Thursday, January 31, 2013

Daffodil

Three months? I'm sorry. I just couldn't. I have been busy caring for my mother and father in law.

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(I am doing well for the most part, as far as my oncologist sees it. He has recently promised me some 40 years of regular checkups yet to come. I had to laugh later because, well, GOING ON 40! )


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Before I go into a long post, let me tell you that chrisstewart69.blogspot.com is a blog that you should be reading. I read it every morning. It makes me a better parent, who appreciates life and (my) children SO much more. The very first post has a link to a news story that will give you background.

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My sweet mother in law left this life on Friday. This past year has been a long path of trying to juggle life in general (with jobs and responsibilities and teen athletes) and elder care.

My mother in law had been in the hospital twice since Christmas, and came home "on hospice", which for us was peculiar because she didn't have a cancer diagnosis, but was so weakened by an infection in her arm that her doctor thought she would not rebound. Sadly he was right.

She was able to talk with us for a few days, and take antibiotics with tiny bites of yogurt or mashed fruit. She looked at me once and said "your hair grew back so nice". It cracked my heart into a thousand pieces. Considering my chemo was almost three years ago, it was a tiny small consolation to be sure she knew it was me there stroking her own hair away from her face.

Eventually she couldn't eat, and could only take sips of water from a spoon. But this was what she wanted. She was at home resting comfortably in her own bed. No hospitals or machines or drugs or tubes. And yet my feisty Irish girl was still there. I dribbled water all down her chin and she said "well I wanted a shower today anyway." She blessed me with laughter in her last words to me.

As she faded, we visited and held her hand and talked to her and kissed her face. She was like a music box, slowly winding down. My brother in law and nephew went to Washington DC to participate in a band festival and I whispered in her ear "a few more days.... They're not home yet." She stayed with us.

The brothers spent as much time as possible there, anxious. Then the day came that her husband said he'd like to be alone with her. No commotion, no visitors please.

That was last Friday. I busied myself with grocery shopping. I picked up a miniature daffodil plant from the small floral section in the grocery store. Set it down, picked up another, couldn't decide. Finally, after handling a few, I put one in my cart. I figured it would bloom in a week or two. No buds were to be found.

Exhausted after a long week, I dozed off in front of the tv, and stood at 9:30 to go to bed. As I was walking by the kitchen sink I noticed one full yellow daffodil bloom. I was surprised, and put a picture on Facebook. (Maybe Instagram too... Tap, tap.) There were no buds in the store. Really. I was afraid to verbalize what else was running through my mind when I saw that flower.

I continued on to my room after that and was just putting my head on the pillow when the phone rang. Then I knew. It was 9:40.

"Your mother died ten minutes ago". (The aide has always complimented me that I care for her as if she were my own mother. With 25 years of receiving nothing but kind words how could I not?)

So while she was leaving this life, a flower opened out of nowhere on a tiny potted plant. It gives me hope, in a way. Hope that SHE made it bloom and that it was a message that everything really will be alright and that she is okay and there really IS...



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After not eating for a week, she was frail and thin and delicate. When I walked into the funeral home and saw her I sobbed. She looked like herself again. Beautiful.

In the middle of the funeral my nephew and I went up to the choir loft, where Stanley and Bette were waiting.... we sang the first part of Hail Mary (Gentle Woman), and they joined in.

My children were pallbearers, along with my nephew. They are between childhood and adulthood, being 18 and 15. They were so brave and yet I could see how much it hurt. We all knew it would happen and yet... You're never really ready.

It was so heart crushing at the end of her funeral to see my father in law shuffle down the aisle in his walker, behind her lavender casket. I sobbed when I saw her coffin poised just inside the light of the open church doors.

Then we went to stand at the cemetery and my heart ached again, to see my children and their cousin, in dark wool coats with white roses on their lapels, white gloves, and holding white long stem roses, standing solemnly on the other side of the coffin, facing us "adults".

Then they took their gloves off, laid them on the lavender, casket, and laid their white long stem roses on top. The bittersweet pride...