Friday, May 27, 2016

Soooo Many Decisions

I didn't realize all the decisions that go into death and until you are in this situation, you really don't think about others having to make decisions about things. Since Mom wasn't married, Tyler & I had to do it all. We had to make a lot of difficult decisions. Most of them started when she really started not being able to fully understand things. For instance....I took over her checking account before she even knew it & I didn't tell her for a while. I knew she would think I was over stepping my boundaries and I didn't want her to think that I thought she was incapable. The first time that she got really frustrated with herself and she realized she was different was one day when she was trying to write things down in her checkbook. Those that know Mom know that she is a stickler for her account. She wrote everything down and it couldn't be a penny off. That day she tried so hard to understand how to write something down. She tried and tried and tried and got very frustrated and even got mad with me :)! She said she needed a banker to help her.... forgetting I was a banker for 6 years. Without her knowing I had to sit down and learn everything about her account. What she had automatically coming out, what I needed to pay, etc.

We also had to be the ones to do her medicines and make decisions on if we should do this one or that one and reasoning's behind them.  She would almost always tell us she wasn't hurting in the last several weeks, so we would have to go off of her mannerisms to decide if she needed her medicine every 4 hours or sooner or later. I can't tell you how many times she would beg us not to give her the medicine. She thought it was making her "crazy". She would "glue" her mouth shut, she would spit it out (not like in our faces, but just like down her chin), a few times she would almost cry while begging us not to make her take it. It was hard. She was pitiful. Tyler and I were the ones with her pretty much 24/7 (unless it wasn't my night to stay, then I would go home late and be back after taking the kids to school) and when she would do those things, we wouldn't give it to her. I don't regret it. I knew her days were numbered and I didn't see any point in forcing her to take something that would make her that upset. It ended up getting to the point where she couldn't understand how to swallow. When that happened, she had an advantage that most don't. Her PEG tube allowed us to give her medicine through it and thankfully the morphine dissolved in her cheek, so we would do half on one side and half on the other to make sure it stayed in and didn't "drool" out.
 Here is a video of Tyler administering her medicine through her tube...

We also had to make the tough decision about her hospital bed. I knew for a while that a hospital bed would be much easier for her, BUT she didn't want one. To her that was losing that last little bit of hope. We would talk to her about it and she would sometimes cry. She just wanted her bed..... until one day she got sick. I was the only one in there at the time she started throwing up and I couldn't get her sitting up fast enough before the throw up went all over her face, pillow, etc. She realized in that moment that a hospital bed would be easier and she agreed to it. We had one not long after that. But until she was okay with it, I didn't want to force her in it.

Just a couple days after getting the hospital bed.
She started really going down hill the end of April. By that I mean not being able to really communicate or understand most things. Starting in January we would talk about going to the funeral home and letting her pick everything out. It just never happened. On the days she would feel "good", she would want to do something different. I mean seriously.... who wants to plan their funeral when they feel normal? So on April 25th, Tyler.... Dad and I went to the funeral home. When we walked in , it was a heart ache like no other. I am BEYOND thankful Dad was there for us through it all. We got through it okay until the door was opened to go in the room to pick out her casket. I. LOST. IT! It was an overwhelming feeling..... truly cannot explain it. It was like my feet wouldn't pick up to move my body into the room. I was frozen. I mean there are A LOT of options when it comes to caskets.... there are colors, styles, designs, different blankets and monograms, you can even get them with drawers. I had never really paid attention to someone's casket before. I don't remember how many times we walked around that room... just looking at each one and trying to justify this one over that one...... whew..... it was tough.

The day before we went to the funeral home to pick out her casket, we picked out her clothes. We needed an idea about that because of the blankets, etc. Do you know how hard that is? Mom didn't have a "favorite" anything.... except her pajamas and velour suits. I would joke with her in months prior and tell her she'd be in her pretty pjs :).... we tried to get her to pick something out for so long. All she would tell us was the necklaces she wanted to wear. One necklace was her "nest"... had 2 eggs which represented me and Tyler. The other was one that had each of my kids' names on it. She said that way she had us all together.... so we new her necklaces because she told us, but then we had to think about earrings.... we chose her favorite hoops.... she had them on in most all of her pictures..... and then a ring that Kyle had given to her and me. Bless him..... he was so proud of that stretchy gold/teal thing :)..... and Mama was too.  She loved that he picked it out.

 And then we did her teal bracelet and her pandora. She loved that bracelet. That was the only thing we asked for back. Just couldn't part with it. And you have to think about things like her shirt.... is it too wide at the top? Because of the embalming procedure and where they have to do that.... so we ended up having to take a tank top for them to put under the shirt we took. We picked out a shirt and paired it with some of her favorite jeggings. And no shoes. Have you really thought about shoes in caskets? I hadn't. I had never wandered before if they had shoes on or not. But that is totally up to the family if you want them to have shoes on.

We also had to pick out her burial spot. There's things you even have to consider with that.We had to decide who all was going to be buried "with" her. We had to decide in that second how many spots we would need and then find a spot at the church big enough to hold that many. How many to the right of her and how many to the left? And then when we got the spot figured out, there are things you have to think about such as the coping.... if we do coping around her, the way the cemetery is set up, when burying the person(s) to the right of her they would not be able to get the back hoe to it to dig, so would end up breaking her coping.  By the way, she didn't want a vault. She thought they were just a waste of money and she was all about just going with nature anyway. BUT..... little did she know that by law you have to be buried in a vault.

We picked out a beautiful headstone for her. Basically designed it... sayings, name, spacing, do we want a vase? Do we want 1 vase? or 2 vases? Do we want the vase to the left of the headstone or the right? Do we want a design on the vase? Do we want the head stone that is this many feet/inches or the one that is this many feet/inches? Do we want the lettering this many inches? Do we want it smooth on the edges or rough? Do we want the black granite or light? Do we want her picture on there or not? SOOOOOOO many decisions. Forever is a LONG time to make sure you like what all you picked out.

We did the headstone about a week ago...... and then decided just yesterday to add a bench, so we went back up there to do that. Did you know there are choices to be made with a bench even? Smaller bench or bigger bench? They are 1 ft different in size, but the "pretty" legs go on the foot bigger one.... can get them on the smaller one but it takes a really long time to get it in.  But then the bigger one would be too bulky in the burial spot she is in.  So we decided on one, but then you have to decide if you want something on it.... a saying? picture? anything? AND THEN you have to decide where you want it placed.... straight over her feet? slanted? By that point we just couldn't even decide so she said they would use their best judgement when placing it.

There have been so many days lately that my brain has felt mush. So much had to be taken care of the past few months and SO much has had to be taken care of since May 4th. I am so thankful Tyler and I have each other to get through it and I am EXTREMELY thankful that Kyle and Dad were home to be with us as we made a lot of those decisions.

A friend that has lost her parents gave me these papers. I apologize with the picture quality, but I really wanted to share them to hopefully help some of you.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

In Sweet Loving Memory of my Mom, Janet. 07/02/68-05/04/16

I have been staring at a blank screen for a while now few days now.  I started this post earlier this week and I have been trying to make my hands type what all is in my head..... I just thought my post from February was hard to write.

I have had several messages about updates on Mom.  Many of you are from out of state, so you truly do not know what has been going on.  I don't regret not giving an update since my last post.  I am very much thankful for that private time we had with her, but blogging is my therapy.  For so long it helped me cope with things. There would be many times that Mom would say, "I think you need to do a blog post"...... and I would. Although she never read any of them. Or claims she didn't :)....she wanted me to update everyone on what was going on with her, but mostly as a way to maybe let others read what was going on to save us from having to answer questions in person.

Mom was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer on February 4, 2014.  I am extremely heart broken to write that she passed away on May 4, 2016.  She put up a fight like no other and the last few months have been extremely hard on her and the rest of the family.  Watching all that her body has gone through over the past 2 years and especially over the past couple months is something I wouldn't wish on anyone.  Dr. Huh told us on January 13, 2016 that she had approximately 4 months left..... he was only off 9 days.  When you are told something like that, you are grateful that you know, but you live each day sad that you are limited.  It is really hard to explain to anyone that has never heard those words for yourself personally, or for someone you love and are close to.

We knew her cancer was aggressive (you can read more about it from this post), but from the beginning she stayed very positive and I know that is what helped all of us get through.  I can remember in the beginning I would cry to Kyle and my uncle about the "stats" and the "outcomes" about her type of cancer from everything I had read.  I read that 2 years was average.... and 5 would be a miracle.  Mom didn't know it, but my countdown had really started from day 1.  I had a strong feeling from the beginning that she would only be around for about 2 years.  Not that we didn't enjoy each day together before that moment, but from that moment on I made SURE to enjoy each day.  We made COUNTLESS trips to Birmingham for treatments, surgeries, appointments, hospital stays, etc.  & I say we because several people over the 2 years made those trips with her. She even stayed in the hospital in Dothan on a few occasions. I thank God every day for allowing me (4 years ago) to stay home with my children. If I "had a job", I wouldn't have been able to go and do with her like I was able to do.  I can honestly say I have absolutely zero regrets.

She was hospitalized for the last time March 8th, 2016 because she had a significant amount of fluid on her lungs. They inserted a chest tube on March 10th and removed 2 liters immediately and continued draining for 3 days.  They removed the chest tube on the 13th (We actually got to watch them remove it), removed her kidney stint on the 14th, and she came home the 15th. Unfortunately the fluid was cancerous.  I can still see, hear, and feel Moms heart brokenness when she found out. We were also told she would come home on Hospice.  The fight seemed over. Tyler and I met with "the hospice lady" at UAB.  We were completely broken when talking with her.  She was so sweet, caring, and comforting to us.  But as children, all we saw was our mom literally dying right before our eyes.  Mama was in so much pain at that time that she was on a good bit of morphine, dilaudid, etc.and wasn't aware that we were even talking with the nice lady until right before she started to leave.  She was then able to talk to Mom for a few minutes.  We chose Comfort Care Hospice and I would highly recommend them to anyone.

Mama had a lot of anxiety about coming home.  She knew the end was near and it had really started to bother her.  You could ask her at any given time and she would tell you that she was not at all afraid to die.  She was mostly sad about leaving us.  She didn't want her grand-babies to grow up without a Babee.... neither did I.  She also didn't want people to start coming by to see her "just because they heard the news".  The whole thing was just hard in general.

I came home on the 14th to get things ready at her house and set up everything with Hospice.  Tyler and her friend, Tammy, brought her home the 15th.  I remember that day like it was yesterday.  I can still visibly see everyone that was there. I can see them pulling up in the drive way. I can still feel her arm as I helped her walk inside the house and to the couch.  The hospice nurse and social worker arrived shortly after and met with me, Tyler, and Uncle Sonny and then they met with Mama.  We met the nurse that was assigned to Mom, Nicki, just a day or two later.  She quickly became family.  We saw her almost everyday from her first visit until May 4th.  Out of all of those visits, I only missed one and that was because Kyle and I had ran to Dothan to get him a suit for the funeral.  I wanted to be there for it all. I didn't want to miss a single moment if I could help it.

Things gradually started going down hill pretty fast. It had become very difficult for her to shower or go to the bathroom.  That short walk felt like miles to her.  We shortly began doing bed baths and using the bed potty.  Getting up to do that potty became very difficult.  On Sunday, April 3rd, Tyler and I were with her.  Aunt Becky had just left to go home to eat lunch.  She needed to use the bathroom, so we got her up to go and after she went and was getting back in bed, her knees buckled... she went down, but not all the way.... we still had her and sat her back on the potty to rest.  All of a sudden she started seizing.  It is a sight that I know neither of us will ever forget.  Her eyes rolled back in her head, she was convulsing, mouth was open.... we were scared to death.  Nicki had already warned us that this may happen & I am so thankful that she did.  Neither of us had our phones, so I basically jumped over Mom and Tyler and ran to get mine.  I called and texted and got our aunts and uncle there.  By the time they made it, she had finally come back to.  We truly felt like we lost her.  I know it didn't last long, but it sure felt like an eternity at the time.  I called the on call nurse, she came and evaluated her, and we decided then to start doing diapers and started a steroid to help with the swelling on the brain.  We also decided at that point on there would be someone staying with Tyler and her every night. 

The very night of her seizure we noticed a pretty large bump that had come up on her lower abdomen.  It grew bigger each day until it finally busted.  At first we thought it was a tumor... even when it busted we still thought maybe a tumor.... but maybe something else.  That day was pretty horrific.  When it busted, it was like a faucet.  It was pouring everywhere...... and the stench was terrible.  I have ALWAYS had a weak stomach.  Mom and I both.  Doesn't take much to make me throw up.  I threw up twice during this chaos.  I used everything you could think of to help with the smell.  I was rubbing stuff in my nose (I couldn't find the Vicks rub at the time.... but did afterwards and used it every day there after) & tying whatever I could find around my nose/head.  I was determined to still help, but had to get my weakness out of the way.  I was deemed the garbage girl most of the time.  I would stand there holding the garbage with my gloves on and mask while they cleaned the quarter size hole that was caused from "it" busting.  We did end up putting a colostomy bag over the hole which was genius on Aunt Becky's part.  We were able to dump the bag at least once a day and not worry about changing the gauze several times a day.  After talking with the hospice nurses, them talking to their doctor, and me talking with Moms doctor, we are pretty sure the cancer ate through her intestines and her blockages that she already kept from the cancer caused this pocket type thing to form and since it didn't have anywhere to go it just grew in that spot until it busted open.  It busted on the scar from her two previous surgeries she had in that spot over the last 2 years.

By this point, most of the time it really wasn't our mom laying in that bed. She would have moments where it was her, but I am very grateful that it wasn't her some of the time.  She would have been devastated "knowing" that we were having to clean her, change her, doctor her, etc. in places that she wouldn't want us to see.  We were told a couple weeks before this happened that her cancer had spread to her brain.  When I talked to Dr. Huh, he confirmed that it had.  He and I would talk regularly throughout it all. He genuinely cared about her and our family. She would say very off the wall things. At first I was trying to write them all down, but then it became so regular, that I quit. We had several people tell us that the morphine was causing it.  They just didn't know it had gone to her brain.  She had been on the same amount of morphine since January.

Just thinking about all of the stuff she would say, or motions with her hands..... I am so grateful for all the videos we have of her over the past couple months.

Kyle was gone to work the month of April.  At one point her breathing had gotten shallow, I was stressed out..... and emotional, so I asked him to come home.  He was able to come home for 3 days, but nothing happened.  Mom didn't "know" (although she wasn't dumb.... she did know, just not by us telling her) why he came home.  I just told her he missed her.  The day he had to go back, she told him, "I am sorry I didn't die Bud".  I was like... MAMA..... don't say that.  You see, she would still have moments of her.  After that she would have "good" days..... and bad days.  That was a hard time for Kyle.  Not being there with us, things were happening and he felt completely helpless.

While he was gone, his sweet Mama moved in with us. Seriously. She would come to Moms house after work, eat supper, and then would take the kids home and have them bathed and ready for bed. If it wasn't my night to stay, I would get home about 10:00 every night.  The grocery store closed at 10, so I would try to leave in time to run by there for lunchables, capri suns, snacks.... whatever they needed for lunches.  But that eventually became very hard for me. I was missing the kids so badly. Cindy jokes that I "fired" her.  I started letting the kids stay with me at Mamas.  They would sleep in Tyler's bed and I would sleep on the couch.  Tyler slept on a cot beside Mom.  I was afraid to sleep by Mom in case my alarm for school woke her up and I was afraid to sleep with the kids in case getting up with Mom woke them up.  We did that for almost 2 weeks and it really worked well. Mom started getting worse, so they stayed with Cindy again right before Kyle came home.

He came home April 28th.  The immediate weight that was lifted off my shoulders when he pulled up at Moms house is a feeling I can't explain. 

So much went on from then to May 4th.  I HATED feeling like she was suffering.  She seemed very comfortable, but on May 1st she ended up with 2 more holes in her stomach.  She had a total of 3 actual holes in her stomach.  By this point we were going off of facial expressions mostly to determine pain.  She would rarely tell us she was in pain this entire time.  May 1st was also Heidi's birthday might I add.  Heidi had been praying hard that she would still be here on her birthday.  Although Mom wasn't able to participate or seem to know what was going on (I'll always believe she could hear us), I still baked Heidi a cake and the family came over to eat lunch and we went to her room with the cake and candles and sang happy birthday to Heidi.  It is another priceless video we have.

Just knowing Mom, I truly think she was waiting for 2 things.  (1) Heidi's birthday and (2) Kyle to be home.  She wanted us to all be okay.  We had all told her we were okay and gave her our goodbyes, but she still wasn't ready to let go. He came home on a Thursday evening and she passed away the next Wednesday morning.  Tuesday before she passed really seemed like any other day.  She hadn't experienced any major changes.... until that night.  That's when everything changed.  Her breathing became very shallow.... she had several seconds of apnea between the breaths, and her breaths often made a hiccup type noise.  Really that noise started that afternoon.  Abby and Aunt Becky first noticed it and then showed me.  It just got worse as the night went on.  Tuesday night I told Dad I didn't think it would be long & he came out there.  Moms brother, and sisters were all out there and they decided to stay the night because they didn't feel like it would be long either. Her friends Tammy and Tracy were also there. All of our hearts were broken.  Watching her in her last moments, going through old picture albums, talking about past times..... sweet memories...... but sad they were ending.

That night was hard.  We had started doing morphine every 2 hours a couple days before, so we would set our alarms all night to get up to give medicine.  But that night was different. I went to sleep a little before midnight and woke up about 2 hours later. I then stayed up. I went to Moms room and told Aunt Becky to go get some rest, so I nestled myself on the bed potty. I just sat there..... holding her hand.... rubbing her hand, her arm.... her face.  I knew the moment was drawing near. I would count her breaths, I would stare at her chest to see if it was moving..... every now and then I would wake Tyler (he was on the cot) and have him watch her breathing with me.

When early morning came, I received a text from Nicki and she was there by 8. She told us it wouldn't be long. She was right. Two hours and thirty-two minutes later it happened. She was surrounded by everyone that loved her dearly. We all got to whisper in her ear one more time. That feeling overwhelms me as I am typing this. We were all so close to her. Watching her take her last breaths was so hard. Dad had whispered to me that I may not want to watch it, but I knew I just had to. He was the last one to whisper to her and it was just a few minutes later that she went to Glory Land. I am forever grateful he was there for us & her.  I am also grateful that Yana is our stepmom and that Dad married a godly woman that understood that he needed to be there for us.

When it happened....I was on her left side and Tyler was on her right. The rest of the family surrounded her bed. Kyle had gone to get Nicki to ask if we still needed to do morphine because it was almost time for the next dose. She told him to let her check her breathing.... she came in to check it and Mom had literally just took a deep breath and Nicki put her stethoscope on her and looked at me and said "she's gone"..... I just started crying and looked at Tyler and told him she was gone.  He said What???? And just like that..... her chest didn't move anymore. We both just held her.... crying..... rubbing her..... it was all so surreal. I still catch myself wondering if this really happened. There wasn't a dry eye in her room. We were all so very thankful that she was no longer suffering, but our hearts hurt so badly because she was actually gone. Forever.

I know that I will see her again one day. Mom knew Jesus as her personal savior and so do I. But that doesn't make the earthly hurt go away. Tyler and I have had to do things and make decisions this year that we never dreamed we would be making. We were both so very close to Mom. I would always joke with both of them and say that he was her favorite. She was only 16 years older than me, so we were close, but we also had to grow up together.

Heidi, Karter, and Sophie were heart broken.  Dad & Yana checked them and Hank out of school about lunch that day. They have done better than I expected, but still will say things occasionally and I know more will come in the future. They mostly express themselves with drawings and just talking about her in general. I hurt so badly thinking about the future without her. Her not being there for events and things that I think she should be at... like their school functions, birthdays, graduations, first car, weddings, my grand-babies arrivals, and so much more. I just miss her so much. They say time will ease the pain...... but right now, I just don't see how.

We had her viewing on Friday night the 6th 5-8 at the funeral home and her funeral was Saturday the 7th at our church at 11AM with a viewing an hour before. Her service was absolutely beautiful. I'm not just saying that because she is my Mom, but it truly was. Everything was perfect. The kids drew her some pictures the day she passed and we had those in with her, as well as the elephant they gave her on Valentine's Day that she carried to every appointment thereafter. Tyler and I had gone to the funeral home 9 days before she passed to pick out most everything. I am thankful we did because it took us from then until her services to get the rest together. We put together a slide show that was played at the viewing(s) and during 2 of the songs at her funeral. I really think she would be so proud with how it all went and turned out. Her flowers were gorgeous, the weather was perfect.... everything was perfect.... except our hearts. After the burial service, a friend of mine handed me a rose for each of my 5 family members and for Tyler to put under mom so that she can forever lay on a bed of roses. I thought that was incredibly thoughtful.

The days after have been hard. VERY hard. I haven't gotten good at being in public yet. It scares me. People mean well, but the "how are you" question gets me every time. In the south it is just a generic question you ask people..... so I know they mean well, but I really don't know how to answer it. They don't really want to know how I am. Sometimes I want to say..... I just buried my mother ___ days ago. How do you think I am :)? But I try to be nice.... and either say "I don't know" or "Just taking it 1 day at a time".  Both are honest.

To end I will say that through all of this you really learn the heart of people. We have found out who genuinely cares about us.  Our family had supper brought to us from March 18th up until the night before Mom passed.  Is that not remarkable?  Different people... from all over.  It meant more to us than they will ever know...... but then there were people we were close to at one time, we didn't hear from or see when she passed. I get that they haven't been in our shoes, so showing respect and concern for us didn't cross their minds, but if roles were reversed I know that I would at least send a message. To us, in times like these you don't "play" with friendships or family members. You are there for them. Our town is small, so everyone knew Mom and knew what we were going through. They all knew she had passed.... they also knew how close we were to her. I'm talking even high school friends of his and mine that we were completely shocked that we still have not heard from. One of my best guy friends from HS actually drove from TN to be there, but then there are MANY that live in our town that couldn't find a way to come or message us.  We even had family members drive from all over to be there for us.... and have others that live in the same town that were too busy to be there for us. Our feelings were/are hurt by several people and after talking to some people that have been in our shoes..... I am told that is completely normal to feel this way. I do not wish what we went through on anybody. NOBODY. I surely don't wish what Mom went through on anybody. But I do know that if someone we know does go through it, we will be there for them. We'll hurt with them because we know the hurt they are experiencing.

Her saying through it all........Image result for let your faith be bigger than your fears lyrics