Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Mixed Emotions - on my Mom's passing

I've written a lot about my mom and her journey with Alzheimer's, and the slow progression towards the end. As of May 27th, she has passed away. In the week leading up to her passing, we were told it was probably the end. It didn't feel very real though - over the past 4 years, we've been told that at least once a year. I made sure we went in another time to see her though - we'd gone in the week before to introduce her to the twins. I went in with just my Dad and the twins this time and we had a nice peaceful visit - I got some sweet pics of my Mom with the twins. Then Paul and the girls came by for 10 minutes, we grabbed a final family photo and the girls got to have a goodbye moment with her. Well really, we got to have a goodbye moment, they didn't really understand but we got to see them together for a final time. I'm so glad we got to have that visit, and capture it to remember. Before introducing the twins to mom the week before, I hadn't seen my mom since late February before I went on modified bedrest. I'm so glad I was able to visit her before that and have a Mothers Day moment the week before also with her. While we had our final visit a few different staff members came by to see the twins and say goodbye to mom - some of them burst into tears and then were so apologetic about it. But honestly, we didn't mind comforting them - it was sweet to see how much they'd cared about her and how much of an impact she'd made despite being so out of it with her illness. 





Anyways, it was a strange space - thinking she may pass but also not feeling like it was real since we'd been told that before. But as the week went on it began to feel more real. Family and friends stopped by to see her. Finally Saturday the nursing staff said there were some physical developments that indicated she wouldn't last more than a day. My Dad spent the night her last night with her, as he'd always anticipated. Just the two of them and the long last night. The staff had found a chair that turned into a bed so he got a bit of sleep, waking regularly to check in on her. At 6am he was hungry and was going to pop out to get breakfast - before he left he said to her, "don't go anywhere until I get back." He returned at 6:30am and she was still there, though her breathing had changed. At 7:25am she took her last breath with her husband by her side and went to her Father in heaven. My Dad called me to share the news, then my sister. We made plans to head into her residence to all be together after I picked my aunt (my mom's sister) up from the ferry. 

The night was strange for me - the twins slept in hour increments and if they slept longer than that then, one of their older sisters would invariably wake up. When the phone rang with the news, Paul was asleep in the twins room since he'd taken a previous shift with the babies and let me sleep for a couple hours. I missed the call because I was in with the older two getting them dressed. I called Dad back immediately, heard the news, woke up Paul and prepared for the day. We were weary with tiredness but also calm and relieved that mom's suffering was over. As soon as I had a moment I emailed our night nanny and called for reinforcements for that night. I don't think I could have stood the emotions of the day without knowing that that night I would sleep. 

My auntie Lesley and I arrived at Yaletown house at 10:00am. My Mom's body was there in the bed, just as it's been so many other times, but her spirit was gone. Did it feel different than sitting with her any other time? Not really. She had been gone to me for so long that her actually being gone didn't feel any different. I thought it might but, there you have it. The four of us sat around my Mom's bed and talked. We laughed, we told stories. I pumped. It was the full circle of life - the passing of life, the producing of milk for new babies, the relationship between husband, sister, daughters. Both of my mom's companions came to say goodbye - the gathering of things left to entertain her and the saying of goodbye. The tears shed by her friends there were beautiful and that is when we shed our tears - as we watched these women say goodbye to my mom. To this version of my Mom. It was so moving. 

I found this photo of Avelynn's first christmas amongst Mom's things.

At a Celebration of Life in Yaletown House for Mom and one other

Dad sharing

Jenna and I laboured over how to post to facebook about Mom's passing. At first, it seemed silly to care so much about this. Then it hit us that the Facebook post is our generations obituaries. We learn about our news from Social Media, more than the newspapers and this was our way of documenting her passing so that others could grieve, could mourn and could plan to celebrate her with us. We picked our pictures, we chose our words, and in tandem, we made our posts. 


After her room was cleaned we went our separate ways before church - home to deal with toddlers and babies, to pump and feed and dress kids for church. I was so flustered leaving for church that I forgot the twins diaper bags, complete with fresh pumped milk and bottles. Thankfully I had pumped on the drive to church so I was able to run to the nearby Rexall grabbing diapers, wipes, and bottles and was only 10 minutes late with enough food pumped for both babies. After church, we left the toddlers at home for bedtime with our wonderful student Xiao, and we joined our family for a dessert tea honouring my Mom at my Aunt's. It was elegant and special. And then we headed home, where the night nanny was cleaning the house and our kids were asleep. We handed over the twins and slept, hard. As I slept my heart was healing, and that night especially it was worth every penny for our night nanny. 





I'm working on pulling together the details of my mom's two Celebrations of Life - it's not sad because it is closure. I'm thankful for the opportunity to honor my mom this way and to love my Dad by being in charge of the details. I am also overwhelmed at times and frustrated at the timing of it all. Why all this extra work and emotion right now? Newborn twins and toddlers at home. A possible house move with no new home in mind yet. Postpartum emotions and grief, mingled. The desperate need to nap, and the timeline that death brings. At times it's all a bit much. At other times my heart is so full from the love and support that so many have offered. We're happy and healthy and I get to spend every day with my family - I love that Paul is home with us until September. I'm so aware of the balance of these two extremes - grief and death in contrast with new life and little kids. Planning a memorial service with two sweet babies curled up at my feet. Talking over gravestones and last wishes while toddlers tear around laughing and giggling and fighting. There's another tension too - one moment the house is calm with just the newborns asleep on me, calm and happy. The next, newborn crying times two.

Edited to Add, after the Celebrations


I’m headed home on the ferry after the second of Moms Celebrations of Life’s (which was the third memorial type service for her). It’s been such an interesting past 5 weeks. Really its been an interesting past 2 months. I was induced with the twins on April 30th - the same day we received an eviction notice! I gave birth on May 1st (our 8 year wedding anniversary) thinking that we had 2 months to move (our family of 6, with newborn twins, and 3 students!). It was laughably ridiculous. We spent that first postpartum week filling in forms and timelines to dispute our eviction since we believed that the landlords were not acting in good faith and were trying to skirt the law. We gained an extra month by disputing, and we really believed we were to fight for justice since we are pretty sure the rental agency has acted this way in the past. I wanted to nap (after being up all night with Paul feeding the twins, and then participating in family life in the day) but instead, we were doing paperwork and attending house viewings (with the twins in tow). So that was ‘special’. My body felt slow to recover as we trekked from house to house. I needed sleep and rest and those felt hard to come by. Somehow in all of that having two toddlers and then newborn twins seemed like the least of my concerns. Which is ludicrous in itself.

I recall one crazy morning in the first week - we were trying to get out the door for a viewing. The house wasn’t in an area I wanted and would have been tight but its the Vancouver rental market and we didn’t feel like we could rule anything out until we saw it. My body was in so much pain and I was feeling all the postpartum weight feels. The kids were shriekier than normal and the twins needed to eat and so did I. I was starving and had eggs in front of me but every time I started to eat something or someone needed me. I couldn’t help but cry - attempting to eat my eggs with tears streaming down my face. Thankfully my husband is sweet, and my mother in law was kind, but it was quite a low moment.

Then there were other mornings, where the twins were sleeping blissfully on me and I had nothing to do but enjoy this last period of newborn bliss. The toddlers were being occupied by their wonderful GiGi (Pauls mom) and the sun was shining. We ate healthy food that was cooked just for us and the world felt pretty ok. This period has been such a crazy pendulum of crazy hard and crazy wonderful.

The twins turned two weeks and it was Mother’s Day. Trying to navigate the emotions of that Holiday - who is it for? Me as the young mom in the trenches? Or my Mom, as the legacy mom? Ultimately I didn’t feel comfortable bringing the twins to the nursing home until they were at least 2 weeks old (they were a few days shy) so I decided we would celebrate her that coming Thursday on our weekly visit and that the gift would be resuming the visits sooner than I really felt up for. It’s a lot of work to get the whole crew downtown to see her and life was a big hectic. Getting to this decision though was a real whirlwind of emotions and tears - guilt and grace battled. People kept telling me as a mom with new babies to give myself grace and make sure to rest. But people also wanted me to see my sick mom on Mother’s Day, which always had the potential to be her last (and in retrospect, we know now that it was). Who do I listen to? It can't just be about me, but it can't just be about her. It felt like too much. I was trying to get out the door for a birthday dinner for my sister but Paul and I were talking about this and it was super emotional - finally later than I needed to leave I hoped in a taxi with the issue somewhat resolved between us. As the taxi made its way across town, I pumped. I was emotionally drained but really excited to get out for dinner with a bunch of girlfriends at a favourite restaurant (Bier Craft on Cambie) to celebrate my sister...all without any kids! Not even the twins! I loved being out and feeling like a full free adult. I also had a bottle of breast milk in my pockets and the least flattering undergarments on complete with hospital undies and pads. Again, such extremes. I was so thankful that my babies were able to take bottles so I could have moments like that for my sanity - at that point, I was still trying to breastfeed also but it wasn’t very successful.

Days later we ventured downtown to see my Mom - we spent an hour or so with her and Dad, the two older girls, the twins, and me and Paul. The twins were a big hit - so many staff members came over to meet them. Yaletown house is like an extended family for us - between Jenna and I, we have had 4 pregnancies since Mom has been in, with 5 babies being born during that time. The twins were great, and Avie was so proud to show off her babies. I couldn’t tell you if Mom knew what was happening - but I know it meant a lot to Dad and I felt good about being there.

One of the staff members there had had twins and gave me great advice, that it was worth it to spend money on help for the twins. She said that this was the time to use any savings - that you could earn money later but you couldn’t regain your sanity. I loved it. So when the twins were two weeks old we planned for a night nanny to being 3 nights a week. We had help until they were 12 days old and on the 14th day Diana came - and boy, was she worth every single spendy penny. She took care of the twins from 9pm to 5am - and I slept hard. I got up once the first and second nights to pump but the third night I accidentally slept through and continued that after then. We had planned to have her for 3 weeks. I credit her with a great portion of what sanity I had. By the third night each week you would begin to wonder if you needed her - we felt great. Then the first night without her would happen and oh my, we knew we needed her! Not only did she take care of the twins but she would tidy the whole main part of the house, do laundry, wash dishes, etc. If you have young kids you know how messy they can make a house and it was such a blessing, almost equal to the sleep. We also started having a mothers helper 3 mornings a week - a college-aged girl from church. This was a huge help! This meant that we could either get stuff done or nap. So so so helpful. Plus she is just lovely to be around and the girls love her.


I should probably note that we've found a home! Details to come soon but as we move in 11 days and are packing and dealing with kids, so its a little bit hectic....as per always. Though the relief is palpable to no longer be worried about where we will live - we have a house, the Celebrations of Life are over, and the arbitration with our current landlords in their illegal eviction of us is settled. We feel thankful and at peace, if slightly overwhelmed with the move! I feel this post is disjointed but currently so is life. I've written this over three weeks - with babies in arms, alone with a glass of wine, on a busy ferry, as toddlers bounced around - the moments to write have been disjointed and therefore, it stands to reason, that so would be the post. Bear with me - it helps to write, even if I don't have the time or heart to edit
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1 comment:

Kayla said...

I love reading your blogs. Losing a parent myself at end of March, and finding the challenge of grieving and living life , I am amazed by your strength to do so much in midst of your mom passing. You always power thrpugh, amazing!

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