Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Saying good-bye

My mom, also known to many as Grandma B, died on June 15 just after midnight.  My heart is broken beyond words, and I miss her more than anyone can know.  She was suffering terribly at the end, even with Hospice care, and although I am happy that she is no longer suffering it doesn't take away the pain that I feel without her now.  She has been a mother and a friend to me and an amazing grandmother to my children.  The 24 years that I spent with her were some of the worst and best in my life, and I very likely would not be here today if it weren't for her.  When there was nobody else she was there.  

On Saturday, June 30th in Fernandina Beach a group of close friends and family said good-bye to both my mom and to Chris.  She asked me to keep his ashes after I received them from Australia and have a joint ceremony for the two of them at a very specific place on the beach there.  Their celebration was held in the Oceanview Room of the Amelia Island Plantation and then we let their ashes go out into the ocean.  I am reminded of them both when I listen to one of mine and Chris's favorite songs by Ben Folds titled "The Luckiest".  I truly am the luckiest for having had both of them in my life, albeit for far too short of a time.  I miss them both, and their deaths leave a hole in my heart.  I feel honored to have had the opportunity to be there with both of them as they took their last breaths, to say good-bye in peace and to make all of the arrangements for their celebration to ensure that it did them justice.  I think they would both be proud.
American Beach on Amelia Island.  Saying good-bye to mom and Chris.  June 30, 2012.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Catching up

It's been nearly five months since I had the chance to blog.  It seems like an eternity ago.  So much has happened, and although I know that I won't be able to cover it all in this post I will do my best to update.

When Grandma B was released from the hospital in mid-January she immediately moved in with me in Trinity.  She didn't even go back to her house.  In December and January I got her house packed and emptied and it is currently on the market.  Her health has continually declined, and since arriving here she has been in the hospital or rehab all except for about three weeks.

On March 31 I received a message that Chris, Grandma B's son and an almost-brother to me, was in critical condition in ICU at Royal Adelaide Hospital where he lived in Australia.  After a few conversations with the doctors there it was apparent that I needed to be there to make the final decisions regarding Chris' life/death.  My mom, Grandma B, asked me to go and take care of it all.  She was in rehab and didn't have a passport anyway, so I needed to go.  I left the following day on my 30 hour trip.  When I arrived at the hospital on Tuesday afternoon and met with the staff they advised me that Chris was already brain dead; showing absolutely no brain activity.  With the guidance of my mom we made the decision to discontinue life support, and the following morning I held Chris' hand as he died.  Over the course of two weeks following his death I emptied his flat, worked with the police, coroner and funeral home, arranged a ceremony of life for all of his friends in Australia (over 100 attended) and did as much for his personal affairs as I could in the time.  I'm still working on it here at home.

While I was in Australia I received a phone call from the doctor at the hospital saying that my mom had been transported there from rehab, was in septic shock, her kidneys were failing and they didn't expect her to live 48 hours.  Being in Australia left me feeling helpless, but she managed to hang on until I arrived home.  The lead to her pacemaker had failed, poking a hole in her heart and through her skin.  Bacteria entered there and caused the infection in her heart.  Her choices from the cardiologist were to leave the pacemaker alone and let "nature run its course" or do a surgery to move the pacemaker to the other side of her chest.  Her cardiologist gave her a 1% chance of surviving the surgery.  She chose to stop all of the medications and come home with Hospice.  That is where we stand now.  Her health continues to decline, but I will be here with her and for her until the very end, just like I promised her many years ago.

I'm working 12 hour shifts at the hospital, ranging from 2-4 nights or days a week.  I took this semester off of school to take care of my mom, but I am registered for the summer term to finish up pre-med. The kids are doing great, and I am so lucky to have them.  In addition, I reconnected with one of my boyfriends from high school, and we have since established an amazing relationship.  He is the most kind, generous and loving man I have ever met in my life, and I feel so lucky to have him.  He and his two boys are moving here from St. Louis in late July, and I cannot wait.

I hope to be able to update a bit more than I've done so far this year.  But that's it for now.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New year

Happy new year.

I've now been in Jacksonville for three weeks and two days. I spent Christmas here without my babies, and New Year's Eve in the home alone. Grandma B has been in the hospital this time for a week and two days, and she won't be leaving until Tuesday, January 3. Erin's 9th birthday. I'll be missing that, too. However, on Tuesday she will be transferred to a rehabilitation center for approximately a week, and then she will be moving into my home. That's right. She's going to be living with us in Trinity, leaving her home behind (to be sold). I've always known that the day would come that I would take care of her, and that time is now. This move will enable me to better supervise her daily care, appointments and be there immediately in the event of another emergency (of which we are all certain there will be more). The next couple of weeks will be some of the most hectic. In addition to starting my job at the hospital next week, I'll be commuting back and forth between Tampa and Jacksonville to oversee the sale of the home, estate sale of all of the contents of the home that aren't being moved, and any other necessities associated with her moving. I'm responsible for packing up, selling and transporting every item in the house. I'll be meeting/talking with her cardiologist, endocrinologist, primary care and podiatrist over the next couple of days to get access to all necessary medical records so that they are in hand for her new doctors in Trinity. When she's released from rehab I'll be there to pick her up and drive directly to Tampa. She won't be coming back here. She doesn't want to come back here. She feels that it would be too easy to get sucked back into the life she had here, and at this point that life is not condusive to her staying alive. There are too many steps and inaccessible areas in her home. And it makes her want to smoke. She hasn't smoked in three weeks, and she doesn't want to ever do it again. She knows that if she does she will die. Quickly. So this is a clean break for her, and she's optimistic and enthusiastic about it. I'm thankful to be in a position to take care of her for the rest of her life, however long that may be. This means, too, that my ties to Jacksonville are now gone.

So if you contact me and I don't get back to you for a while, if I don't update the blog regularly for a while longer, and if I seem a bit on edge when you do speak to me, please be patient with me. I'm making huge changes in my life in more than just one way. I'm optimistic for the coming year, and for all of the changes that are going to occur. I'm thankful for my children, my family, my friends and those that I hold dear to my heart. I'm emotional, I'm stressed, I'm tired...but I'm also happier than I've been in a very long time. I've found a peace within myself that I didn't know existed. More than anything I am thankful.