Day 27: Overcome #write31days

There were two weekends during Mom’s last summer when she declined so poorly that the doctors told us that she likely wouldn’t make it another day.  Twice she defied their words.  Twice she bounced back from death’s door.  Twice we said goodbye (let’s be honest, we did that countless times, each and every time we saw each other or spoke on the phone) for what we thought was the last time.  Twice she rallied on.

A month before she died, she had one of these weekends where it seemed very evident that she was dying.  Her doctor prepared us and explained to us what to expect, as did her nurses.  But Mom improved and surprised us all by living another three to four weeks.

It was painful to hear her say in those last weeks, “I’m trying to get better” because she couldn’t “get better.”  She had terminal Cancer and as much as I prayed for a miracle and believed God COULD do it, I didn’t know if He WOULD do it.

Mom’s efforts in small things like brushing her teeth on her own, or eating a full meal became the everyday miracles.  Pushing her around the gardens outside and sharing a blueberry muffin with her were miracles to me, to us.  Every day became a gift when we knew our days with her were finite.  Every day we conquered mountains.

Day 26: Change #write31days

I remember after my Dad passed away, twenty-one years ago, that I envisioned our family like a stool.  Initially, our family had four secure legs, but after my Dad died, and after some time to process the loss and grief, I could see our family as a three-legged stool.  It was different.  We had to reposition ourselves.  But after these adjustments (this makes it sound so easy), we would be able to stand.  My Mom, my older sister and me.

Now with my Mom gone, I don’t think that analogy works anymore.  Not because I feel like I can’t stand but because I can (although hurting and missing my Mom something fierce).  My sister and I both have our own families, but beyond blood relatives and married-into-the-family relatives, I feel that we have a stronger sense of the community that is also a part of our family.  If we were still a stool, we’d be one with more than a hundred legs.

We called my Mom’s support group, Team Becky – maybe that’s what we still are even though she’s now gone.

Day 25: Because #write31days

Because I got so far behind on these posts, I am now in March still working away on finishing my month of  #write31days because I WANT to finish for the sake of finishing and I WANT to keep a record of my heart in grief and love and joy.  I had been post-dating the posts but I will now just post on the date I post them in real time.

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Because we risk love, we risk hurt.  Because we choose love and choose support and choose walking into the suffering with our loved one we are confronted with pain.  
There is pain in watching your Mom suffer and die.  But because she chose joy in the midst of suffering, I battle with choosing joy myself.  Because she was full of grace and kindness and love and thinking of others, even up to the end, I think I can choose to practice being those things and doing those things more.  Because she loved chocolate, I will always remember her when I enjoy some chocolate with my daughters, my husband, or my friends.  Because she grieved her husband, my Dad, for the rest of the days of her life, in sometimes a crippling way, I want to feel all the feels, grieve all the grief, cry, shout, mourn in all the time it takes, but also choose life and joy and love and laughter in the midst of my grief.
It’s because of who my Mom was that I want to be like her, and, at the same time, not like her.  I think she’d understand that.  She always wanted me to learn the good from her, and allow her to propel me past the outer limits of the sky.  Because I do believe she wanted more for herself.  And now, in heaven, she is whole, is complete, is full to the brim and overflowing with love, joy and Jesus.  

Day 24: Revise #write31days

If you could go back, what would you change?  If my Mom could go back and take care of herself more, would that have led to a different outcome?  If we had pressed for answers back in April when she was hospitalised twice within one week for pneumonia, would we have been able to do anything?  If I had returned to Canada sooner to live closer to my Mom, would we be aching in the same way from time that we never had but should’ve?

It’s easy to think of what ifs and assume that the outcome would’ve been different or perhaps better, but it’s too tiring to think about it all because the reality is here and my Mom is in a far better place, with no more pain or suffering.  Her faith was renewed.  The Lord graciously met our needs in ways that were… how they were meant to be met.  Of course, I would like to revise this last year, but at the same time, I trust that God is sovereign.  Am I really so presumptious to assume that I know better than my Creator?  Than my Mom’s Creator?

Day 23: Work #write31days

I’ve been tired and while there are many factors that could be, and probably are, contributing to my fatigue, I think the main culprit is grief.  I say this without any doubt: grief is work.

There was the grief we experienced when we knew my Mom’s days were limited, and when we thought she was going to pass that weekend, or that weekend and then when she finally did pass.  There’s the grief during the celebration of life service and the details that had to be arranged.  There’s the grief in the legalities.  Grief in the kind sentiments from relatives, neighbours, friends and sometimes almost strangers.  There’s the grief in the distance between when you last hugged her and were hugged back and now.  There’s the grief in the day to day tugs and pulls of little ones and your spouse and the life that you’ve gone back to that is supposed to be normal.

It’s tiring.  It’s work.  It’s hard.

[written Dec. 11, 2017 for #write31days in October]

Day 22: Light #write31days

There was minimal lighting in my Mom’s room in palliative care.  With the curtains open and the overhead light on, you would still need the light in the corner to satisfy Mom’s light quota for reading.  There was one more light in the other corner but it couldn’t be plugged in for the last month of my Mom’s life.  The electrical socket now was employed by the alarm for her bed if she fell off the bed or stood up without assistance.  It was a loud and stark reminder of Mom’s decline.  And the lack of light was both troublesome and sad every time Mom asked for more light.

Mom also had a headlight, for night time when the nurses turned out her lights and if she couldn’t sleep and wanted to read or colour (yes, she had some lovely, therapeutic colouring books).

The world seems more dim without Mom.

Day 21: Give #write31days

I felt like the longer my Mom’s Cancer progressed that there were fewer things that I could give her.  It felt like my offers to her were piddly but yet it turned out that those were the things that were most precious.

Gifts were of little value to her but she still appreciated drawings from her granddaughters and stories of cute things they’d said or done.

I started using essential oils in July and they became a conduit for us to connect.  On almost every visit after she was in the palliative ward at Parkwood, I would massage her hands and feet with essential oils.  Sometimes I’d let her choose, and sometimes I’d choose for her.  Up until the last several weeks of her life, hand and foot massages would relax her so much that she could go to sleep.  When she battled so much pain and confusion in her last month or so, I was relieved that I could offer her something that gave some peace and comfort.

The use of the EOs gave us a gift that was impossible to find elsewhere.

Return to Thailand

We (the girls and I) arrived back in Thailand last night.  Those were some long flights with lots of crying (none from me this time, thank goodness!).  I am so glad to have that travel done with for now.  The Lord provided lots of help at just the right time.

The week and a half prior to flying back, my youngest was sick.  We had two visits to pediatric emergency and we’ve had lots of doses of medicine each day (including while we were flying, which proved tricky with considering multiple timezone changes).  
But I have fallen behind in my #write31days challenge.  So, here’s to jet lag and catching up on many things, including sleep (even though they say you can’t actually catch up on sleep).  Let’s hope this next season in life is filled with as much grace as ever and keeping our eyes on Him.  Let’s run with endurance this race marked out for us!

Day 20: Discover #write31days

It’s funny how your perspective can change.  When my sister and I first went to tour the palliative care ward at Parkwood Hospital, it felt very hospital-like, and the rooms felt dated.  The staff were protective of their patients (well, my sister and I did look suspicious as we hadn’t heard back about a tour and decided to just go and pretend we knew what we were doing) and everything seemed bleh.  There was a friendly volunteer who gave us a good tour of the floor and this elderly gentleman seemed like the only good thing about the floor.

My Mom finally decided on Parkwood because we learned she could continue under the care of her new family doctor, who happened to be a good friend of mine from 20 years ago.  Decision made.

Several months later, I discovered that the palliative ward felt safe, comfortable and the nurses were really angels in disguise.  The whole environment (save for the co-ed ward rooms, but that’s another blog post right there) was lovely and loving and inspiring.  My Mom said her private room felt homey (she only had to endure one night in the co-ed ward room).

Day 19: Brave #write31days

I kept telling my Mom that she was so brave during her last several months of life.  Her prognosis hadn’t given her much to be brave about and yet she lived her days with grace, kindness and love.  She grappled with God at times (“Beth, I had a debate with God last night about free will… but we’re on good terms still”).  She grappled with us sometimes.  She never retreated.  She only persevered onwards.

She continued to do things that mattered to her – like remembering all the names of her nurses, PSWs, doctors, and even the cleaning staff.  She wanted to hear stories of her granddaughters and the sweet things they’d done or said (“Tell me a cute story about Jesse and Kate, Beth”).  She wanted us to reach out to her friends and keep them updated on how she was doing – she was usually more worried about others than she ever was for herself.

Her bravery was modest, and meek but was strong and loud.