As I mentioned in an earlier post, two Februarys stand out in my mind as being “cancer Februarys” and I cannot forget either one. This particular post is a collection of a few random memories from that “other February four years ago.” They are personal memories that I somewhat hesitated to share, but as my friend Jackie from Dispatch From Second Base recently told me, “Never hesitate to write what’s in your heart, Nancy.” Thanks, Jackie.
It was February 2008, four years had passed since my mother’s initial breast cancer diagnosis in 2004 and we had just brought her home from St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. She had been taken there via an ambulance after experiencing complications during a chemo-infusion which I had accompanied her on.
We sent her off to Rochester, home of the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, hoping for our miracle. People check into Mayo every day anticipating miracles. Some people get their miracles. Others do not. Ours was not to be.
We were sent home from Mayo Clinic a few days later without our miracle.
That February four years ago was when my mother’s youngest sister and niece flew in from Denver to visit with her one more time. Everyone knew it was a goodbye visit, though those words were not said out loud.
My mother spent the last days she would ever spend in her home that February four years ago. I watched her say good-bye to her little cairn terrier Mandi right before my brother pushed her wheel chair out the front door for the last time. She and Mandi both seemed to know she would not be coming back.
That February four years ago was the last birthday I heard my mother say the words, “Happy birthday, Nancy.”
That February four years ago was when I foolishly left my house one snowy night around midnight (against my better judgment) and drove for over three hours in treacherous winter driving conditions in order to get to get to the hospital (a different hospital) in time because my sister had called and said “Mother’s talking about dying tonight.”
That February four years ago was when my three siblings and I huddled together in hospital waiting rooms whispering amongst ourselves about what to do next while nurses walked by offering sympathetic looks and what seemed like little else.
That February four years ago was when we reluctantly settled on the nursing home option and started visiting several as if we actually had options. It was also the first and only time I ever saw my dad cry when he realized he would not be bringing his wife home again.
That February four years ago was when we ultimately checked my mother into a nursing home and I stayed overnight with her so she would not be alone. When I said I would gladly stay with her, she couldn’t stop crying, so neither could I. I spent the entire night wondering how many nights we had left and as it turned out, there weren’t that many.
That February four years ago was when my family and I decorated that nursing home room, creating a strange hodge-podge of winter and Easter decor. Easter was early that year and we figured if we decorated for Easter too, perhaps she would live until Easter. She didn’t.
In addition to the holiday décor, we carried in lamps, a card table and chairs, pillows, rugs, plants, books, cds, a cd player, a bulletin board, family photos and other miscellaneous things we hoped my mother might enjoy. She didn’t really. She was too sick.
Whenever we could, we paraded our various family pets in, never more than one at a time of course, in feeble attempts to make things seem more normal. All our attempts at normalcy were merely that, feeble attempts.
By that February four years ago, the only thing my mother could stand to “eat” were orange popsicles and sometimes we buzzed for them in the middle of the night and I would hold one for her because she was too weak to hold it herself.
That February four years ago was when my sister and I witnessed a transformation of our mother on one of those over-night stays; a transformation I am not yet ready to speak of or write about. It was the night I knew for sure cancer was winning. That night in February four years ago was a night of desperation.
My mother survived that February four years ago. We all did somehow. But time was slipping away.
To most people that February four years ago was just another February now tucked away on “time’s shelf,” but to me it will always be so much more.
Do you have a loved one you’ve lost whom you’d like to share about?
Have you ever placed a loved one in a nursing home or hospice care?
Do you hesitate to tell or write what’s in your heart?