On March 26th 1999, I received a phone call at midnight from the neighbor of my parents. That night, both parents were taken by ambulance to the emergency room for separate health issues. I lived about 40 minutes driving distance from the hospital and remember a surreal drive getting to them. That was the date I became a caregiver for the next 8 years.
I cared for both parents simultaneously for 3 years. My Father survived my Mother’s passing another almost 5 years. Those were difficult years but blessed years all the same. My Mother was already bedridden due to Huntington’s disease, required a feeding tube, and high level 24/7 hands on care. My Dad, on that night in March, ruptured a valve in his heart, required open heart surgery for a valve replacement and quadruple bypass, and due to post-operative complications developed kidney failure and became a 3x a week dialysis patient. He was a bit more independent than my Mom, but required daily help for his multiple health issues.
My Mother’s feeding tube periodically became displaced. She was admitted to the hospital on 1/29/02 through the emergency room for yet another feeding tube insertion with admission for subsequent observation. I spent part of the afternoon with her and told her she would stay overnight but would be home the next day. I then had to leave the hospital to be home to tend to my Dad’s needs as he was returning from a dialysis treatment. Although the Huntington’s disease affected her speech, she did say “I love you” as her final words to me.
On January 30, 2002, at 5:19 in the morning, the hospital called and requested we get there as soon as possible, but I knew before we arrived that she had passed. While receiving her scheduled tube feeding through the night, her liquid nutrition was given too quickly, back flowed causing reflux with aspiration into her lungs and she suffocated. She was not capable of using a bed side emergency button to call for help. And so, that is the day I became a motherless daughter.
I still struggle with what she thought or felt during those final moments. It’s difficult to think about how my Mother passed, why, or when. And although that all matters, what matters most to me is that she is gone. I miss her deeply and daily. Fourteen years later, I still mourn and some days cry as hard as the moment I was told that she had passed away. I believe that will never change. Mother’s Day is very difficult, as are all holidays. But over the years, I continue to find different ways to carry on and through these holidays without her.
I believe loved ones spirits are present with us after they pass. I believe that they send signs and messages and I KNOW WITHOUT DOUBT that my Mother sends me signs and messages to let me know she is with me. Since her passing, there have been many visits from butterflies and other creatures that are OBVIOUS TO ME that she is around me. I will also smell flowers when none are present. But one of her more frequent signs are various birds making their presence known either in odd places or in their unusual behavior towards me.
I spend Mother’s Day differently each year. But when possible I try to be outside someplace in Nature looking for a sign from her. There is a Chinese Proverb that says “Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.” So wherever I happen to be this Mother’s Day, hopefully out in Nature with weather permitting, I will make sure I listen and pray that I hear a bird’s song, and I will smile knowing it is her saying hello.
Wishing you health, peace in your heart if grieving the loss of your Mother, and living your best life.