In late October, my Mom had another stroke – this one more serious putting her into a rehab facility and ultimately her home. Next came hospice and a new experience for my family and me. Then she went to heaven in mid January. Some of you have followed my journey. If you are interested here are a few of my FB posts, which tell just a little about my experience followed by a journal entry of my surprise experience when I returned home.
Mid December 2014 - FB Post
Still in California. Here is the deal. It seems once someone goes on Hospice care the drugs begin floating in like a damn that broke. Right off the bat Lorizepam, Risperidone and Morphine were prescribed for my Mom. Oh, let’s not forget a 10 mg Ambien for sleep and her usual four Vicodin a day. Now here is a 115 lb. woman who hardly eats, does not have cancer and therefor not much pain. Her suffering and decline are due to a stroke, advanced dementia and all that goes with being down. The drug situation has been a merry go round as Mom tries to crawl out of her skin at times. She has been restless, agitated, constipated and extremely unhappy.
One night we had such a challenge getting her to a peaceful state that I asked the nurse, “Why don’t we give her Heroin? I was being a wee bit sarcastic, but they do say it makes you feel awesome, better than Morphine even though they are very similar. Since addiction is not a threat here, why not? Or how about some medical marijuana (MM) butter?” The nurse looked at me slightly frightened. “I suppose MM butter would be OK, but I can’t get it for you”, she finally said.
I began to research how to add it to the pharmaceutical soup while deleting some of the culprits. We licensed up and prepared some tasty applesauce butter. Within 4 days Morphine was eliminated. Lorizepam still lingers now and then, while a Vicodin patch remains. Mom eats a little now, smiles and poops, and with a glow on her skin she sleeps beautifully. Yes! We are still experimenting as life changes for her daily. If anyone has had experience mixing MM with the pharmaceutical soup please let me know. Woohoo!
Holiday Time December 2014 - FB Post
Here is Mom on her 90th birthday party mid April 2014. That was just 9 months ago. She still now holds on to the sweet breath of life as she visibly disappears. After some studies on life and death, and other consciousness enlightening trainings, (which Maui is so rich with) I thought it would be an honor to see someone pass through the veil of life. I was boldly ready. And, it is, but I must say that I did not expect the constant flow of varied and tender emotions that leave me in a state of awe, grace and grief while also becoming acutely aware that I too may experience this one day. What a mystery we are living. Mahalo to all those who call and write with love and support. Sending gratitude and blessings to all. Susan
January 14, 2015 - The Morning After - FB Post
What's alive in me this morning is my Mom's last breath last night. RIP Charlene Corning, Mom. She passed through the veil peacefully surrounded by family and friends in her cherished living room. Mahalo to all those who supported her, and our family with so much love, showing up fully as the eldest of our tribe completed her role here. Mom, you were one of a kind that we shall all cherish knowing. I am a grateful daughter.
January 14, 2014 - A personal recap for family members
Good Morning Family Members
I wanted to give you a glimpse into Mom's passing last night. I hope that is OK.
She rested peacefully all day and into the evening with daughters and friends around her. Of course, she looked beautiful with radiant color in her face - not a wrinkle to be found.
I lay with her for quite a long time. When she took her last few breaths, lipstick on, I held one of her hands and Cindy held the other. She was very peaceful. Cindy, my friend Patty and her husband Tom, were there visiting quietly in the candle lit living room. She loved both of them and of course, they her. When she decided to go she let us know instantly and we accompanied her gently through her last breath. Patricia and Louie showed up a few minutes later along with Chan. Sharon had been there earlier but had already tucked herself in at home.
We prayed over her and the Catholics among us anointed her with holy water. Other family members of Patricia's showed up soon and we held a prayer circle around her. We visited, told stories, laughed and mourned deeply well into the night. Chan went over to Fresh & Easy and got us a frozen pizza. Patty had brought salmon, cheese and crackers. I made coffee and opened one of Mom’s cheap champagnes. We nibbled a bit. The champagne was horrible.
As the candles burned low, those from UC Irvine came around midnight and escorted her out. We were all so grateful that no one was around to see her final exit from the home she loved. It was as private as it could be. When we walked back to her patio from the parking lot, the light above her patio blinked off and then on again.
We are all staying home today and resting. I am profoundly touched as many of us are. Mom was more than special. God bless. Thank you for being you and to everyone who reads this. Love, Susan
March 1, 2015 - My Journal of Coming Home - Stress Needs More Than Good Food
When I returned home after my Mom’s passing I was more than exhausted. Every bit of myself had been used up, and I was at a loss for what to do with myself. Of course I had high ideals. I knew there was a new beginning in me that did not need to worry about Mom anymore, field phone calls, talk to doctors and make vital decisions with my siblings. I was going to have new space. I could catch up on my work and begin to live out some of my own dreams. Of course I was going to miss Mom and mourn the loss, but I knew she lived a good life and was taken care of beautifully before she passed. There would be fresh air to breath in my life. This is what my mind told me.
Then I hit the wall. My body went into some kind of shock while it finally let down its defense’s and began to rest and grieve. I was so out of balance that I did not know what to do to get in balance. I felt I needed something but did not know what. My heart ached like it had not for years. I began by addressing the body, my best skill. I started by alleviating all sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and sleeping aides, all of which helped me while in California to travel from bed to bed, rent cars, drive on late night freeways, eat food I did not care for and keep myself up when I wanted to fall. I was too wrapped up in the part, and the story that was playing out to stop. I just kept moving. Now it was over.
The cleansing helped, yet a bit brutal, along with long hours of sleep. But I needed more. What did I need? I was bouncing against the walls helplessly roaming about the house like a lost child. The people I live with along with my close friends hardly said much to me when I returned home. “What’s going on?” I thought. When people close to you die, don’t friends and neighbors bring you pies and casseroles? Where are mine? I want a pie. No one came. OK, I understood. Perhaps it was not meaningful to them in the same way as it was for me, or they wanted to leave me alone. I tried bags of chips while trying to work at my computer only to pass the time unfocused. I cried relentlessly every day, playing over the circumstances of Mom’s passing. I missed her terribly. I was blown away by the first transition I had ever experienced. My mind watched her disappear before my very eyes over and over. It was hard but I just kept going. I prayed for help. "What do I need", I kept asking myself. I need something.
Then it finally came a week and a half later. My next-door neighbor, who has a huge heart, sent me a text to ask if she could come over for a quick visit, that she had something for me. Oh goodie, I thought. She came in a hurry as her kids were waiting for her in the car. She placed a beautiful orchid on the counter with a card, a fresh bowl of chili, and a jar of soup she made the night before. Yeah, finally! I got some attention. It was not a pie, but I was excited. It felt good. As she lowered the items to the counter, her hands now empty, she reached out to me with her arms and heart opened wide, looking me straight in the eye with such compassion, she said, “It must be so hard.” She hugged me tenderly like a Mom might. That was what I needed, a hug of loving compassionate sympathy, and someone meeting me in my pain.
Perhaps you know of someone who has lost someone, or perhaps you are in pain yourself. Being able to express it and have people meet you there in the depth of compassion is so healing. There is something about that union that helps to transform the grief and move it through. The pain comes again, but I think it helps to begin the journey. Now, when I feel sad and go to that deep place of mourning, I remember her words and the feeling of her meeting me. It allows me to say, “Yes, it is hard and that is OK. It is life”. Meeting it in myself helps me to greet it head on, feel it and move it through. This attitude is playing a significant part in my healing.
Being in emotional pain is very stressful on the body as I am finding out. My system has surely wobbled as my emotions have. When the emotional body hurts then the physical body hurts too. If you are having any kind of experience that is emotionally challenging I think it is vital that you take impeccable care of yourself and do something nurturing as often as possible, because it will take a toll. I am learning this and hope that my sharing will help awaken you to meet others in their time of grief without fear. Being there for each other is vital to our healing.
Every day I feel better and better, yet I still might love to get a pie.