The Preslar Family

The Preslar Family
December 2017

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

How to Go On?

I have no idea how to write this blog post. I've been totally neglecting to write for weeks upon weeks now, partly because there have been massive events happening in my life, but also because I haven't known how to even begin to tell this story. I have so many events I've wanted to record. Life is just cruising by with so many moments that I want to document. But nothing more can be said until I say this, and I'm just not sure how to do it.

Today, July 11th, marks the one-month mark since my mom passed away. It's so very strange to say that. My mom died. I still kind of can't believe it. I think that's partly because over the past weeks as my family has prepared for her funeral and memorial, I've been revisiting, through pictures and videos and stories and writing and hearing memories, the woman my mom truly was. She seemed to return to life in my mind. The past eight years, eight very challenging years, kind of melted away. I had forgotten for a while what a vibrant and passionate person my mom really was. And she's gone. Worse than that, she was gone for a really long time and it was hard to go through that decline. 

Clearly I am still coming to terms with this whole experience. 

I'm trying to decide also how much of the last leg of mom's journey I really want to share. It was nothing like what I expected. And where do I even start? It's not possible to start at her diagnosis of Alzheimer's nearly 8 years ago. (I am SO SICK of that word. If I never have to say Alzheimer's again it will still be too soon.) There were so many losses and realizations we all went through over those years. Do I start with February 2016 when she moved into the Legacy Village care center? I know I already blogged about that, but is that where this entry begins? I don't even remember how much I wrote about mom's time there. It was hard to see her there, it was hard to think of her there without us.

I guess the place to start is in April, when I went to see her one Sunday afternoon. Dad brought her out of the room where their church meeting was being held. I'll never forget that day. Of course I had seen mom change and decline in many ways over the years, but this was the most obvious and drastic change, and sudden. She had a totally blank look on her face and did not meet any eyes. She shuffled slowly, her feet barely progressing with each step. She could only just croak out a whisper of sound, and that only after you asked her something multiple times. I was shocked. Before that day, mom would always smile and go through the motions of being polite and friendly to anyone she met, even though it was pretty clear she didn't know you. She wanted in on every conversation and heard everything in the room she was in. She told wild stories and wandered around. And this was the complete opposite.

It was just after that that mom took a bad fall, just going straight over backwards, hitting her head on the corner of a table I think. After that her decline was even more steep.

It's hard to recall exactly how this all happened and I guess I want to document it here for my own memory. It's kind of painful to think about because ever since she passed away I've just been reveling in her freedom from her broken body and her terrible disease, and remembering her wonderful talents and things she loved. I'm sure that's another reason I've been dragging my feet in writing this. I don't really want to relive her last couple of months. But it's important to document.

So her fall was in April, not long before her 75th birthday on the 22nd.  My brother Adam made a quick visit that weekend for her birthday.

The following weekend my other brother Peter came up with his two big girls. By then mom was confined almost entirely to a wheelchair. I remember that Peter and I took turns feeding mom her dinner, of which she ate little, while our daughters read story books to her. Sheri came up with that idea and it was a great one - it gave the little girls something to do while we were visiting so they felt that they were a part of Oma's care without getting restless or weirded out too much.

The next day, the 30th of April, Margaret was in town and so was her friend Catherine, who is a hospice musician. She came and played the harp for mom. It was a powerful experience but I do wish she had been able to come later in mom's decline.

Please forgive me indulging myself with a careful account of the days that followed. I just need to remember them this way. And also sorry if the pictures are kind of upsetting.

21st - Sheri and her kids came. We spent a tender Sunday together. Mom was still in a wheelchair but was clearly uncomfortable so I requested that she be allowed to move into her bed. I don't think I saw her out of her bed again. We all felt that we were beginning to say goodbye. We sang to her, and she responded a bit, calling our singing beautiful.

29th - Mom stopped eating. This was the big indicator that induced the great arrival of family members. Adam, Peter and Margaret came, as well as dad's two living sisters, Hannah and Rosanne. They were a blessing beyond words. I feel that I could not have carried the weight of dad's grief on my own. Even with siblings. There was just no way I could have done that. I'm so grateful that they showed up and stayed by his side.
31st - this was the last visit my children made to Oma. She was in bed. I know at the time I thought she looked like she was on the brink of passing away, but now that I look back on it, I realize that compared to how she would soon appear, she looked pretty good. Again, we did a lot of singing, holding hands, and my girls wept unabashedly. We were told by hospice she only had "hours to days" left. I began to fear that mom would pass on Emma's birthday, which was on Saturday.

1st - Mom took her last sip of Ensure. That evening my siblings and dad enjoyed dinner together while I was at our school's carnival which got rained out. Everyone brought dessert over after that and we began to plan for mom's funeral.
2nd - the last day of school. I plead in prayer that I would not miss the last time I would have with mom over the next two days. I just had to put my kids first as it was their last day of school with graduations and yearbooks and all those things. We had dinner at my dad's house that night with his three siblings and Peter and Margaret. Troy began his days of awesomeness taking the kids and giving me absolutely as much time as I needed with my family. (He always was awesome, but I just had to mention how much he helped me.)

3rd - Emma's birthday. I did nothing but birthday.
4th - Having completed the end of school and the birthday, I finally felt free to begin to hold vigil at mom's side. I spent most of Sunday there, thinking mom might go any minute. Little did I know how far she had to go. Every morning I felt certain we would see big changes in her breathing or oxygen levels indicating that she would soon be out of pain, but every day she held steady with high o2 levels and heart rates. We began the long journey that felt like we had been removed from the progression of time. That evening I had dinner with dad, Margaret and Rosanne at Cafe Trang.
5th - I spent the morning with mom, then had Adam's kids at my house for a glorious afternoon while Adam and Whitley sat with dad and mom. We had dinner at dad's, made by Margaret. Mom took her last sip of water that day.

Aunt Hannah was darling with Emma and really connected with her

6th - I took a day away from mom. My kids had appointments and Emma got a weird fever. Peter returned from St. George. I had dinner at Kyoto with Dad and his sisters plus Adam and Whitley. After dinner I met Margaret and Peter at mom's where we had a quiet and beautiful evening of Peter playing cello softly for her. Every evening I expected her to pass away in the night.

7th - I spent the morning with mom. My friends in my neighborhood were very generous in helping me with  my kids. They invited them for long playdates and made sure I was free to take all the time I needed with my parents. Kate and her Cameron (my niece and her boyfriend) took the girls swimming and Chase went with his friend Ryan. Troy returned from a work trip, thinking that mom might go at any minute.
8th - Peter and I had a very very long day at Legacy Village. My parents' dear friends the Pughs came for a visit and that was lovely. That evening Margaret and Peter and I went to a screening of The Wizard of Oz and talked about what a strange out-of-time place mom's room seemed to be.

9th - My three siblings and I gathered at Cubby's for the most wonderful lunch together. We talked and laughed like hyenas and also expressed our sorrow and frustration. They were each starting to be needed at home and were preparing to return there over the next couple of days. Sheri brought the kids into town that evening.

10th - we took the kids to the zoo in the morning, then Sheri took the kids swimming while Peter and I went back to be with dad and mom. Sheri and Troy were amazing supports to Peter and me. Adam returned home this day.
Sunday the 11th - Margaret left, and Peter needed to go too. At this point hospice said they still weren't seeing changes in mom that they were expecting. We couldn't believe she had gone so long with no water, and it was excruciating to watch her. We all wondered if we had made a bad choice and were making her suffer but hospice told us that this was often how it went, although most people didn't last as long as mom. I began to gear up for being the only child in town to support dad over the next few days, although his sister Hannah was still loyally sticking by dad's side.

That night at 11:30 pm I had the strangest flash of thought about mom rush through my head. It was just 15 minutes after that that dad called me to tell me that mom had passed away. I find it fascinating that she passed the day everyone finally left. We all had told her she was allowed to leave us, that we would be ok and not to worry. Still she hung on. Maybe she just didn't want all those people to see her pass away. I don't know. I'll be so interested to ask her. I knew I couldn't leave dad alone to go say his last goodbye to her. I hopped into the car and made my last drive out to Legacy Village. Dad arrived just a few minutes before I did, and I'm so glad I went because I walked in the room to find him sobbing. I was grateful to be there to hug him. We sat in the room with mom for about an hour, calling my siblings and talking about mom. We were sort of waiting for the University of Utah people to come pick her up - she and dad are both donating their remains to the medical school. I'm actually super glad that I wasn't there to witness them moving her. I think it would have been disturbing. I was sad I wasn't able to be with her when she passed but like I said, I think she wanted that. I was glad, unsettling as it was, to witness her body. To know for myself that her real self was free from her shell. What a strange experience. I'm realizing that I don't sound very sad as I write this. I will say that I have worked through a lot of sad over the years and months of this. (I'm not saying the A-word again.) I am still processing, but I can safely say that after that interminable week of watching her waste away, I felt such relief and gratitude that mom was free free free from the suffering, from not being herself.

As I was driving out to meet dad I put on some music. Joni Mitchell. I love Joni, and so did mom. I feel very strongly that mom was with me for a few minutes as I made that drive. I can not explain how I know that I felt her presence with me, for just a short time, but it took my breath away to feel her there, as her real self, unaffected by illness in any way.

I'm going to end this post here, and get to her services and her celebration which were just so wonderful in the next post. I don't blame anyone for not reading through this whole plodding thing - I just needed to do that for myself. I am so glad she's passed that test, and so bewildered at the thought that she is gone from this earth. I'll never treat the passing of a friend's parent the same way again. I thought I understood but I did not. I did not.

1 comment:

Linda R said...

Hugs to you and your family.