Thursday, July 24, 2008

Alive, and Grieving Onward

I want to begin with a huge thank you to all who wrote me comments on my last entry. The overwhelming pouring in of support was truly amazing and helped make me feel much less alone. It is hard to express how much I appreciate the recognition that I am part of a caring and supportive community. It means more to me than any of you can know. I especially appreciate the words of my small world of regular readers-the whole experience still makes me cry-in a good way, of course.
I got home late Saturday, and managed to hold it together until I saw my new therapist on Monday. This time frame had been especially difficult because I moved from one therapist-Cathy-to another-Nicole-before I left for Meg's wedding. It seemed the right thing to do at the time, but I had had only one meeting with Nicole, and Cathy knew all the family dynamics, what my Mom's relationship was with me, how alienated I have been from my father all my life, all sorts of stuff about Catherine and Luke, my siblings, and how I have in my life with blow after blow, surgery after surgery.
I have talked to Cathy by phone twice, but have also said my farewells to her and committed to Nicole. I saw her Monday after oon and could finally let go. I've been a wreck since, but in a good, positive, accepting way. Mourning is so individual and I have never had so much to grieve over before, that I am trying to be gentle with myself and go with whatever comes up.
Nicole was very helpful in one way, by telling me it was OK not to talk with my siblings for a while- a really good idea. She was much less helpful when she told me to gather my all my friends around, at home and in person. I rather bitterly reminded her that my "presenting problem" was the lack of friends-my only three friends all work and have crazy busy lives of their own. They care, and call, but are completely unavailable during the long days I must spend alone.
I never realized how much of my life was spent telling my self, I'll have to tell Mom this. or Mom will laugh at that. I miss her terribly.
On the other hand, I will keep on keeping on, as I always do, because, after all, what other option is there? I'm not cleaning house or organizing my life at the moment, but am forgiving myself, knowing I will eventually.
Again, I must thank everyone who commented, who sent prayers or thoughts or energy, for all of it has helped as I move through this thing called grieving.
Blessings to all of you. Margo

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Another Day, Another Death

This morning, at 7:15 AM, my father, Allison Francis Page, died of C Diff, which had lead to a systemic infection that he was too weak to battle. We were told he was in serious condition but holding his own when we left the hospital at 6:00 PM, but at 11:00 PM the doctor called to say he had taken a turn for the worse, and we should come to see him ASAP.
I arrived from one direction, Luke and Mary from another. (Catherine ad returned to Michigan on Tuesday.) Allison was doing a little better with the massive amount of meds they were giving him, so we retired to the waiting room with pillows and blankets about 1:00 AM. At 3:00 the nurse woke us: he was doing much worse. We rushed down the hall to find him struggling to breath. I will spare you the next four hours, but I will say my brother was in strong denial, and wanted the treatments continued. It took 3 long hours before the nurse and a doctor convinced him the Allison was not going to tolerate more treatment, and they should be withdrawn so he could die in peace. He finally sad no more massive meds, just make him comfortable with lots of morphine.
Luke and Allison had a good father-son relationship, and Luke wept more than I've ever seen him, leaving periodically to sob somewhere else. Mary and I stood by Allison's bed for four hours, until he died, then I stayed with the body for a while, trying to figure out what had just happened. And why? I am sad  because we were not close-at times I came close to hating him, other times he surprised me with his admiration and love. And he was my father and I loved him
I am quite shell shocked, as well as sleep deprived.. To lose both parents in four days seems excessive. I will wait until I home to even touch the pain and loss. Staying in their apartment makes me feel as if they might walk in any minute, and it's a way of both denial and holding them close, here in their home, which will soon disappear completely.
Catherine and I will have one last trip out here to divide the household goods, then I never want to set foot in Colorado again. I cannot wait to fly home Saturday, even though I am loath to leave. Confusing, isn't it?
I realize I am jealous that Luke lured them out here, and his kids got to have then at ball games and graduations. And I feel petty for being jealous. Every time I've been out here for the last 17 years I have spent my time driving mom to market or the hair dressers, or taking her shopping in stores that had nothing that fit me. (Though I must admit I have a couple of pieces of nice jewelry from shopping together.) And lately it has to visit them in that damned hospital, or to help out after a surgery.
It was only a vacation the two times we went to Taos, NM. And she apologized to me that we never made the last promised trip there the day before she died. I told her I would go for us, knowing quite well that it is beyond my means.
I am beyond tired now, and will end this to go to sleep. I feel as if the last forever postings have been more and more depressive, and I thank you for hanging in as I struggle on this next part of my journey.
Many Blessings, Margo

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Back to the Hospital, Yet Again

I am sitting here in my mother's bedroom, sipping some Gray Goose, thinking, "Sh't, some years it's not getting out of bed on New Year's Morning, even if I did go to bed at 9:00 PM the night before."
The Wednesday before Mom died, I went to the rehab center to visit Dad, who is there because he had spent several weeks in the hospital and nursing homes, and needed to get his strength and stamina back before he could return to his apartment in this retirement community. He was glad to see me, and bragged about walking 100 yards with minimal help that morning, when three days before he could barely stand up.
Friday he felt very tired, but still did physical therapy. Saturday he spiked a temp and began having diarrhea more than usual. Sunday, when Luke and Mary went over to tell him Mom had died, he seemed quite sad (appropriate after 60 years of marriage!) and a bit weaker than the day before. Monday he declined to go to Mom's Memorial Service, and when we all went in, he looked both depressed and sicker. Tuesday he was back up doing physical therapy in the morning when I saw him, but was sick again when Luke and Mary dropped by later.
Tuesday night Luke got a call saying he was sicker still, but refusing to go to the hospital. Luke, Mary and I arrived back at the nursing home, to find him really sick, having frequent diarrhea, and in pain, still adamantly refusing to go to the hospital. We stayed until midnight, then left, planning to go in early this morning.
Hey, none of us blamed him for refusing to return to the hospital. He was there in May with a blood infection and back for most of June with C Diff, an intestinal bug usually picked up in hospitals. It is highly contagious, extremely insidious, inflaming the colon, and most likely to affect the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. He falls into both categories. I will refrain from describing too much about C Diff, because if you are interested you can Google it. ( And if you have an elderly and/or immune compromised relative in a nursing home or hospital, I recommend that you do.)
And yesterday, he was diagnosed as having C Diff again. It is insidious because it can come return and return and return, each time worse than before, causing more pain, worse symptoms, and can lead to death.
This morning at 8:00AM Luke called to say he had just hear from Life Care of Littleton that Allison (yes, my father's name is Allison, and we often call him by his first name) had had such a bad night that he had requested to go to the hospital. Now, this is the same hospital that Catherine and I left three days before rejoicing that we would not have to return to, maybe forever. The same one at which he and Mother had just celebrated their 60th Anniversary, since they were there at the same time, the same one they had said good-bye to each other one week ago.
We found him in the ER looking awful. I will not go into long detail, but eventually he was sent to ICU, where he is in isolation with terrible colitis, in a lot of pain, finally getting meds. Not, however pain meds, because his blood pressure was so low. When I left he was getting a pic line put in, so they could deliver meds and draw blood easier.
I don't think he is going to die at this point, but it is becoming clearer that he may never fully recover, especially since the C Diff returned so quickly and virulently in such a short time. He is determined to fight it, completely plans to rehab and come home, but one of the doctors we talked to today said this was very unlikely, and we had to begin to face reality and start thinking about long term care. Of course, she does not know how stubborn he is-stubborn to the extreme all his life-but who knows where reality will lie?
I am feeling triple whammied, and more. After spending the winter and spring inside, healing from surgery, I was barely able to make it to Meg's wedding, a joyous event, but physically difficult for me. I was home two full days before I had to drop everything and fly to Denver for Mother's death, and now Allison is critically ill.
I am still flying home Saturday, unless Allison suddenly takes a turn for the worse. This is unlikely, but it is possible that he will never return to this beautiful apartment in the retirement community that they moved into last October, and that just breaks my heart.
I am beginning to wonder when thing will finally start getting better. Not just for Allison and my brother Luke who lives out her, but for me as well. No, of course I am not giving up. I'll go home and back into my own rehab (I have now been in physical therapy for the better part of six years!) and occasional walks with Meg and Myla, and whatever else I can scrape up to keep moving forward. I will probably have left shoulder surgery in the late fall or winter, then figure out what to do to keep me busy for the rest of my retirement. And I will stay away from hospitals as much as possible!
Today has been another hard one, but tomorrow I will get up and go over to the hospital (I have the early shift) and put a smile on my face while I gird my loins to be an active advocate for my father, because I believe everyone should have one full time when they are hospitalized. Friday I will do the same, and Saturday I will fly home to collapse for a while.
I truly, truly hope that you all are having good summers, and that sometime in the not too distant future I can catch up with you all.
Blessings, Margo

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sad News, but a Peaceful Passing

My mother, Margaret Barbara Brettun Lucas Page, universally known as Peggy, died Sunday, July 13th, at 7:30 AM. It was a good death and my sister Catherine and I were there with her, laying our hands on her to commend her Spirit to the next world as she quietly took her last breath.
She was a strong and lucky woman. She decided Tuesday morning that she did not want a feeding tube or a machine breathing for her, and all around her could see that she was lucid, understanding exactly whet the consequences of her decision would be, and ready to move from this life to the next. Hospice was called, and all their paperwork filled out, and Goddess Bless them for their help. During the next five days she was able to visit once with my Dad, who is in a rehab center, and a lot with her three children, three of her five grandchildren and her great grandchild (Meg's daughter, Myla, now two). We all got chances to visit with her alone, to say how much we loved her, to say our good-byes.
She was actually really happy- no more blood draws or intrusive medical procedures, just family hanging out, laughing with her, listening to her stories, with plenty of morphine to take away the pain, and she could eat anything she wanted, including chocolate milkshakes, corn candy, and custard. She even got to have one last Bloody Mary. Though she only took a few sips of it, she was pleased as Punch. Each day she ate less and less, still feeling joyfully rebellious because she had been a diabetic for so long.
By Sunday she was completely ready to have her life end. She was slowly lowered from 100% oxygen to about 10%, and slipped into unconsciousness. Her morphine was raised to some astronomical amount, and she began getting regular large doses of Atavan. Her breathing became labored for a while, then settled into the kind of loud snoring I have heard from her a hundred times, not labored or odd sounding at all.
My sister Catherine and I spent the night in her room, waking in time to lay our hands on her as she quietly took one last breath, quietly breathing it out, then became still.  Each of us sent her on her way silently, Catherine to a Christian heaven, and I to the arms of the Great Mother, where she can feel unconditional love for the first time. We stood together holding her hand and Shorty (her stump, she only had one arm) for a long time, crying quietly. I suggested we say the 23rd Psalm, and we did, then we called the nurse, and out brother Luke, who could not stay the night, or even in her room for more than a few minutes as she was weaned off oxygen.
Nurses and chaplains and PA's turned up in short order to confirm her death, and Luke and his wonderful wife Mary arrived 30 minutes later (I cannot imagine how many speeding violations the committed to arrive so quickly.) Luke was able to stay in the room with her cooling body about 15 minutes before he had to leave to become busy with the inevitable paperwork-his way of coping is to be as busy as possible. Catherine and I hung out with Mom for another two hours, holding her and each other, knowing that she had passed on to the Great Unknown, her next adventure. Each of us knew that when we left the room she would be much more concretely gone.
Finally we gathered together her stuff, and our own, and left the room, telling the nurses that they could clean her body up for transport. She has donated her body to the local Medical School, for dissection, her last gift to this world.
We gathered for pizza that evening at Luke and Mary's, a real trial for me, for we are a disconnected family which has been held together by Mom, who loved each of us so dearly. I felt especially disconnected because Luke has Mary, Catherine has Bob, and I will go through the mourning period essentially alone.
This afternoon we had a Memorial Service at Dad's Rehab Center (he had been in the hospital for a month, and will need several weeks of physical therapy before he returns home to their apartment, where I am staying). He was optimistic and pleased with working hard when I saw him on Wednesday, then he spiked a fever, and fell into depression. He has been sleeping a lot, and declined to come to the Service.
Led by a wonderful Pastor named Jordana from the hospital, the Service was wonderfully non-denominational, with time for people to share reminisces, laughter and stories about Mom. Catherine read a Psalm, then I was blessed to give a prayer I had written to the Great Mother, praying (among other things) that as we revisit and reabsorb our relationship with Mother, we may work through our pain and loss to find a thoughtful, healthy healing, as a way of honoring her life and Spirit.
Then we said The Lord's Prayer, and it was over. We had lemonade and cookies as a kind of ending reception, visited Dad very briefly, then split into go our separate ways, Luke and Mary back to Lakewood, Catherine and Bob back to Michigan, her sons back to their summer jobs in Michigan and Connecticut. I will probably return home over the weekend, knowing that leaving their apartment will be one more step in letting go. We all know that the glue that held the family together is gone.
Family relations have been extremely difficult, each of us returning to our childish selves, even as we struggled to be polite and fair and sustain the illusion of family unity, but that is for another post, and will take me a long time to work through.
Thank you all for your prayers and thoughts. They mean a great deal to me, making me feel less alone in my life.
Many Blessings, Margo

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Good News, Sad News

Too much is happening all at once. I arrived back from Nova Scotia and Meg's wedding Saturday night about 11:30 PM. The wedding was beautiful, despite the fog, and took place outside beside the ocean. Meg looked beautiful in her white (pregnancy) gown. simple high waisted, beaded on the bodice and back, with flowers in her hair, and bare footed-since the dress was a tad too short, and she has no dress shoes anyway!
Myla was in a long white dress, too, running back and forth between her parents and Geoff (Meg's dad) me and Nana (Adam's mom), free and happy and unconstrained.
Adam looked handsome-and slightly awkward-in his tux, until Meg appeared, walking down the "aisle of trees" with her father and Myla, then he looked dazed and proud. He had absolutely never seen her looking so "girly" before and was dazzled.
There were 10 guests (counting Myla) and the dinner afterwards was beyond description. Let me just say, I have not eaten food like that in 20 years. And the Gray Goose Vodka was good, too! Pictures will follow eventually.
Last night Luke (my brother who lives in Denver, and got back from the wedding on Saturday, too) called to say Mom was not doing well, in ICU with pneumonia, on antibiotics and not responding well. This morning he called to say that she has refused all heroic means, food, and medicine. I am flying out tomorrow at 6 AM, my sister Catherine arrives at 9:30 PM, and Meg and Myla will fly in on Thursday. My father, who has been in the hospital for weeks, is now in a rehab facility, will be carted over for at least a while each day.
We don't know how long it will take her to die, but are all hoping sooner rather than later. There will be no funeral-she is giving her body to DU Med School-and any memorial service is likely to take place later this summer, or even next summer in the Poconos.
We kids are all responding in our own irritating (to each other) fashion-Catherine, in the middle of a major med change, has withdrawn and will do her mourning in a safer place than the bosom of the family, Luke is telling us all we MUST be strong (like him) and not break down at all, and I am weeping, and will continue to, except in front of mom, if it upsets her. She, in her inimical fashion, is pissed we are all coming-but will be glad to see us if she is coherent enough to know we're there.
And who knows about my father, stuck in a nursing home, still recovering from a month or more in the hospital. They were both there for their 60th Anniversary last month, and the nurses got them a cake. They held hands and smiled. They have not lived together since February when mom had back surgery. Since then one or the other or both have been hospitalized, in rehab, or home alone.
Aging sucks and the American way of dying is much, much worse. I will take my laptop with me, but have not always had good luck connecting there, so may be incommucado for a while. I want very badly to return to reading about your lives, my friends, and eventually will make it home and back to J-Land. I will be glad for your thoughts, prayers, meditations, whatever it is that connects you to your higher power, asking for a kind death for mom, and encouragement for all of us left behind.
Blessings, Margo