My husband turned 50 on February 21st. Our niece Hannah celebrates her birthday the day after, so we usually have combined parties for Frank and Hannah. We always go to Julie’s house (Frank’s sister – Hannah’s mom) but this year we partied at our place. The old people next door haven’t been traveling much further than our home here lately.
My mother-in-law Juanita has been up and down for the past year or more. She went from being completely normal to an angry, crazy old woman in a short period of time. It was hard to get a diagnosis as her husband didn’t really think that there was all that much wrong with her. Finally, last May she got very violent. She was going to hurt herself or someone else (like her husband) if we didn’t get some help soon. She received medication for Alzheimer’s and it helped out a lot. The only regret I have is that she didn’t get it sooner. But. This was not my decision to make. I am the support person who offers ideas but I don’t make the calls. She is also diabetic and has had health issues her entire life.
So. Back to the birthday party for Frank and Hannah. We had a fish fry and Frank’s mom and dad walked over. If you’ve forgotten, they live right next door. We noticed that Juanita looked very yellow. Not good. We enjoyed our meal and cake and made the decision to take her to the ER as soon as we were finished. And finish we did pretty quickly.
At the ER she was diagnosed with jaundice and admitted. The next day they ran a scope down her throat and found the blockage which happened to be pancreatic cancer that had spread to her liver. They inserted a stint to drain the liver and she stayed in the hospital for a few days. She is 80 years old and decided against chemotherapy. Though it may’ve prolonged her life, it might have made the quality shittier than it was going to be. Read on.
She came home from the hospital and walked from the car to the house. She had a place in her easy chair for for about 8 or 9 days before she became entirely bedridden. Just like that. The flick of a switch. No more moving the arms or the legs. No more feeding herself or getting on the toilet alone. Fortunately, Frank’s sister had quit her job in January and now we know why that went down like it did. We needed her close by for help.
Frank and I both work full-time and to make it worse, Frank works in Branson so that’s a 45 drive one way. Julie bathed her, painted her nails and fixed her hair. I went over and visited, bought any groceries if they were needed and helped get her on the potty chair. It was getting pretty tough even for two people to do. After all his dad is 88 years old.
On April 3rd she was fine in the morning. By lunchtime we were all called and told she was in the active stages of dying. Wow. Just like that. I left work. Frank left work. She passed away around 5 that evening. By 8:30 the funeral home had picked her up.
I took off work the next day and we drove to the town she was from and spent the day there planning a funeral. That was something that I had never done. I actually have only attended a few funerals and I really don’t recall that much about them. I feel lucky in that sense for sure. I walked around the room looking at caskets and urns. I totally want to be cremated and placed in a biodegradeable urn that holds the seeds of some flowering bush or plant. Plant me in a park or some public place please. Lenette. Remember this OK? Anyhow I started getting really hot at the funeral home and I thought that my body might actually cremate itself. More on why that happened in the next post. It’s been a long couple of months.
We spent the evening picking out 50 photos for a slide show to play during the visitation and before the funeral. We held a visitation at the church here in our town on Sunday evening and then held the funeral at the church the following day with a burial in the cemetery in her home area. Somber day.
I see the lines in my face and the spots on my hands. I know I will get old and die as well and I wonder at times just exactly how will that happen. Will I get sick? Will I be sick for a long time? Will I get in a car accident? Will I fall and break my neck in yoga? Will I die in my sleep with a book on my chest? Who knows? The only thing I know for sure is that I will die someday. And oddly enough I think I will be ready for it whenever that time comes.
Good-byes are only for those who love with their eyes because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation – Rumi