Reflecting on 90 Years of Moms Love and Lessons
This is the final column
in a 10-part series by Sacramentan Joyce Christensen on her experiences caring
for her elderly mother, Thelma Price. To
read the previous installment, CLICK
We were very fortunate that Mom was assigned Dr. Renz as her staff physician. He and his office staff are some of the most caring people I have ever met.
Never once did I call Dr. Renz with a question about Moms health that he did not call me back that very day. He honored all of my requests for him to take time to see her personally. He was gentle and encouraged me in every way.
I remember he told me almost a year before Mom got pneumonia that her body was very weak. I should prepare myself that she may leave me soon, he said. I told him she and I planned to celebrate her 90th birthday together in 11 months. He just smiled and said that with all the love I gave her, she just might make it. I knew he just wanted to make me feel better.
Many times in the next few months, he told me Mom was strong-minded and wanted to stay with me. I often wonder if I was selfish wanting her to live. I hope not.
We celebrated Moms 90th birthday on June 12, 2002. Our entire family was there to share their love. Because of Paratransit, I was able to have Mom come home for a few hours. The memories we built and the love we shared that day are forever in our familys hearts.
I remember earlier that year I had asked Mom if she would honor us all and celebrate her 90th special day. No one in our family had ever lived to be 90 before. She looked a little sad when she said, Who would ever think I would live longer than a child and a grandson? It just doesnt seem right. I told her they would all be proud of her for hanging in there to give our family a dream come true. I knew she would be there for us that day. How I knew, I cant explain. She just didnt like to disappoint me. Thanks, Mom!
In July, 2002, Mom began to cough a lot and sometimes her temperature went up. I called Dr. Renz and asked him if by chance she had pneumonia. He took extra tests, and yes, she did have pneumonia. I was dedicated to making her feel truly loved, and to helping her get well again. It just didnt happen.
She was very sick for almost a month. I was there several hours each day making sure she got enough water, and that she ate something. By now she had lost her muscles that allowed her to smile. I can remember both of us saying that our smiles were our best asset. I pretended Mom could smile. She still smiled with her eyes and her inner love for me.
I sang to her (and I cant sing at all). I told her stories, and talked to her, and answered for her. I laughed, and danced and utilized my comedic skills. Most of all, I prayed for her to have no pain.
I began to think Mom would never be able to get out of bed again. I personally went to see the doctor. He gave orders to get her up every day that she had enough strength to be in her wheelchair. As soon as this happened, she began to get better. After three full weeks in bed, one week up and she improved tremendously.
I took her for walks all over the nursing home. We started visiting friends again. Mom couldnt communicate at all, but she could smile with her eyes. Ill always remember, no matter what I did, her eyes followed me. That meant I better do everything right.
It was never a sacrifice on my part to go to the nursing home every day. Mom brought a ray of sunshine in my life that made every part of my life special. Each day when I left, I asked her if she would be there when I got back in the morning. When she could talk, she said, Ill be waiting for you. When she no longer could talk, she said yes with her eyes.
On Sept. 22, 2002, I visited with Mom most of the day. She was back on oxygen part time. Still, she ate for me, and smiled with her eyes. I left for less than an hour to pick up some groceries. When I returned, she had gotten very sick. No one was in her room to help her, and it took 20 minutes for me to find someone to clean her up. All I could think about was what if I hadnt come back? How long would it have taken for anyone to help her? Trust me, these are questions that go unanswered, yet surface over and over again.
Mom always knew when I was stressed. Instead of showing my frustration, I talked to her (and answered my questions myself). I told her how much I loved her, and that she and I would get help very soon so she could have a fresh clean nightgown. Did she know what I was talking about? No, but it made me feel better as I waited for a nurse.
I had no idea that I could have requested hospice to take care of my Mom during the time she was so ill. When hospice people take over a patients care, you can be assured everything is taken care of in the finest of manners to keep a loved one comfortable and not in pain. If indeed I have one regret, it would be not realizing that Medicare covers hospice help. That alone is a lot of peace of mind.
When I left that evening, I asked, as usual, Mom will you be here when I come back in the morning? Her eyes did not answer me. In my heart I knew the end was very near. I received a call at 6 a.m. Sept. 23. Mom had left me.
I am the luckiest lady in the world to have been able to share 90 loving wonderful years with Mom. Bless her heart, shes still teaching me lessons. I can see her star shining brightly with the rest of my family. Somehow, I just know that Mom and my son are my two special assigned guardian angels.
They have their work cut out for them, because Im always looking for a project to enrich my life and others. Once in a while, they may have to use their angel powers to remind me to take time to smell the roses. Its OK, because I am a lucky lady.
Previous installments of this series can be accessed by clicking on the links, below.
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Last Updated 4/29/03