Friday, 17 July 2015

The Long Road to Goodbye...Our Last Days Together

It is with sadness that we announce the passing of our treasured Matriarch, Carol Joy, on  Friday July 17th, 2015 at 7:00 a.m..  May her memory be for a blessing ♥

The past few weeks have been a roller coaster of "near calls", "this is its", "hurry and get heres".  I finally started writing as a way to release the mounting pressure, and decided to share this with you, as I have shared the rest of our journey.

July 7, 2015, 4:00 a.m.
I've imagined, and dreaded, this last leg of the AD journey since we received Mom's diagnosis some 9 years ago...but it was always a time so far off in the distance...something we'd deal with "someday".

Someday is fast feels like I am on a train that is racing to its final destination, and I can now see it coming into view.  It is close yet so far, and I am filled with a surreal sense of disbelief and dread.

It is so disjointed it all is...on the one hand I can be intellectual and matter-of-fact about everything, and then in an instant I am overcome with grief and sadness.  After 14 years you'd think I'd be emotionally tapped out...

My's been 14 years, almost to the month, since I first noticed signs of something being terribly wrong.  Becca was a newborn and here we approaching her 14th birthday.  

What a difficult and painful road my mother has had to travel.  It's time to let her go.  I know that.  I know she has suffered horribly and for so long.  I know that there is no hope and no cure.  She can no longer take anything orally without risk of choking.  And so, we are watching her fall further and further into a deep sleep from which there is no waking.  And we are preparing...for the inevitable.  

I want to do this right, for Mom, for Dad, for my kids, and for Davie.  I want to be strong and dignified and keep it together.  I can only hope that she shines down on me and helps me to find the strength from within to be all of that when the time comes.  

We told the girls tonight.  After the roller coaster of false alarms over the past few weeks, I finally got confirmation that we are not looking at months, but weeks...and so, we told the girls.  There were tears, and hugs...

And here I am, I've been awake since 1:51 a.m., sleepless...and distracted...and scared...I'm not ready to sit shiva for my mother.  Yesterday, as I was driving to see her at Baycrest, I passed Wilson Heights, the street that we used to turn on to get to our house.  For a split second I thought "turn left and go home - she'll be there", and then I realized that 20 years had passed since that was my home. Time has flown and we are here.   

I  should be studying for an exam I have tomorrow night, but I can't think straight.  So much work to do, for school and the office...I had better get it done, who knows what's coming or when.

July 10, 2015, 7:23 pm
The past 3 days have dragged on and flown by - all at the same time.  Mom is dying, and all we can do is sit with her and wait...trying to provide her, and each another, with comfort as we try to manoeuvre our way through this winding road as she ends her Alzheimer's journey.

July 12, 2015, 9:17 am
Day 6 of sitting vigil and it is starting to wear on all of us.  We have all put everything on hold to sit at Mom's bedside, waiting, watching as she struggles to breathe, barely able to move, but eerily alert as she moves her eyes to look at us as we speak with her, caress her hand and tell her how much we love her.  Her little room seems so much smaller with the whole family packed in there for hours at a time.  The air becomes stale and humid, and we listen to the rhythmic pumping of the ventilator.

The nurses and staff have been so kind, bringing us cold drinks and cookies, coming in to offer support and comfort whenever they have a free moment.  At this point we are packing food and snacks for the daily vigils, much like we do for dance competitions...sandwiches, salads, chips, cookies and drinks.  And we watch movies - the Sound of Music and Les Miserables - musicals that Mom loved when she was well.  It passes the time, brings some happy sounds into the room, and keeps us from slipping into an abyss of sorrow.  Sitting vigil this way, for 6 days, feels like we are sitting Shiva already.  It is so tiring and draining...I fall into bed at night and sleep so deeply...

This experience has made me realize that I am so fortunate...I am surrounded by such good, really good, people.  I am so lucky.  My amazing friends at school....we are together 4 to 5 days a week....and we're like a family.  It is exam and assignment time, and my friends have stepped up and taken over, covering all of my responsibilities for group work, leaving me to worry only about my mother and family...they all have families, jobs and serious pressures of their own, and yet Tina, Dayna, Michael and Prem each have taken on the added burden of my responsibility so I can take care of things here.  I am truly blessed ♥.

Yesterday Diane came to visit.  We are not welcoming many people now; just the Cantor, Rabbi and our inner circle.  But Diane is family.  She was like Mom's other daughter.  When Diane walked in yesterday and took Mom's hand, Mom's eyes smiled and my heavy heart lifted.  A deep wave of relief washed over me and I was retored to calm.

Diane took Becca and Sara for dinner.  She got them away from Baycrest and the sadness that hangs over us all...she wove a silver lining into our darkest cloud.  I am so blessed to have her in my life.  When she was my maid of honour 20 years ago she said that she was my "sister by choice, if not by blood"...and she is.  She reminds me that true friendship emerges in the darkest hours, not the brightest moments.  I am truly blessed ♥.

And Carlo...Sara...Becca...I've learned so much about them this week.  This is really hard for each of them.  Yet they say little, comfort lots.  They are my reason for living.  They put up with my breakdowns and remain stoic.  Carlo prepares food, and baking, and keeps our house in order in anticipation of a Shiva - because I can't and he knows how important it is to me.  They come down to the nursing home often to sit vigil with us in a crowded, hot hospital room.  Sara and Carlo have both put their jobs on hold to be available on a moment's notice. And Becca...Becca sits day and night at her Bubbie's bedside.  She won't leave.  She's there when I'm there.  She says little.  She does little...except to make sure that the compresses to cool Bubbie's fevered brow are always cool.  And she steps out of the room only to sit with other residents in the common area, and brings a smile to their faces.  She is remarkable.  I am truly blessed ♥.

I am going to go get ready to go back to Baycrest for another day of sitting vigil.  And after sharing all of this now, I realize how lucky I am, and that as painful and difficult as this experience is, I really am blessed ♥

July 15th, 2015, 8:43p
Its been an agonizing week for us moreso than Mom.  She has fought valiantly, and suffered so much.  Now the nurse says the end is near...perhaps during the night or early tomorrow.  It all ended too soon...I feel so empty...come visit me in my dreams...I love you Mama ♥

July 16th, 2015, 9:03a
We made it through another night...I don't know how any of us are sleeping, but we are, and heavily at that.  I guess we're emotionally drained to the point of exhaustion.  It's so difficult to concentrate or function, anticipation of her imminent death is a dark cloud constantly looming over every one of us. I have finally realized that this is not something I can control or predict, and I need to stop trying, and to "Let Go and Let God"...

July 17th, 2015
Davie just received a call from Baycrest.  Mom passed away peacefully at 7:00a this morning.  May her memory be for a blessing ♥