Friday, October 26, 2012


April 9, 1922 - October 26, 2012

"Our only answer to sorrow is to live.  To live backward,
remembering the ones we have lost, but also moving forward, with anticipation and
And to pass on those feelings of hope and possibility through 
acts of kindness, generosity and

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Breathing Lessons

The call that summons me home from a business trip comes as a surprise.  After six years of prepping for the other shoe to drop, I drove North in the early morning rain realizing as each mile passed that nothing prepares you.
I arrive to find my mother connected to a large oxygen machine.  She is agitated, eyes closed and it is clear she struggles for breath.  Her oxygen level is at 66 and her blood pressure is high.  A chest x-ray comes back clear.

As I sit with her, she tears the tubing from her nose and I put it back in place only to have her tear at it again.  It is a dance we repeat all throughout this day.  I swab her lips with water and she seems to like this, pausing in her agitation to suck the last bit of fluid from the swab.

The staff and I talk about my wishes, which are really her wishes.  There will be no antibiotics.  The goal is her comfort, which will include Morphine and Lorazapam.  The doctor has already written the order.  I question if it is time for Hospice to come but no decision is reached today.

They get her up for lunch using a Hoyer lift.  She no longer assists in her transfer from bed to chair.  It is one more reminder that this journey has taken a new turn.  I try unsuccessfully to feed her some lunch.  A few teaspoons of chocolate ice cream and a sip or two of apple juice is all she takes in.  She has not opened her eyes once today in all of the hours I have sat with her.

I have left for a couple hours to take a break.  I do not know if it is time to say goodbye for the last time or if this is the beginning of many trial runs before we get to the finish.  I struggle with my own breath and am reminded of the words yesterday from a friend who said "Be where you are".  Today, I sit mindful of my breath, mindful of passes between us.

Monday, October 8, 2012


At the end of her first full week in the nursing home, my mother asked if she could go home.  How quickly in one week the power shifted from her to me.  I said no and she has never asked again.

There is a new resident named Laura.  She arrived in early August and every day is the same.  She emerges from her room every morning with purse in hand and coat thrown over her arm.  She voices bewilderment at her location and asks to call her son.  Everyday she begs him to come get her and return her to her home.  When pleading doesn't work, she begins to harass him, often with unkind words.  By days end it is clear she is worn out and in doing so has worn the staff out as well.  I can only imagine how her son feels everyday when the phone begins to ring and he has to deny her this one wish.  From my own experience,  I know that eventually she will stop calling him.  Eventually the fiery spark that wears everyone out will be replaced by resignation and submission.  That is when the Alzheimer's begins to win.  The spirit goes and with it the person we knew.

We learn.  We learn that just one word can break a heart.