Eulogy Part 2


Mom has left an indelible legacy of faith and prayer that will not be forgotten.  She also has left us the importance of family and friends.  She knew what it was to need help and to give help.  And she would tell friends that needed help to not forget what others had done for them because one day they would have a chance to do the same for someone else; and to take that chance.  Mom was completely devoted to her parents, her siblings, extended family and my Dad.  She was happiest with her family.  I have incredible memories of time with family and friends in Warroad, Arborg, Dryden and Moosomin.  We were rarely home on any holiday or school vacation.  This past summer we were able to make a large request come true.  We were able to get a reunion together with family coming from Colorado, Minnesota, North Dakota and Oregon.  She was thrilled and it was one of her best days after 4 1/2 months of being in and out of the hospital.  We were all so happy to give her that time.

She loved her grandchildren.  I remember how she beamed when my daughter, Sidney was born.  I hadn’t seen her that happy in years.  And that happiness did not diminish with the birth of Melissa and Natasha.   They all had Christmas dresses, pajamas and anything else that she could give them.  Then came the news of a grandson.  She wasn’t so sure what she would do with a boy.  She still had lots of pink and purple fabric to be used.  How could this be?  She decided she would just have to get more creative for the boy.  Alex got pajamas, t-shirts, the stuffed taxi in the other room and something to hang on his wall.  Mom adored him.  She had a special place for him.  Her face would light up when he came in no matter how sick or tired she was.  She loved his energy.  Mom’s main concern before she passed was her grandchildren and if they would be okay.  She didn’t want to leave them behind.  She even expressed that concern in one of her conversations with God.

This past year we made sure to give the kids lasting memories of Grandma.  The girls learned to cross-stitch and sew.  Alex had lots of hugs, laughs and tickles.  And speaking of laughs I think we can all agree that my Mom had an amazing sense of humor.  Her Mother was big on laughter and had lived on the philosophy of a belly laugh a day was essential to survival.  So, we all learned to laugh.  Mom was always quick with a joke or a funny comment.  Light sarcasm came easily.  She lifted other’s spirits as well as her own.  She found friends easily almost everywhere she went.  Mom made longstanding relationships with people that sat at the neighboring table in the restaurant, and with people in the neighboring hospital bed.  Humor got her through a lot of dark days past and present.  She went to meet friends at MJ’s last fall after she’d lost most of her hair to chemo and suddenly put her hands on her head and exclaimed, “Oh, I forgot to comb my hair!”  No one at the table was sure how to handle the situation.  It took a few seconds before Mom said, “Oh wait, I have don’t have any hair.”  Everyone at the table was relieved and had a good laugh.

The nurses at St Boniface said that they loved coming in her room because it was so positive and uplifting.  The home care ladies that cared for her over the last year said the same thing, especially over the last few weeks.  No one could believe that even when her body was failing her smile kept working.  She had been concerned that morphine would turn her into someone that she didn’t want to be.  But, it didn’t.  She was still herself.  A few weeks ago the nurse came in and said, “Hi Carole.”  And Mom lifted her arm and said, “Hi, I’m hiiiigh.”  Even when she wasn’t sure what we were all talking about if she heard us laugh she would laugh with us.  And if we whispered when we thought she was sleeping we would get reprimanded and told to speak up.  In the last year we have laughed about everything from hospital food and colostomy bags to death and funerals.  Other than her suffering I wouldn’t trade the last 16 months for anything.

I’d like to list a few of Mom’s final requests:

“I’d like my hair dyed red for the funeral.  Oh and a perm.”

“Don’t make me look like a saint.  I’m not perfect, you know.”

“It doesn’t matter what you dress me in, I won’t be there to see it.  Just pick something.”

As you can see we didn’t honor all of her requests.  But, we will do our best to continue her legacy of faith, family and humor.

At this time I would also like to say an enormous thank you to everyone that cared for Mom, whether at the hospital, at cancer care or at home.  Home care workers are unsung heroes.  In the words of my Mother, “Treat home care workers with respect and kindness.  You may need them one day.”

The Restaurant

I was in Steinbach for an appointment last week and it was a lot shorter than I had expected so I decided to surprise my sister at work before heading back to Winnipeg.  My sister is a cook at a popular, and very good, restaurant in town.  So I surprised her and ordered something to eat.  I sat down at a table and I realized that I hadn’t been to this restaurant since the day of my Mom’s funeral almost a year ago when we had an early family dinner.

As I sat there I remembered all the times I had been there with my Mom.  Going out for afternoon coffee – or any time of day – was one of her favorite things.  And I was always up for it as well.  She always knew someone, had a conversation, a laugh, or just a “hi” as she walked by.  I looked around at the people in the restaurant and wondered if there was anyone there that day that she would have known.  After Mom was sick and unable to go out we would pick up food for her.  Mom was friends with the owners and knew all the waitresses so they didn’t mind “bending” the menu for Mom when her tastes changed.  And there were days where Mom would get hungry for pie so we would call the restaurant to see what they had that day so Mom could decide and then go pick it up if it was the right kind for that days craving.  They were always so good to her.  This was also the restaurant where she had fainted and they had taken care of her until my sister got there.

The other day I sipped my coffee and I looked across at the empty chair and I could almost see her sitting in front of me.  Maybe she was in the washroom and would be right back.  Maybe she hadn’t gotten there yet and was on her way.  Every time I heard the door I expected to see her walk around the corner with a big smile on her face.  But she didn’t.  And she wasn’t.  My sister came and sat down.  We had a good chat and a few laughs.  But someone was missing.

Now that was a year after her passing and I was only there once.  My sister went back to work a few days after the funeral and faced that absence every day.  She spoke with Mom’s friends, answered their questions and listened to their memories.  I realize that I have been very sheltered here in Winnipeg without the painful daily memories and I’m not sure how my sister did it, especially in the beginning.  But as painful as these experiences are they are also cleansing and important.  Mom’s illness became so overwhelming it was and still is difficult to remember the times before she was sick.  It was refreshing to go somewhere that holds the “before” memories.

Waiting for Relief

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010 I cooked Mom her last meal of sweet and sour meatballs, rice and sliced carrots.  That night I sat with her, listened and talked with her as she came into reality after 18 months of denial.  Friday, December 17th, 2010 Mom passed away at 6am.  The small steps towards death that we witnessed every day dragging us to a finish line that we craved and dreaded all at once are what I am now reliving.

The sadness in my Mom’s eyes as she realized that she would not watch her grandchildren grow up.  Her realizing that her death would cause her grandchildren pain and grief.  Small joy at who was waiting for her on the other side.

Taking our last wheelchair walk.  Walking down the hall to the mail for the last time.  Walking across

her apartment for the last time with her walker.  Discussing funeral arrangements as if planning a family gathering.  Moving her hospital bed into the living room and setting up what would be her final living space.  Her taking the one step and turning to sit in her recliner for the last time. She would never eat a meal at the dining table again.

Only being able to wear hospital gowns.  Never getting out of bed again because it took 3 people to help her to stand.  Seeing the effects of starvation start to take effect.  No longer being able to sit up. Having random conversations about pall bearers over and over.  Stealing moments to go in the back bedroom to take deep breaths.

Not able to turn herself over in her bed.  2 people needed to turn her.  3 people needed to turn her.  Feeling through the gown how much smaller she had become.  Convincing her to take pain medication.  Learning to give morphine.  Needing morphine before she could be turned.  Never knowing when the pain would take over and she would have to be sedated. Her ever constant sense of humor.  No longer able to lift her head.  No longer able to hold a cup to drink.  Giving her sips of juice with a straw.

Thankful that she no longer feels hunger and has stopped asking for food.

The rest of us playing games late into the night to keep her company.  Starting coffee at midnight.  Time no longer exists in apartment 101. The blinds are always closed.  The low level of light is the same no matter what time of day or night it is.  Music playing 24 hours a day.  Having the same conversation over and over for many hours. Her waking up and telling us she was disappointed that she was looking at us and not heaven.

“It’s not fair.  Why do they get to go and I’m still stuck here?”  In response to hearing of family members passing before her; then saying that she must still be here for a reason and to not refuse any visitors in case they need to hear something that she has to say.  Mumblings and ramblings 24 hours a day; doing our best to listen and converse.  Almost constant praying and conversations with God as if he was standing beside her holding her hand.  “He knows everything so I don’t have to.”

She is no longer able to drink.  Wiping out her mouth with a sponge.  She is no longer able to see.  Not recognizing pictures of family.  Her having her eyes closed for hours and suddenly opening them wide as if startled and not knowing where she is.  Knowing that my Mother was starving to death and there was nothing I could do.

Never seeing her cry a single tear.  Visitors coming to say goodbye day after day. Thankful she is no longer thirsty and asking for something to drink.

The following strange and morose checklist that became normal:  Have her feet started to turn blue yet?  How many seconds between breaths?  Have her hands or feet started to swell?  Has her pulse changed?  Has liver failure begun?  And being slightly disappointed when nothing had changed.

Waiting for her relief.


The Last Christmas

Christmas of 2009 was going to be different, we all knew that.  Mom was nervous but wanted to make the most of the holiday.  She wanted to have Christmas at our new house but she hadn’t left Steinbach except for doctor appointments and tests since May.  I’m not even sure if she had been out to my sister’s house 15 minutes south of town.  So for her to think of going all the way to our house in Winnipeg she was very nervous.  We assured her of how close we are to a hospital just in case.  She was more worried about how to handle her colostomy away from home.  She always made sure that she was home within a few hours where she was more comfortable.  I made sure that we had whatever she needed to take care of herself.  She got a ride with my sister and her family on her 68th birthday, December 24th.

We had a big meal, of course.  Mom played piano for what would be the last time.  We had birthday cake with sparklers.  We got a few really good pictures of her.  She was the happiest and healthiest we had seen her in a very long time.  Healthy is relative of course but she didn’t have as many tumors in her so she felt better.  She was tired but she seemed lighter and happier.  She had really good color in her face for the first time in over a year.  She commented that it was one of the best Christmas’s we had had in a long time.  We had tried really hard to lift her spirits and I knew that this could very well be her last one.  We also wanted to be sure that the grandkids had a wonderful last Christmas/birthday with Grandma to remember.

After Christmas Mom was anticipating surgery again on January 14th.  They were going to reverse her colostomy, do a hysterectomy and remove more tumors.  She was nervous about it but so happy to get rid of the colostomy nothing else really mattered.  I am not a doctor and I don’t fully understand the intricacies of why the colostomy was reversed or how.  There were conflicting stories along the way and it was just glossed over by the fact that she was so happy.  She didn’t care why or what, just that it would be gone.

A week or so before her surgery I got a call from my sister that Mom had fainted again; this time in a restaurant.  My Mom had gone out on her own to the restaurant where my sister works; she went there almost every day so everyone knew her.  My sister wasn’t working but her co-workers had called her in a panic and she had rushed into town.  Mom had a piece of pie and when she got up to leave she felt funny.  One of the waitresses saw her in the camera from the kitchen and noticed that she was staggering so she ran out to check on her.  Mom came around the corner to pay and tried to get to the counter in time to hold on.  The waitress came around the other corner in time to see Mom start to go down so she ran over and was able to help her lay on the floor instead of crashing.  They then called my sister.  When Mom came around she insisted that she did not need an ambulance or to see a doctor.  The waitress agreed they wouldn’t do anything until my sister got there.  Rebecca agreed to not take her to the hospital because Mom had been thoroughly checked out for the fainting spells and there wasn’t really an explanation other than low oxygen but not enough to put her on oxygen.  I called a bunch of times to be sure that she was all right and home care doted on her.  Mom recovered from it that evening and again couldn’t figure out what the big deal was.  The next time we got a chance we asked the doctor if it was safe for her to be driving – what if she fainted while driving.  The doctors reassured us that driving in small amounts around town was still safe because the fainting was related to standing up.  As long as she stayed sitting she was fine.  So she gave us dirty looks, stuck her tongue out at us, said “I told you so.” and drove where she wanted.

We were definitely reminded that even if Mom had the best color in her cheeks we’d seen in months or that she was happier we still had to be on our guard.  Every time we felt like we knew where we stood something would happen to shake us up again.

It’s Just Not Fair

This posting took me a while because I have been fighting it.  I haven’t wanted to write it but it won’t leave me alone.  I guess it just has to be written.

Life isn’t fair.  Cancer isn’t fair.  Murder isn’t fair.  The last 34 years of my Mom’s life wasn’t fair.  I know that sounds like a pity party but sometimes you just have to go there.  You have to just feel the unfairness and the injustice like an emotion.   The acknowledgment and acceptance of this reality can help to move you forward as long as you don’t stay in the pity party.  Acknowledge and move on – that’s the hard part.

I don’t know much about the first 34 years of my Mom’s life.  I know different jobs that she did and a few places that she lived and that she had early aspirations to be a teacher.  I also know that she really wanted to get married and have children.  Her dreams came true when she met my Dad at about 30.  And then it was taken away by murder.  I honestly don’t have the words for the injustice that she suffered that day and in the days that followed.  I’m overwhelmed by it all.  I know that she really didn’t understand why.  I didn’t hear her come out and say, “Why me?” Or, “This isn’t fair.”  Or pout.  But I know she thought it.  It’s natural.  How do you not feel cheated when you feel like you have entered the perfect life only to have it ripped from you after only 3 years?  When you are suddenly raising 2 children in a situation you never could have imagined?

Mom made a life for us and her but I don’t think that anyone will deny that she lived in the shadow of her dream.  She fought it every day.  She forced herself out of bed and made breakfast plans at a restaurant nearly every day to be sure that she kept to a routine.  She did her best to keep herself distracted by reading the paper, watching tv, going out for coffee with friends.  She just couldn’t bear to think about what might have been or what was.  This was pretty well hidden to most behind humor or small talk.  She also relied on her faith to keep her going.  I have found many writings of hers trying to make sense of her life.

According to what we are now discovering it’s quite amazing that it took over 30 years for the cancer to come.  Research is beginning to connect trauma with cancer, as well as many auto-immune diseases.  It is believed that extreme physical or mental trauma causes such a shock to the body that it lowers the immune system enough for cancer or other diseases to take hold.  For my Mom she also had an extreme chemical and hormonal imbalance at the time of my Dad’s death which made everything so much worse.  When you have already survived a trauma the prospect of cancer just adds insult to injury.

So as I watched my Mother suffer for 18 months the unfairness of the situation was ever present for me.  It was what kept me going back when I thought I had given everything I had to give.  It was what gave me the strength to confront doctors and nurses.   I couldn’t change the fact that she was suffering and dying but I could do my best to lessen her suffering and help her die with dignity.  I know that God always has a plan and a path for each of us.  And I know that it isn’t always for us to understand that plan; but speaking as a daughter who watched her Mom suffer most of my life I just wish that for her sake she could have gone quickly with a heart attack or a car accident.  I hate that she had to suffer for us to have that time with her.  It feels incredibly selfish.  Watching my Mother slowly starve to death over the course of 6 weeks knowing that there was nothing I could do but sit, watch and listen will never leave me.  Intellectually I know that it is an experience that I need for whatever is ahead of me in life.  No experience goes to waste.  But this one I think I would have preferred to go without.

It’s just not fair.  I guess this is where I’m supposed to move on…

Mom and chemo

Mom, along with the rest of us had been warned about all of the possible side effects of chemo and we were all nervous about Mom’s first round.  She would be receiving chemo one day a month by IV and it would last about 5 hours.  So at the end of September of 2009 we all held our breath.  Auntie A came up to sit with her during chemo and stay with her for the first few days to be sure everything was all right.  Mom didn’t really let on her fears.  She just thought of it as a no-choice issue.  This is what she had to do to get better and she was determined that she would come through it just fine.  My sister and I went to see her and called her over the next few days to the point where I think it really annoyed her.  She didn’t see what the fuss was all about.

Mom had problems with her veins for as long as I can remember.  For years she had to have blood taken out of the top of her hands instead of the inside of her elbow, which is quite painful.  The nurses also had problems getting her IV in so they decided to put in a “pic line”, which is a semi-permanent tiny tube that goes in the upper arm and is threaded through to a major artery near the heart.  It could be used to deliver chemo and take blood.  Unfortunately the pic lines didn’t work very well either and they had to be redone a few times.  But Mom and the rest of us were thankful that there was an alternative to the painful needles every few days.

Mom came through it pretty well for chemo.  She had a few side effects but they weren’t as severe as expected.  She had some nausea but more sensitivity to food.  There were some foods that no longer agreed with her.  She hadn’t had a great appetite for months but this sure didn’t help.  Eggs was one that was a bit of a surprise for her and a disappointment.  She was tired but the worst was the joint pain.  She didn’t really feel anything different the first day but the second day the joint pain started and got so bad she had a hard time moving for a few days and then it slowly went away.  So she had about a week of being uncomfortable and in pain.  It didn’t really slow her down much.  She felt it was important to keep her life as normal as possible to keep her spirits up so she and my Aunt would schedule breakfast and other outings around home care visits and nurses.

Mom’s weight continued to drop as the chemo cycles continued and with each chemo cycle we held our breath knowing that the less severe aspects of the drugs could give way to much worse.  She saw her hair loss as no big deal.  Due to the trauma of my Dad’s death she had started to lose her hair years before.  This baldness was easier to explain than the complexity of trauma and hormone deficiency.  So for her it was a bit of a relief.  Thankfully the side effects were minimal through the first 4 chemo treatments into December.

ER Visit

Back to my Mom Pieces:

The months of October through December 2009 were a roller coaster.  Mom was at home with home care several times a day, me stopping in 2 to 3 days a week, my sister coming by most days and my Auntie A.  coming and staying for a few days at a time.  Mom struggled with the loss of some independence.  She was still driving but just to the post office or church etc.  Her breakfast out with friends was more important than ever.  Mom had to keep her colostomy in mind at all times and she never got used to caring for it.  She was nervous leaving the house in case something went wrong and being in close proximity to the hospital was a necessity.  Mom had to take more than a few trips to the ER for help.  They got used to seeing her unfortunately.

One Saturday evening Pasith, the kids and I went to town to have supper at her house.  After supper Pasith took the kids out to his brother’s house.  My Mom went into the bathroom and after a few minutes I realized that she hadn’t come out.  I went to ask her if she was okay and saw that she was in the bathroom with the light off.  And she wouldn’t answer me.  Finally I told her that if she didn’t answer me I was coming in to the bathroom.  I didn’t know if she had fainted.  I hadn’t heard her fall but I wasn’t taking any chances.  She cracked the door open but still wouldn’t talk – she just didn’t want me to come in.  I was terrified and didn’t know what to think or do.  I asked her if she needed to go to the hospital.  I begged her to talk to me.  I called Pasith and asked him to come back.  I needed his help to get her in and out of the car.  I wasn’t sure what I was dealing with.  So he came back and by that time I had gotten her out of the bathroom and she agreed to go to the hospital – across the street.  She wasn’t able to walk that far so Pasith and I helped her into the car and drove her over.  I went in with her and Pasith went back to his brothers.  I never found out what happened in the bathroom.  I don’t remember what happened at the hospital and I don’t know how long we were there.  The only thing that has stuck with me from that night was the horrible helplessness not knowing what to do when she wouldn’t answer me.  I have the vision of standing in the kitchen doorway staring down the hall at the bathroom door and not seeing any light underneath and wondering if I needed to call an ambulance, my husband, my sister or all three.  I had been cautious in all of my previous visits over the last few months but after that I just knew that I had to be prepared for anything.

She and I were so thankful that we had been there.  I’m not sure what would have happened if we hadn’t been.  God was definitely watching over Mom while she was sick.  There always seemed to be people with her when she needed help.

Too Soon

2 days less than 10 months. That is the time between my Mom’s death and her oldest sister’s death. Aunt R. passed away this past Saturday morning. She had been ill but the timing was still unexpected for the family. I’m thankful that Aunt R. did not suffer long. I’m truly happy for her. There must be one incredible family gathering going on in heaven. She met her stillborn son for the first time yesterday. How amazing must that have been?

But it is still oh so hard to be left behind. Her children are stunned and grieving. My Aunt A, who cared for my Mom was also there for her older sister. Again she gave everything she had to give. And again she is with her sister’s children while their grief is so fresh. She really is my hero.

There have been awful reminders all the way through the last few months. Hospitals, decisions, family visits, debates and discussions about the future. It was all so fresh for all of us. The update phone calls though the family. Only this time it was different, the family communication chain was broken. In our extended family news traveled by generation; Grandma would talk to her children and then they would pass on whatever news to their children. When Grandma was gone the news would travel between the siblings and then pass on to the children. My sister and I no longer had that connection. It felt strange to not have my Mom call me to tell me that her sister was in the hospital; or home from the hospital or that she had passed away. Auntie A. and my cousins were wonderful about updating us as needed but it was still a reminder that Mom was missing from the chain.

I didn’t know Aunt R. very well. I respected her and had spent time at her farm as a child but never got to know her as an adult. She was very quiet and to be honest I just wasn’t sure of what to talk about with her. We were just very different people. And I had never realized how similar she was to my Mom until I went to visit her about a month ago. I was hesitant to go because I just wasn’t sure what to expect or if I could handle it. Aunt R. was in the hospital but was out for a day pass to spend with family. Aunt A and my Uncle and his wife were there as well as me and a few of my cousins. We had a good visit and a really good supper together. I’m glad I went but it was not easy. I wanted to escape at some points. Just go for a walk and get some fresh air.

Her voice, her smile and the way she moved. Getting her to walk around with her walker before we had supper nearly sent me over the edge. The task of getting her down the outside steps and into the car to go back to the hospital for the night just made me cry.  All of these things and more were painful memories of my Mom. And then when she was transferred to St B last weekend I knew that I needed to go see her. I knew I would but it was not going to be easy and it would take some deep breaths. I had gone back after my Father-in-law died on the 8th floor of St B a year before my Mom was admitted for the first time.  I told myself that I could do it again.  I was going to go this weekend and actually reminded myself on Saturday morning that I needed to be sure to go that evening.

And then I got the call at 2pm. I no longer have to get myself back into the hospital but now there is another family funeral. It all just feels too soon. I know this is far bigger than just me. There are her children, her siblings, her other family and friends that also have to go through this time. It’s not easy for any of us. We all have our own story.

Today my story is that I’m reliving my Mom’s sickness, death and funeral while the family grieves again far too soon.

Going Home

The last week that Mom spent in the hospital in Winnipeg was much more relaxing than the previous 4 weeks.  She had no more tubes in her.  She was going outside for short walks and sitting in the atrium for short periods.  She was so happy to get out and feel the sun or sit at a table in a chair; simple pleasures.  Mom had some learning to do before she could leave for home.  She had nurses teaching her how to take care of her colostomy.  This was the toughest part for Mom.  She really resisted and continued to have issues until it was reversed 5 months later.  And there was chemo coming.  The doctors had finally decided on what type of cancer she had, which was Breast as well as Peritoneal, which behaves and is treated like Ovarian.  The breast tumor was very slow growing so they decided to leave that one alone.  They focused on the chemo for the abdominal cancer.  Mom was nervous about all of the side effects of the chemo but was really positive in terms of what it could do for her.

When she left the Winnipeg hospital she stayed in the Steinbach hospital for a few days to be sure that she was all right and could handle going home.  The doctors and all of us including Mom agreed that to go straight from Winnipeg to home would be too much of a shock.  They also had to set up home care.  Mom wasn’t so sure about home care at first.  She knew she didn’t have a choice and was thankful that they were available to her for her medical needs.  But she was determined that she would handle as much of her meal making and general care on her own.  She liked to remind us that she wasn’t that bad off and it was good for her to do as much as she could to keep going every day.  And we admired her for it, even if it was frustrating some days.

Mom went home and was so happy to be there.  Auntie A was still coming, staying for up to a week or two and then going home to Minnesota.  And I was going to Steinbach 3 evenings and 1 day a week for the first few months.  It was a strain on our household but I was home more than I had been when she was in the hospital so it was still an improvement.

My Mom asked me to be at her place when the first home care worker came because my sister was working and she needed some extra support.  I have a distinct memory of how nervous Mom was.  The nurse had been there to do vitals, check bandages and help out with the colostomy.  But this was the first time she would have “help” doing things that she had done on her own for 60+ years.  Giving up even a small piece of your independence is so hard.  And at first it was a small piece.  They helped her get changed for bed for a while because of her surgery and the tap they had put into her back to get rid of the fluid around her lungs. It was hard for her to lift her arms and bend down.  They would also get her meals if she needed or get things for her that she could no longer reach or bend down for.  Once a week someone would come and cook meals from Mom’s recipes that could be frozen and they would wash her bedding.  They were also company on some lonely nights.

“Tara” came that Thursday night and was so kind.  She listened to Mom and explained what to expect.  She eased Mom’s fears of her life being taken over by strangers in her own house.  Knowing that the home care workers were there also eased our minds when we couldn’t be there.  We knew that if something went wrong they would be there at certain times and if she didn’t answer her door they would let us know.  Mom had known home care workers for many years, including a few that were now helping her out, so she had enormous respect for what they were doing.  She appreciated every effort that was made for her.  That first night we had no idea that these women would join us so completely in Mom’s journey, share in some extremely intimate moments and become a part of our family.

An Angel for a Roommate

The fact that Mom lived on her own and that my Aunt A lives 2 hours away; I live 45 minutes away, have children and a full time job; and my sister lives just out of town but also works and has 2 children made it difficult to have someone with Mom whenever she needed it.  So God sent us angels.  There were many more than we even knew about I’m sure.  But today I’ll describe 1 very important angel.

The time that Mom spent at St B hospital during August and September of 2009 was difficult to say the least.  How do you deal with being told that your abdomen is full of tumors?  And we all tried to be there as much as possible but our lives did have to go on outside of the hospital.  One bright spot was her roommate, let’s call her Daisy.  Daisy was amazing for Mom.  She had an incredible sense of humor and really cared about Mom.  She would look out for her and let us know if anything unusual had gone on while we weren’t there.  This was so important because my Mom wouldn’t tell us what the doctor or nurse had said if we weren’t there to hear it.  Mom couldn’t handle what she had been told most of the time so she would usually say that she didn’t know what they had said or just that we should speak with the charge nurse.  And so that’s where we would go.  But Daisy was able to give us insight every once in a while that the nurses couldn’t.  Daisy wasn’t nosy, she was vigilant and caring.

One day 3 or 4 doctors came into Mom’s room and spoke to her about her condition.  And to this day we don’t know what that conversation was because Daisy knew when privacy was needed and left the room and Mom never even mentioned that doctors had been there.  Once I had spoken with Daisy I knew better than to ask Mom about the conversation.  When Daisy came back and the doctor’s were leaving one of them leaned over and said, “Keep her laughing, she’s going to need it.”  Daisy took this seriously and made it her mission to keep my Mom’s spirits up.  And Mom was very quiet after that conversation with the doctors so she didn’t ask her either, just gave her some space so she could deal with whatever it was that she had been told.

There was also a day that I arrived and Mom was in quite a good mood and she proceeded to tell me that the doctor had been there to tell her that there was hope.  Her prognosis wasn’t as dire as they had previously said.  The doctors were going to do chemo and they had high hopes.  I was hesitant to believe this based on everything else we had been told but joined in Mom’s relief.  As soon as I could I got away with Daisy to ask her if she knew anything about what my Mom had said.  Daisy hadn’t heard the conversation because she again had left when the doctor came but it was so good to talk to her and get her perspective to bring me back to reality.  I then talked to the doctor the next day and found out that Mom had not been completely truthful.  The doctors had come to tell her that she was not able to be cured but that if she was up to it they would start chemo treatments as soon as she had recovered enough.  The chemo would hopefully get rid of whatever small tumors were left over from surgery.  But they couldn’t guarantee how much time she would have after the chemo stopped before the tumors would return.  And they would return.  I was devastated.  I wanted so badly to believe her and I felt duped.  I think that was when my resolve to always second guess got stronger.  Again I went to Daisy just to talk and make sense of it.  And she calmed me down by saying that my Mom didn’t mean to mislead me she just didn’t want to be the one to tell me the real news.  She told me as much as could deal with and wanted me to get the rest from the doctors.  Mom hadn’t wanted us to worry.   That helped enormously to understand where Mom was coming from.

Mom and Daisy had a great time together watching old Elvis movies, joking about the food and joking with the nurses.  Daisy would join right in when visitors were there and then leave for a while to be sure Mom had the time she needed.  I don’t know how deep their conversations ever got but I don’t think that was Daisy’s part on Mom’s team.  They became friends; something Mom really needed being in the city away from her other friends in Steinbach.  And Daisy became an ally that we could rely on to watch out for her when we weren’t there.  When Mom found out Daisy was going home she was quite upset.   They had been roommates for a month.  You get to know and trust a person over the period of a month.  Mom had more really good roommates but no one like Daisy.  They kept up after they had both left the hospital and Daisy was at Mom’s funeral.  We are so very thankful to Daisy for making Mom’s life a little brighter.