever....stop learning.
3. Don't judge a person on their possessions or lack thereof. It's a gift to be comfortable around all sorts of people.
4. My children are extraordinary.
|One of my last little notes, written in Joy's increasingly shaky handwriting.|
6. Surviving awful experiences can make one stronger.
7. Always trust your Higher Power...this is the path to true serenity.
Thank you, dear reader for sharing my remembrances of my mother. I wanted to write some truths of her life to help myself and hopefully shine a light on the difficulty of alcoholism and addictions in general. Seems no one is untouched these days. Redemption is always out there. Joy found it through God and Alcoholic's Anonymous. I spent many-a-day in Al-Anon trying to find answers for myself.
This has been a difficult, but ultimately triumphant series, I hope.
Please check back, as I will be posting some lighter, more humorous blog posts. Oh...and lots of pictures of a certain grandson and an adventurous wiener dog! Did I mention I caught Roxy-Doxy Tebowing after a spectacular tennis ball catch the other day? Oh....lawd-eee, that dog!
Redemptive love to all.