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


Oat Bucket said...

Oh Crystal, I just sat here and bawled reading this. I can't express how sorry I am. I have no words of wisdom, or even of comfort.

My mother and I have the same type of relationship, she is my friend, my goat buddy, my shopping partner. I can't imagine the pain of not having her as a part of all of that.

All I can offer are cyber hugs and that is not enough. Just know, we are all here for you, whenever you are ready.

Michelle said...

Oh Crystal, I'm so sorry. I lost my momma at the age of 47, also to cancer. I deal with some of the feelings you mention as well. Particularly anger and frustration with the medical industry. You are in my prayers. (((Hugs))) don't seem like enough, but they're all I've got.

KrisD said...

Crystal, I am so sorry about your momma. I cried for every word you wrote. I wish I had a relationship with my mom like you did with yours but we are polar opposites. You were very luck to have that with her and so very unlucky to lose her o young. My grandma used to say "only the good die young, the mean and nasty live forever". I wish I could be there to give you a big hug. I pray your heart heals quickly and your suffering eases up. We will always be here if nd when you need us. Hugs

Minelson said...

I am also sitting here with streams of tears. Your writing brought back vivid memories for me of when I lost my brother 4 years ago. He was 47 and had a brain aneurysm. The brain swelling...they actually took a chunk of his scull off to give the brain room. 2 surgeries and then the awful decision. The decision that still haunts me. And then to make it even worse...he lingered after we took him off life support for a week. It's a horrible feeling when you are praying for your brother to die. I will live with that forever. But I do know deep in my soul that Tim would have NEVER wanted to live in the condition of a vegetable. And if I have to suffer the pain of the decisions we made that is an ok burden for me to carry so that he would not live in that condition.
Hugs to you Crystal. Keep writing about it ... it helps. And try not to make any decisions yet about the goats. My goats were my saving grace during my brothers ordeal. Frankie and Flossie were born 3 days b4 his anuerysm. They were able to bring me a glimmer of joy during the darkest time of my life. I will continue to pray for you...Minelson

Red Sonja said...

Thank you for being brave enough to share your memories of your mother with us. She was beautiful, vibrant, and oh what a character she sounds like. Reading this has me in tears. I am more sorry than words can express that you lost her so soon, and I cannot imagine your pain. Know that she lives on in you, your siblings, her grandchildren and everyone that loves her. I don't know what else to say, except to offer virtual hugs as wanted or needed. *hugs*

Andabigmac said...

I am so sorry for your loss. I can't even begin to know what you're going through. Your tribute for your mother was heartbreaking and beautiful. She must be so proud of you.

I told my hubby the computer geek about your problem and he said to go to this web page to see if it can help you fix your password problem. If this doesn't fix it he said he would be more than happy to try and help you. He works for a hospital in the IS/IT department. Depending on your operating system he may have a program to bypass it. He wouldn't charge you. He would just be happy knowing you were able to access the pictures. If the website doesn't help pm me on HT and I'll give you my number.

Stay strong, Sweetie.

Gina said... Mom and I have the same kind of relationship and I can only think of one thing to point out to you at this time...The times you had with her, the memories you have are yours, that was the gift your Mom has given to one can take them away or change them...she loved you so much and all of those memories were her way of showing it. She can see you, she can feel how you feel...go forward with her watching and make her even more proud of the daughter she raised. Be thankful for the relationship...we both know that not every girl gets that opportunity. I believe she is still with you...still putting her hand on your cheek...hugs to you, Hon....

noeskimo said...

Chrystal: You were blessed in such an incredible way, but I'm sure you have already surmised that.Not only are you comprised in half of her DNA, it sounds like you have her spirit as well. And yes, although physically gone, she will remain with you,in all the places she loved. God bless your family.

ramblinroseranc aka Charaty said...

Crystal......your tribute to your Mama was beautiful. Simply beautiful. I'm sorry you lost her, but it sounds as if she lives on in you. Your spirit, your sense of humor and joy in life. Keep her light shining. <<>>

Winona Thompson said...

Your beautiful tribute to your mom has had me sitting here crying my eyes out. What a special relationship you two had! I am so sorry you lost her so young. She sounds like she was a wonderful lady. You will always have her in your heart. I will keep your family in my prayers.

Emily said...

Oh Crystal, there are no words.........God bless you and hold you through this terrible loss. I am so sorry. Hugs and love, Emily.

Nancy Boling said...

Crystal, I cannot imagine what you are going through right now. I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face, just reading this. Thank you for writing this out, and I hope it helped you feel at least the tiniest bit better.

Caliann said...

I'm sitting here, with tears rolling down my face, just hurting for you.

My Grandma was the one who brought me up, as my dear mother worked most of the time trying to keep us all fed. I can still see her, sitting at the kitchen table, her game of solitaire in front of her, saying, "Honey, if you want to, you may turn on the television and watch your stories."

It's been 23 years since Grandmama passed away and yes, it still hurts. When I run across a letter she wrote, I still cry. I still think of her and wish she could see my children, and my grandchildren. I still hear her voice....

But the pain is....different...than all those years ago. Not LESS....just different. When she died, I couldn't function. In fact, except for the funeral, I have NO memory of anything for about 2 months after. Now, it is a pain that is bittersweet: it still hurts that she is gone, but I smile at memories of her. Things like her always reminding me to feed my pet squirrel after the time he stalked right into HER kitchen and chattered at her because his food dish was empty, and startled the heck out of her.

The pain doesn't go away, but at some point, something doesn't heal, it is more like something cracks, and you look up at the sound, and realize that you are ready to live again. Ready to look outside the pain.

I don't know if I am helping at all, and only can hope that I haven't added to your pain in any way.

You know my number...if, tomorrow or 6 months from now, you need someone to talk to at 3 a.m., I'll be here.

I am sending much love, many hugs, and honey, I am so very sorry.

petey said...

I am so, so very sorry for your loss. Death is the hardest part of life. It sounds like your mom was full of life and now I know where you get it. She left an amazing legacy in you and your family. I hope the intense pain of loss lifts soon, I lost my mom when we first came here and I didn't get to say goodbye either, so I know how that hurts.
Life will continue and the memories will be sweet instead of painful one day. God bless

Helen said...

What a beautiful beautiful person you are and what an amazing mom you had. I have experienced a lot of death in my life, mostly as a child, but we recently had to bury my baby brother- he was 23. I'm the 'strong one' so I had to handle all the arrangements at 26 years old. My mother and sister were incompasitated for weeks. No one worries about the one who can still manage to function, so I'm saying a special prayer for you. I know what this grind is.

Leigh said...

Crystal, I am so, so sorry. This is the worst kind of loss ever. Big hugs to you. Your mom was a beautiful woman.

Jessica said...

I am just sorry I can not say that it goes away BUT you will see what made you cry will make you smile in time my prayers thoughts are with you . Go sit with your animals I truly believe she will be with you and you will smile

Anonymous said...

I happened upon your blog via DairyGaotInfo.....I am so very sorry for your loss.

It brings back gut wrenching memories of my mom's death 13yrs ago......she too was my very best friend.....ot has been 13yrs and I still miss her every day! I think you become numb from the pain because it is so great and lasting, you learn to live without them.....but never quit missing them or wishing for one more day.

Hugs to you...I know the long road ahead of you all to well, you will be ok and learn to move on in life and even be happy......but you never get use to them not being here.....your life is forever changed.

kyla said...

Dear Crystal

I read your blog about your mother and cried so much – for you, for her, for your family and for myself.
You see, I live in Pretoria, South Africa and my dad, my best friend, my compass in this world, passed away on the 28th June at 5:13pm at the age of 63 from Chronic Neutrophilic Leukaemia. He had been diagnosed 2 years before that and had been on chemotherapy and had actually stopped his chemo and was in remission for plus minus 9 months and then out of the blue, he could not breathe and he had to go to hospital. There he deteriorated and in a matter of 3 days my daddy was gone. He really was a larger than life character who kept his word, was a true friend and had empathy for everyone. He was not only a genius and was 16 in his first year of varsity but he was a king among men. That was my dad, Jack Perel. Always smiling and laughing and giving advice and wisdom to those that asked.
I know what are saying in each and every word you wrote. I feel your pain and longing for you beautiful mother. I have what if’s and questions and if only’s, but I try and keep them away or they will drive me mad.
I was diagnosed last year December with Hodgkins Lymphoma and have just started growing my hair back after 6 months of chemotherapy. My dad and I – the 2 cancer patients who had made it! But the story doesn’t have a happy ending, but God knows why and I trust in Him and He is my rock. So now I have my family and my life that keeps on going – even though it feels like it shouldn’t! I cannot believe he is not here anymore.
But I just wanted to encourage you and to tell you to keep smiling, keep loving, keep forgiving and chase your dreams of goats and enjoy each moment with family and friends. Only the Lord knows when it will be time to say goodbye and before then, I plan on enjoying life and loving those around me as much as I can and with all the strength I have.
God bless you and thank you for writing about your mother, Brandy. I desperately wanted to find out if anyone else had had the cancer my dad had as it is so rare and I found your story. Maybe they are up there now sharing their experiences, your mom and my dad? Who knows? I like to think so.
Kyla Nel

Misty said...

I just read your blog and I am praying for you in your loss. I pray that you find peace and joy again in the things you shared with your Mom.

Jessica said...

I lost my mom Aug 4th, her and I drifted apart for many years my heart greatly goes out to you I miss my momma too