Sunday, June 18, 2017

Mom's Final Gift

It's no secret my Mom loved Christmas. She was like a little kid every Christmas morning. We thought it was because she liked getting gifts, but I suspect it was also because she wanted to see my brothers and sisters, and nephews' reaction to the gifts she gave out. Last December was her last Christmas with us.

We were waiting for a diagnosis that eventually revealed she had lung cancer. She got radiation treatment, but when I went to Manistique for Easter she was in constant pain and I ended up doing some cooking and cleaning for her.The least I could do after all these years of her taking care of us.

When I went up Memorial Day weekend she was in great pain and we set up a hospital bed in the living room so she could watch TV and see the birds she fed through the windows on the back deck. She ate baked beans and hot dogs with us (although a small portion for her) and even had a little glass of beer. Of course she added a little salt to it, that was the way she enjoyed it. The following day we took her to the hospital and she had a port put in so she could have her pain managed with morphine. In so doing we realized she was now considered a hospice patient with a DNR order.

The following morning I had to leave to go back to Fond du Lac. She was laughing and smiling and tried to fix me up with a hospital cook. It would be the last time I would be able to hold a conversation with her face-to-face . She was taken home later that day. She wanted to die at home and not in a hospital or up at Medicare where she played the organ for masses for the residents.

Two days later my brother John texted me that Mom had been given last rites. She was no longer conscious and was having difficulty breathing. I was able to make the four hour trip back to Manistique and be with my brothers and sisters before Mom passed away. She was no longer conscious or able to talk to us, but we held her hands and talked to her. Her dog Chewie curled up under the sheets next to her providing the body heat she was having a hard time generating. She died with as much grace and dignity as cancer would allow.

The day after the funeral  we were going through cards and I read a letter from an envelope Mom had marked with the message "kids stick together." The letter contained her wishes as she wrote them in April of 1995 about which possessions she wanted to go to us. Some of them like the car and home had changed over 22 years, but  many times over those years she had expressed a wish that we stick together after her death.

In fact the weekend of her funeral the five us were constantly together. That afternoon after the funeral it rained. All five us were gathered at the door of the back deck when this rainbow appeared. If we hadn't stuck together we might not have enjoyed it. It might not be easy as we get older, but if we can give Mom one final gift it will be an effort to stick together.