Tuesday, June 26, 2012
The death of a parent- a mother and son's deep love and friendship
Astro Mom has passed away - 19th June 2012...
By Joe Guzman on Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 1:08am ·
I have been receiving many nice notes and wishes regarding me and my Mom, but very sad news - and I feel it’s important to notify my friends.
A week ago (Tuesday the 19th of June), Mom made her transition away from me and passed away at a solid 96 years of age. She suffered from liver disease, most likely brought on by pesticides when she worked on a farm as a young woman. We fought this illness together for many years, extending our time together after the medical community wrote her off. She trusted in me and did everything I told her what to do, altered our diet and incorporated alternative treatments in pushing back the inevitable for as long as we could. She was mobile and acutely cognitive till just about the very end, joking with me hours before she passed.
Two weeks ago, a blood vessel burst in her colon and I rushed her to the E.R. Blood transfusions later we only spent four days in the hospital. Being prodded, poked, jabbed and tubed, she was happy to get out of there and cease the "tortures" as she put it and come home. For the next two weeks, she spent the entire time in bed and in great discomfort, but alert. I spent the next 14 days changing, feeding and sleeping in a chair by her - taking her vitals hourly. She knew the routine - extending her arm for the Bp cuff, her finger for the Blood Ox meter and held the thermometer under her tongue till ready. For the majority of the two weeks, the vitals were improving and gave me hope. She would wrap her arms around my neck, so as to lift her up and place a pillow under her head for drinking/eating. She continually complained about the discomfort in her belly, which was now distended with fluid, pressing up against her ribcage and preferred to lie flat. I would try to massage the water away, bringing slight relief, but with every meal and drink, it would rise up again - and it would hurt me to see her like this. But Mom was a strong woman and we always bounced back from set-backs before, resuming her regular household regiments as usual...but not this time. Growing weaker, walking was not possible and she was tired of laying in bed, bones and muscles aching. I would to continue to massage her and turn her often, but she was so tired and slept most of the time. Her dentures no longer fit and pained her...so I pureed her foods and pushed nutrient/juiced drinks. I changed her several times a day with a smile and we shared jokes. When I had to go to work, my girl Maria made time to come and stay with her and chat. Mom told her things about me and said, "He's yours now.....good luck...!"
I incorporated the services of Hospice care, who were great in bathing, medicating and provided use of oxygen and other items of need. On the 19th of June, I told Mom I would be going to bed and that I would get up in a couple of hours to check up on her. She was good with that, told me I must be tired and asked if I ate well. At 2:00 am, I woke up in a start and went to Mom, who was awake but sluggish. I was having a difficult time taking her vitals, but after some time, succeeded in registering a low blood pressure and Blood Oxygen reading. Alarmed, I called the hospice nurse at 2:00 am and she arrived quickly within the hour. Mom was entering the last stages of life and the nurse asked if I would want to call 911. No. The attempts to administer trauma care, (Intubation, chest compressions etc...), would be more detrimental to her frail body - and to put her thorough all that now in a cold careless hospital was not going to happen. We would see this out at home.
I spent the next hours scared, hopeless and in a daze, but did not show it, talking with Mom - who could only now mumble or grunt, but still aware and tried to respond. I thanked her for everything she did for me and that we would love each other forever. She acknowledged as best she could. Breathing became labored and was now an effort. As her protector and caretaker since forever, I could not fix this and knew the day I dreaded for decades was at hand. I was angry at my helplessness and feared my resignation of the crisis. Maria took time off of work to be with me as I was scared to be alone....arriving just in time.
Mom's breathing was now more shallow and father apart. I tried again to take her vitals, but they were not registering...and with both of us at her side, holding her hand and stoking her head...Mom, the woman who was always there for me and my best friend, took a last breath...and was gone forever. I cried and wailed - (listening to myself react and feeling fright), as Maria held me and I held Mom. This was and is so unreal, Mom was no longer here, but her shell remained - just like that. I remained with her for a few hours, trying to understand this transition, before calling the hospice nurse, who arrived and made the arrangements to have her picked up. And with that, Mom's physical body was gone from my life forever. Inconceivable nightmare.
I seem to handling this horrible situation better than I thought I would, always imagining myself in a fetal position in the corner without Mom. I go through wide mood swings from utter despair to feeling ok...which brings on guilt. I am happy that Mom no longer is suffering with that goddamned liver disease and can rest her soul from this condition. My schedule revolved around Mom and I lived my life for her and now my job was at an end. What do I do now.....? I try to fill my time, but it all seems meaningless. I find myself talking to her and hoping she can hear me from wherever she may be now.
She said I was the best thing in her life and hoped when her time came, that I would not be alone. Seeing how well Maria & I are together, she called us magnets - strongly attracted to each other. I would often tell Mom that I would be back "in a couple of hours” going to see Maria... and she would respond “I know how long your couple of hours are”. She genuinely liked and approved my girl and seeing that I was not alone now... made her feel better she told me.
Mom and I decided long ago that we would prefer cremation, like my Dad...we even came across an urn-like vessel that will hold her ashes that we liked and got that will rest on the piano. There will be no wake or services - but perhaps a memorial remembrance sometime - perhaps on her birthday. We often discussed the mystery of Life after Death and this temporary dimension of existence. I hope she is well and will keep tabs on me like she said she would. My Dad visited me in a most vivid dream and hung around for awhile...I hope Mom stays with me and guides me as I try to continue on. We always talked about astronomy and often said that she would like to skate on the rings of Saturn when the time comes....I hope she is having a great time. And, she was proud of me - always telling me she loved me as I would head out the door - always worrying over me till I was back home.
There is now a home full of memories and a lifetime of collected stuff to go through...a painful task to attend to. Favorite articles of clothing, foods in the fridge, knick-knacks she liked that reflected colored sunshine in the windows. Notifying agencies that she has passed, removing her name from papers, and no longer bringing home her favorite coffee/food...it’s all hard. I lost weight and trying to regain footing. So many things we shared together, inside jokes, stories told & retold and pushing back the disease as far as we could.
This is an impossible state of being now, but damn...we had a great time together, my best friend... and she would have made 100 easy...if it were not for that stupid retarded cancer....that not only killed it's host..but itself as well. She never harmed anybody, sacrificed much for me and I am blessed to be her son. But, I am now faced for the first time, a world without Mom & Dad...and it's scary. There is an uncomfortable relief that our struggle is over and new opportunities to conquer...but I would do it all over again just to have her with me for another hour.
Thank you to all my friends to kept the positive thoughts and prayers for us...recommending various assistance, offering help and searching for alternative herbs for her when I was having difficulties. She always smiled when I told her that my friends said hello and enjoyed being referred to as “Astro Mom”. I was blessed with a wonderful gift - having so many quality years together, practically mobile and of sharp mind to the very end - we connected till the very end. She passed like she wanted - with me at her side, at home quietly and with a slight smile on her face...but I miss her so much and with a home full of her memories and bills piling up. I am a changed person now, different - but I can't explain it yet.
(I share this account for my friends who may be going through, have already or soon might be facing this situation. You all have been very generous and I hope that this will prepare you in the loss that we all must experience at some time.)
I miss you Ma.