The past week has been a blur. Especially the last four days. This post will probably be as choppy and as all over the place as my mind is lately.
My mother-in-law was airlifted back to Nashville last Sunday night. Things steadily went downhill with one setback after another until finally on Thursday the doctors waved their white flag and admitted defeat. They made the decision to stop all treatment and send her home on palliative care for her last few weeks/months. That very night things got even worse when SEVERE pain prompted a scan, which showed that the tumors had become so large that they were cutting off blood supply to her major abdominal and thoracic organs. Her prognosis quickly changed. No longer were we looking at a few weeks. We were told on Friday that she had a couple of days left.
Imagine that for a second. This is a 58-year-old woman, perfectly awake, alert, and coherent (a state that so very quickly declined over the weekend), being told that she only has a couple of days. She (as well as we, the rest of her family) was devastated. As horrible as that day was, and as horrible as what is coming will be, I want to document this time because there is so much happening that I want to hang onto forever and never, ever, ever forget.
The family unity in that hospital room upon hearing the news. As we all were crying, and as MIL was expressing her fears and worries between sobs, we were assuring her that we would be okay. My sister-in-law reminded her that after her father and brother passed, she grieved and she missed them like crazy every day, but she adapted and moved on and healed with time, and we all promised her that we would do the same. We vowed to all be there for one another.
Feeling the most pure and powerful love I have ever felt while watching my husband spoon feed ice chips to his mom on her first really bad day. I had to leave the room to ugly cry.
Watching the fight left in a woman who only has days to live. The day after receiving the news, she was in the bathroom taking a sink bath (a shower was impossible with all her attachments), washing her hair, putting on lotion and perfume.
Seeing the love my husband has for his mother as he sobs over her unwillingness to give up.
Some of the hilariously funny things she said while under the influence of morphine:
MIL: *Starts to get up out of hospital bed, IV and drain lines be damned*
SIL: Mom, where are you going, what do you need, what are you doing??? (Her reaction every time MIL moved a finger)
MIL: I ain’t doin’ nuthin’! I swear I’m gonna get me a damn bell that says, “DING! I’M DOING SOMETHING!”
Some of the excruciatingly painful things she said while under the influence of morphine:
MIL: Where is my medicine?
SIL: You’re getting it through that needle in your stomach, remember? Why, what do you need?
MIL: I just need to know. I’m leaving tomorrow.
(We know she didn’t mean that the way we heard it. According to her, she was going shopping the day before that, but when a dying woman says she’s leaving tomorrow, that’s enough to make all the eyes leaky.)
All of the family togetherness. MIL has always been her happiest when surrounded by her big, happy family, and we are all determined that she go out that way. There has been tons of family, tons of food, tons of reminiscing, and unlimited laughter. The past couple of days she’s been in and out of it, but we want to make sure that all she hears are the happy sounds of her family. We promised her in the hospital room that she would be surrounded by family for the rest of her life, and we are making good on that promise. Her kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, siblings, parents, in-laws, extended family, and friends have been there around the clock, some of them coming in from across the county to do so. The French gatherings and cookouts have always been pretty epic, and that’s how we’ve always celebrated everything–holidays, birthdays, graduations, weddings–and now we can add life celebration to that list. I’ve taken a week of vacation so I can be here and cherish every last second of these final days.
Being a part of her … dreams? hallucinations? memories? Whatever it is that comes at the end when they start talking to people that aren’t there and going through the hand motions of doing things that they aren’t doing. The past couple of days, we’ve watched her, seemingly wide awake, patting out burgers, even asking for the kosher salt (she’s always been the grill master at these cookouts!), cut her food and eat it, put on her makeup, and fold clothes. We think she was packing for vacation because the rest of the day she kept talking about leaving and telling her grandkids to go finish getting ready.
The fact that she still hasn’t lost her sense of humor even through the haze of what’s real and what’s a dream. She woke up once and looked over to find SIL, BIL, and two of their kids zonked out on the couch and asked for her camera. Apparently the instinct to take funny and embarrassing photos of your children is something that never dies.