I've been on quite an emotional roller coaster for the past eight days. Until yesterday, I wondered how in the world my dear mother would ever get out of the hospital alive. I have called her nurses every morning for updates, and gone to visit her every day, and I watched as she looked increasingly weak and frail, and doctors and nurses added to the laundry list of her illnesses and ailments. Early on, she blew through two IVs, and had to have a PICC line inserted.
I have also seen the toll on her body of mass quantities of medications. Drinking the stuff that preceded her contrast CT scan caused her to have difficulty breathing, and sent her heart into AFib, for which she was given a new medicine to bring her back into normal sinus rhythm. Her oxygen was upped to fifteen liters for several days, and that alone kept her in ICU until yesterday. She has received large doses of steroids to help clear her lungs, but that has sent her blood sugar soaring over 300 more than once. Because of this, they have been giving her shots of insulin.
Finally yesterday, I was told that the amount of oxygen Mom is getting had been reduced to five liters. Good news! Her catheter had been removed. More good news. No more need for heart medicine. Great news. And she was downgraded from ICU to regular patient status. Brilliant. Though she's always tired when I visit her after school around 3:00, still she looked better yesterday, and I could see improvement. I desperately needed to SEE improvement.
I think the most difficult thing for me to deal with this past week, was the discussion I had with my parents about their advanced directives, and in particular, Mom's. I knew they/she did not want to be kept around via life support such as ventilators or something keeping the heart beating. But I did not realize that their wishes extended further than that. They signed DNR (do not resuscitate) orders, which meant that if for some reason my mom's heart stopped, they would let her go. No chest compressions. No CPR of any kind. She wants to be allowed to die naturally.
Being a believer, and knowing my mother is as well, allows me to see in my mind's eye what awaits us and in particular, her, beyond this life. When my mom leaves this world, I am certain she will be greeted by her two children who preceded her in death, her first baby, lost to miscarriage, and my brother, Bobby who was hit by a car and killed at the age of six. Her own parents will be there too, and my cousins Jim and Brenda, and my cousins' sons as well. My Aunt Cecile will welcome her home as will so many others who went on before. She will be healthy and whole and at perfect peace. She will be young again, in her prime. No difficulty breathing or moving or walking. No more dizziness and coughing. No more pain.
I thought about those things, and about how much I want my mom to stay here, but that means she will experience increasing shortness of breath due to the pulmonary fibrosis that has attacked her lungs. The pain she constantly lives with from arthritis and fibromyalgia. The frustration she experiences living in a broken-down body. My desire to keep her here is absolutely and purely selfish. I know how much better off she will be in heaven, but she's still my mom. And at some point I will have to surrender my desire to keep her close despite what it's costing her, and let her go to a place where I will know she is happy and healthy, and where I have no doubt I will see her again. And when the time comes, I will comfort myself in knowing that our parting is temporary.
I am immensely thankful that the times during which we have to face our own or our loved ones' mortality are usually few and far between. They are excruciating. But they also serve to remind us how very precious life is, and indeed, how finite. I can only be the daughter I want to be to my parents while I still have them. I can only be the wife or mother or friend I want to be, while I'm still breathing. It's insane to put off living to another day, because we have no guarantee of another day. I am so grateful that my mom's still here and that I'll get to see her and talk to her and hold her hand in about an hour from now. She is, after all, my mom.
Until next time . . .