Saturday, June 30, 2012

Life is Short & Seldom Fair

             There are things in life that you simply can’t prepare for. 

I lost my mom, my best friend, on Saturday, June 16th at 9:00pm. There is no pain I can compare this to, no way to fill the void left behind and though I’ve been told there are steps in grieving and you learn to cope, I simply don’t believe that.

This pain isn’t one I can learn to cope with, instead, I think I’ve simply developed a greater capacity for feeling pain. The guilt, the "what ifs", though I’m told they are pointless, haunt me.

How do you tell the story of death? Do I make it cut, dry and use proper medical terminology? Do I simply speak of the time before, and the time after, while glazing over the actual event?

Friday night, I took the kids to visit mom in the hospital. As you know from previous post, she was diagnosed with a very rare form of leukemia called Chronic Neutrophilic Leukemia. Her spleen had grown far too large, so they admitted her into the hospital. The game plan was to do platelet transfusions, get her white cell count down and once the blood work was as ideal as possible, they were going to remove her spleen. Things were going well, the WBC count was coming down gradually and she felt much better after her platelet transfusions. My brother stayed with her at night, and I came and visited during the days.

Friday, we stopped by, had some idle chit chat and she was in good spirits. My brother said Saturday morning she was feeling great… Got to take a real shower, took a walk around the halls and was chipper. I was supposed to go up there after breakfast to bring her some diversions and visit, but I accidentally hit snooze and was running behind on chores.

My brother called me, said mom was acting strange, kind of mumbling, fidgeting…. I told him to go grab a doctor and let me talk to her while he did…. I suspected a small stroke at worst… I asked momma if she knew who I was and she said “Of course, you’re Crystal”. I asked if she knew what day it was and she said “It’s Saturday..” I asked if she knew what month it was and she said “Yes silly, it’s January, your birthday month”.. Then she just repeated a loop of “You’re Crystal, it’s Saturday, it’s January” over and over and over… I interrupted her, told her I loved her and I was on my way and she said “Ok honey, love you.. It’s Saturday, you’re Crystal, it’s January”…

My baby brother, Ethan, Momma & middle brother, Kevin
 That was my last conversation with my mom. Why I wasted it with questions the doctor could have asked, I dunno….. I wanted to tell her how much I loved her, I wanted to tell her about the silly prank Jerimiah and I played on the kids… I wanted to beg her not to give up, to please be ok, wanted to scold her for scaring me and have her laugh at my mock stern tone… I wanted to tell her not to worry, everything was going to be okay and she would be getting out of there soon and then we’d go see that movie she wanted to see…

I arrived when they had mom in the MRI… The waiting was horrible, but I was so hopeful. Maybe momma had a stroke, we could deal with that, lots of people lived just fine after a stroke….
I followed them out of MRI, down to CT scan…. There was just me, my youngest brother, Ethan, and a nurse…. Momma crashed before they could get her into the CT scan, and I had to hold her head up and to the side because she was sick, then everything erupted into complete chaos. I was pushed out of the way while the room filled with people….

During this the oncologist came to talk to me… There were spots on mom’s brain…. As the oncologist explained the possible causes of this, machines and hospital staff hustled in the back ground… He was hopeful it was an infection they had somehow missed.. If so, it was treatable and we would know more when they got the CT scan results back and conferred with a neurologist… Up to ICU we went to await results… I don’t think I’ve ever prayed so hard in my life… Hours ticked by, and finally we got to have our results..

Mom’s brain had hemorrhaged in multiple places all at once. She was on life support and they could not operate. Her low platelets, and the locations of the bleeds (most in the lower center of her brain) made it impossible. Her brain was swelling… They gave us a glimmer of hope, a medication they could give to help with swelling and they would set her up for a blood brain flow test to see how the blood flow was in her brain. More hours of waiting, at 4:30pm, Jerimiah tried to take me to grab something to eat and as we left, my brother called and said they had checked her and she had lost her brain stem…. Her pupils would not respond, no pain response and the area of her brain that controlled functions like breathing was gone.

At 7:00pm they did the brain blood flow test… At 8:00pm they asked me to come look at the scans. Her brain was so swollen and there was no longer blood flowing in her brain. They asked me to make a decision.

How does one call for the death of their own mother? They offered to move her to hospice and keep her on life support, but my momma was no longer there and she told me more than once that she had no interest in living as a vegetable.…. The hardest words I’ve ever said was to take momma off life support…. Mom’s heart beat one last time at 9:00pm and my best friend was gone. The one person who knew me from birth… Was there for my first steps, birthdays, heartbreaks, the one knew my every flaw and loved me regardless was gone.

Me, Ethan, Mom & Harley 2001
Did I make the right choice? At times, I think I did when I’m thinking rationally… At other times I can’t help but wonder if I should have left her on life support and hoped for a miracle? It’s a pointless question as I will never know the answer…

The doctors were amazed that with how numerous, and severe the bleeds were that she didn’t have neurological symptoms before hand that would have hinted to this…. But then I wonder, did she?

Friday night, during our visit, she signed some goat registration papers for some goats she was sending to a friend… Her signature was sloppy and she was kind of slow signing… I thought it was the low light and lack of glasses…but was it? Did I miss an early warning sign because I was getting ready to leave to get the kids dinner? After all, I’d seen mom sign legibly without glasses on many times before….

My brother said she had a nose bleed Friday night (Saturday AM actually), from 3:00am to 7:00am and was complaining about it that morning when he woke up… I should have been there, but I was home because I had to be here for chores. Chores! Of all excuses to not be with your mom, that is surely the most pitiful….

I would not have slept through her being up with a nose bleed and left her to deal with it. Why didn’t a nurse come in and check on her during that time? Dr. Balbastro had warned me about bleeding of any sort… I had been there for every doctor’s visit, all lab work and I was about a fluent as could be in Chronic Neutrophilic Leukemia speak as anyone without a medical degree could be….
If I had been there and got the doctors then, could she have been saved, or would it have only been a heads up to an unavoidable outcome? If I hadn’t hit the snooze Saturday morning, I could have been there, I could have had just one more conversation, gave her one more hug, but I hit the damned snooze and then wasted our last conversation….

My momma was only 48 years old. She was my best friend. She accepted me fully, my hot temper, goofy sense of humor, obsessive nature and every odd quirk. I rarely went even one day without speaking to her… Even before she came to stay with us, we always called each other every day just to chit-chat….

She shared my goat obsession, was the one who started it all actually, when I was just a little girl. She camped out in the barn with me for days while we tried to save Astra… Was here for almost every kidding and if she missed a kidding, you can bet your bottom she was there shortly after to “Ohh & Ahhh“ over the new babies... She cried with me over losses/disappointments, and was just as excited about doelings as I was…. We joked that we were self taught goat vets, educated at the Google/Youtube University. When we got sick of paying the vet for blood draws, we broke out some Hershey’s Huggs, watched a “how to draw blood” video on Youtube, and then went out and poked until we got it figured out.

The first few days after she left, I couldn’t stand to even look at the goats. It was raining the night mom died and I didn’t get home until around 11:00pm and had to milk in the rain…. I thought that was miserable, but milking the following morning was even worse.. During milking, she wasn’t out there to chit chat like she always was… When I took the lambar bucket out for the babies, I foolishly expected to see her sitting out there on the play steps playing with the babies like she did almost every morning. Each time she wasn’t there was like a kick to the gut…. I didn’t want the goats anymore, wanted to sell them, give them away, I didn’t care, I just did not want to look at them. What is the point of a hobby if the one you shared it with is gone? When something you once loved turned into a scheduled torture session twice a day, every day…. Jerimiah talked me out of it, asked me to please wait… It is a little easier now, but that flash of pain still creeps up on me when I least expect it… What once was something shared is now quite lonely…

I see her everywhere. She marks every aspect of my life…. I can’t pack her things away. Her pillows still smell like her. Her crazy, off the wall things still clutter my kitchen. Used to annoy me and now I can’t make myself put them away…..Everything is a marker… When I finally made myself cook, it wasn’t just dinner, it was the first meal I cooked since momma left. When Saturday rolled around, it wasn’t just the weekend, it was 1 week after momma left…

My mom was so vibrant, care free and never one to try to fit society’s idea of “normal”. If anything, she strove to be anything but “normal”… She was impulsive, crazy, funny and it was so frustrating that she could never be on time for anything….. It didn’t matter the reason, or time of day, I have always known I could call mom and she would talk to me for however long I needed her to. She may not have been able to arrive on time for a scheduled event, but I could always count on her to drop everything and come to me if I needed her.

She played in the mud with my kids and took them exploring, just like she did with my brothers and I as children…. Gave them their love of coffee and played hide-n-go seek with them. Caught frogs and built “habitats” for them and never hesitated to bring home some stray critter that needed fixing….Anytime I took myself too seriously, she was there to remind me that life was not meant to be a series of serious events… Shopping with her was fun, she’d usually climb on the buggy and let me run through the store pushing her, and any road trip we ever took, she navigated and always got us lost... Mom was a modern day, female Macgyver... She could make anything out of nothing & though the method may have been convolted, if she didn't know how to do something, she quickly figured out her own way to do it.

The few times we fought, they were loud, intense, heated disputes, that always ended with us laughing and usually chocolate in some form was the icing that made it all better again.

You never had to guess what was on her mind, because she was sure to let you know, regardless of the outcome. She believed in me, and encouraged me when the world kicked me in the teeth and discouraged me…

We had so many plans. We would sit up until 3:00am, solving the worlds problems and planning grand schemes. We used to sit in this lil hippy coffee house, she’d drink a pot of coffee (literally), while I worked on my blog… Then she’d read it, pat my head and say “Oh honey, you do worry me”… In some cases, she'd lay her hand on my cheek and ask "Honey, are you SURE you wanna admit that to the world?!"

I wish my house hadn't burned in 2007... I had so many great pictures of mom that I would love to share.....As it is now, I have 5, just 5 pictures.... I take pictures of EVERYTHING.. Why hadn't I snapped more of mom recently??..... I've been trying to get into her laptop to get pics I know are stored there, but so far my password guessing skills are not working...

It's hard to admit she won’t be here for my next birthday. We won’t go see that movie we had planned on seeing..... She won't get the kids some horrible, awful, annoying Christmas present that they'll just adore.... I’ll be sitting all alone in the barn this kidding season and she won’t see my children graduate or meet the bimbo girls and idiotic boys my munchkins decide to date....

Just so many things I expected her to be apart of and contemplating these events knowing she won'be here just hurts so much....

I’m better now than I was a week ago… I can have a normal conversation and keep everyone from worrying. I don’t cry in front of the kids anymore & I’m doing my best to handle everything since she always counted on me to get things taken care of.

She had no insurance, no will and that has complicated things quite a bit. My youngest brother is taking over her land, the middle brother I gave her jeep to and I’m having her cremated.

Momma never had much in life. Mostly because she gave to anyone in need, despite how it would effect her. After a rotten 2nd divorces, she saved and bought her dream place… 20 acres of land with nothing on it what so ever. She actually camped out there in a tent for the first 6 months until she could afford water/electricity/septic. Most wouldn’t have done that. Most would have been depressed to have nothing but a piece of land, but mom thought it was fun. A big adventure. A new chapter and a step forward towards her dream.. So what if it didn't have power or running water, to her, that just made it interesting! She eventually worked up to a camper, and then a lil cabin and it was the only thing in life she really wanted… A lil farm surrounded by woods. A place no one could take away from her, a safe haven for her children if they ever needed it. We will bring her home and lay her to rest under her favorite tree where she loved to sit and drink coffee…. I’m thinking of getting a fountain for her as I simply can’t see my mom with a plain old tombstone….. A simple headstone seems so conventional and my mother was anything but conventional.

At times I’m just angry. Why did I worry so much over my chores at home? Why wasn’t I there the night her nose started bleeding? Why didn’t she calll & tell me about the nose bleed?!? Why did I waste our last conversation? Why couldn’t I at least have a good bye? Why did I have to play to role of Grim Reaper and call for the death of my mother? Why, oh why did MD Anderson screw up like they did?? They lost her paperwork, TWICE, and jerked mom along every step of the way. Had she been able to go, and not get jerked around, her spleen could have been removed way sooner and perhaps it wouldn’t have come to this.

I miss her so much. I catch myself grabbing the phone to call and tell her something, or ask her a quick question….. Instead I just listen to her voice on her voicemail, acting exasperated, which she was, because I hounded her to set up her voicemail.

I am a bit more rational now. I can see that though I didn’t get my goodbye, she at least went quickly and unaware. She didn’t have time to be afraid, to worry. She didn’t have to see the terror on our faces. For that one single mercy, I am thankful.

I’m thankful that my good memories surpass any bad memories by leaps and bounds. I’m thankful she stayed long enough that my kids got to know her.

I could wish for a goodbye, for just one more conversation, but in my heart I know that wouldn’t be enough. So I take it one day at a time. Some good days and I’m almost normal, and some bad days that feel like the misery will never end…. I’ve had a few rare moments where I laughed till I cried over some memory…. My crazy mother brought laughter anywhere she went.

"One day at a time" is my chant these days.

Love you momma, miss you more than words can say, and I hope you’ve found peace.

Demitri Geneva, known to those who loved her as "Brandy"
October 13, 1963 - June 16, 2012