Stories and thoughts about family and life


on May 19, 2016

This week is gonna make for an interesting blog, I told my husband.  I don’t get to write as much as I’d like, by any stretch, but I find that writing helps me process and this week has certainly given me plenty to process.  I hope you don’t mind.

Last Friday, my mother-in-law fell ill.  The nursing home called, suspecting it was a urinary tract infection, and informing my husband they may admit her.  This was nothing new.  She would have this issue a couple of times of year requiring hospitalization for them to get it under control.   Hospital visits were more concerning for us from the perspective that her advancing Alzheimer’s was making it more challenging for care processes.  She would be frightened or combative, and we hated to change her routine and upset her.

By mid-morning Saturday, the situation was more concerning.  Her fever was pretty high, and she had tested negative for a urinary infection.  This pointed them in a direction of something much more serious, and the search began to locate the infection source.  By mid-afternoon, Helen coded.  They were able to get her back, and moved her immediately to ICU.  As afternoon evolved into evening, the situation was looking dire.  Family began contacting and coming in, and my sister-in-law and her family made a rushing trip to Little Rock to be by her side.

As Saturday bled into Sunday bled into Monday, her situation was largely unchanged, and certainly not improving.  By mid-day Monday, the conversation moved toward hospice care.  Monday afternoon we transitioned to hospice care, and 10:45 Monday night, Helen passed away.

As I just looked and realized I had written four paragraphs, it is amazing to me that it all went that quickly, all things considered.  And for that I’m thankful.  I’m thankful she doesn’t have to be frightened or confused any longer.  I’m thankful she doesn’t have to be sick and hurt and not understand why.  I’m thankful this horrible disease has taken its last of her.

I’m thankful too that her children were able to be with her when she passed.  My husband and his sister were both there with her.  Kathryn sang to her, and Louis held her hand.  They told her it was okay to go, and that everyone would be alright.  They watched her breathing and her heartbeat slow.  They both explained it as peaceful and comforting.

As we sat in the funeral home making final arrangements, I was struck by the grief of the woman down the hall, preparing to bury her brother who was killed in a car accident the previous day.  He was 52.  Helen was 81.   Life is precious, no matter how long you live it. We knew with Helen’s advancing Alzheimer’s that her time left was finite.  Watching a family member struggle with something like that almost makes you wish for a release for them.

I’ve never been through funeral planning at this degree before.  Let me tell you, the people who do this for a living are very special people truly on a mission from God, and they are understanding of your inability to articulate everything you think or feel.  I’m sure these people have seen it all–from anxious to angry.  We have remarked several times that the funeral home and the church have had things planned or had thoughtful tools to help keep us on track or to help us remember.  For example, the funeral home gave us a book to help track the food/plates brought to the family to help us keep up with thank-yous, and return plates to people.  I was writing in a notebook in my purse, but that really only occurred to me after the third person had dropped things off at my house.  The church had two books with suggested verses and music to help us with making selections.  The ladies of the church are providing a lunch for the family following the service.  I am amazed at the outpouring of love and support we have received from people who don’t really even know us.

It’s been a long week, and we’re all tired and stressed, but for us that’s a small price to pay.  Thank you to all the people who have understood we weren’t really making sense, or we were frustrated, or we were exhausted beyond the bounds of imagination.  All the friends who have texted or called.  All the people who dropped off food at the house, and anticipated that we might run out of things like milk or bread, and brought extra.  I’ve never been on a the receiving end of those kinds of gifts, and I can now tell you first-hand what a blessing that all is.




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