*Edited: it’s been a year March 31 I started writing this at the 6 month mark and could never fully finish it or articulate my feelings, thoughts and emotions*
It’s been 6 months. Her 60th birthday was October 5.
I wanted to share what happened during that last week of her life. It was a shock to a lot of people. When you called and spoke with her she never let on that she was pain. When you came by and visited she never let is show that she was in pain. She joked with you. She kept life pretty damn normal. She would tell me “I don’t want to be a burden” I would roll my eyes and say “Mama that’s what we are here for, lean on us.” I know we couldn’t take the pain away but we could help life be easier and comfortable. I would fuss at her from Kuwait on the phone. I would call and tell on her to Chris. She would call and act fake mad. I appreciate everyone who she was able to lean on in her time of need. I was her daughter and didn’t know the extent of her pain. I knew she was in pain but not how much until I got home and saw for myself.
Elise happened to call mama the day she got her results back. I rushed Elise in the shower after she said her piece because I needed to focus on what was being said. I get the phone and Betty is acting all nonchalant like there ain’t a purpose for this call. Mama didn’t you have a doctor’s appointment today? What did they say? My mama’s exact words “a lot of things” Me mentally eye rolling because we are video chatting and I was not gonna for real roll my eyes. No matter how far away I was, I wasn’t stupid. She then tells me “I have been released into hospice care” I hold the phone away and compose myself I will not let her see me cry. Then she says “don’t do anything rash” Mama I am coming home. “you don’t need to do that” Mama I am coming home. I am coming home while I have a choice not when I am forced. “oh that makes sense” Mental eye rolling again. “don’t post on Facebook and don’t tell Elise. We will tell everyone when y’all get here” Got it.
I went to work the next day and told them I need to leave and don’t ask me when I’m coming back. Let’s aim for after spring break. My mama is being released into Hospice care and that is my focus right now. I cried in every office I went into that day. I started with my VP. Then I had to go to HR. Final stop was my Principal. Then I went to my team. I was offered to go home but Elise didn’t know what was going on and I just couldn’t deal. So I let work distract me.
I flew out that Saturday morning. March 24. I landed in Charleston Saturday night. Longest flight of my life. I get to the house and she’s sitting up waiting like she normally does. She informs me about her alarm going off to her remind to take her medicine. We all go to sleep. She seems pretty darn normal.
Sunday I do not go to church because no one is supposed to know I am even home. Let’s not ruffle feathers and cause a commotion here.
Art and Regina come over after church for their version of church at the house. I get kicked out of the room like I still sit at the kid’s table. I legit had to take Elise in the room and “play” with her. Really I am 37 years old. How rude. But I get it. No way she was going to be able to hold an adult conversation AND Elise stay in the room the WHOLE time. I heard snippets of the conversation. She told them she was in hospice care and she has made peace with everything. She is tired of being in pain. She is not suicidal. Keep us in prayer. She asked Art to be the song leader at her funeral. They let her know they were going on a cruise in April for Art’s birthday and she politely told them she won’t be here for that. Of course they all laughed it off. Said good-bye and left.
Monday we go to therapy and have the leg massaged and re-wrapped. This is when I got my first glimpse of how much pain she really was in. The struggle to get in and out of the car. How uncomfortable it was for her to sit in the car.
Tuesday the Hospice nurse came over to wash her and she politely in her own way declined. I ask her how many people know. She says “you, Chris, Dee and Runette” Mama are you serious? Again I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t want Naomi changing her plans. Mama?!? How Jin didn’t know is beyond me. Well mama I think you need to tell your brothers and sisters. They have a right to know what is going on. You can’t just die on them without letting them know what’s going on. Besides I told Freddie and he’s on the way. Hop to it. I’ve already spilled the beans and do you really think Art and Gina are gonna stay quiet. Don’t let your family find out at church from strangers.
She calls family one by one. Those who are able come by and visit with her. Doesn’t look like anything is wrong right? She’s sitting up being normal Betty.
Wednesday we miss the eye doctor appointment. She just couldn’t get going that morning. Once she did get up, she didn’t want to sit in the car for the 25 minute ride West Ashley.
Thursday night she falls in the front bathroom. I go across the street to get the neighbor to help me. She refused to push her help button. She fell she is fine just get her up. Mama it’s okay I am here and so is the neighbor. We get her into the bed.
Friday Chris is on his way down from Greensboro. I tell him come straight home.
I go check on her that morning. She hadn’t taken any medicine and she’s asking about me and Elise going to church. Mama what medicine do you need to take cause it’s Friday and we don’t even have clothes for church. We finally take the medicine and she goes back to sleep. Chris gets in and tell him what has been going on. She finally get up and Chris helps her down the hallway in time for the hospice nurse to come. We pull this lady to the side and tell her everything. She’s being too nonchalant for my liking. We get a bedside toilet and I am asking about what happens when Chris leaves with getting her in and out of the bed. Again too damn nonchalant. (looking back on it they knew more than what they were telling) We eat our Easter dinner. She tries out her wheelchair. The kids push her down the hall in the wheelchair. She says it’s uncomfortable to sit in for church so it was a good idea but not gonna happen. We help her get ready for bed.
I get up that night to go to the bathroom. I hear her alarm go off but don’t hear her get up to take her medicine. I can hear her coughing. I go in and check on her. Mama you alright. “I need to go to the bathroom” I go get Chris. We each take a side……………………….
I will warn you NOW this is when it happens.
*I think I can finish this.*
It’s now been a year since she’s passed. As you can see I can’t finish writing what happens that night. I think I’ve only told one person what actually happened. It’s a memory that will live with me forever.
I can’t say life has gotten easier. Nor can I say it’s gotten better.
There are days I am drowning in grief. There are days I walk with my grief and I’m okay.
When my daddy passed away he was at the hospital and I came home to find out what happened.
When my mama passed I was in the room.
This year I have felt like an orphan with both parents gone. I haven’t felt like I have a real purpose at life. I’ve been winging it.
Grief is cruel.
Grief with a child is torture.
I am grateful for therapy. I am grateful for those that take a moment to check in on us. It’s hard.
This will always be my favorite picture
October 5, 1958 to March 31, 2018
Gone but never forgotten.