Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Few Notes Following Mom's Death

That's what the back of my poor truck looks like right now. I picked the kids up on Monday because Dad was sick. Dad had asked me to take care of all of Mom's crafting stuff, and so I decided to take full advantage of the trip and load up the truck. That's about a quarter of what I will eventually end up dealing with. Mom left behind literally thousands of dollars worth of craft supplies, but almost none of it has real value second-hand. The scrapbooking supplies are particularly worthless after the package has been opened, but I'll find a home for them (Lani, that most likely means you.)

Dad wanted all of the unfinished craft items and unused supplies off of his back porch and out of his sight. I think all of it reminded him too much of how much was left undone, and how Mom wasn't expecting to die so soon. Also in the truck are a few boxes of family heirlooms which he loaded himself before anything else, I suspect because they, too, were a reminder, and he knows I'll hold on to them in case he ever wants them back.

* * *

I've never experienced a death in my family before. Sure, my maternal grandparents have passed on, but I never met them. My mom's sister died of a brain tumor in 1996; I barely knew her. My paternal grandparents are still kicking around at 88 and 91. This has been quite a shock for me, and I'm amazed I've been able to deal as well as I have. Granted, I received 6 weeks of prior warning, but I held out hope until she was admitted to the ICU due to respiratory arrest. After her kidneys shut down and the doctors gave her a 20% chance of surviving the week last Tuesday, I had to accept what was going to happen.

That Tuesday within 15 minutes of Dad's call I had arranged for JohnOC to watch the kids and Chris had canceled his full day of video conferences so he could take me to Tucson to say good bye.

When she died on the Thursday I'd had enough time to come to terms with the end being near.


On Thursday I drove down to Tucson with the kids in tow so I could meet up with my brother Mark and his family. They'd flown in the day before and been lucky enough to be there for Mom's last bit of consciousness.

The doctors disconnected the life support at midnight Wednesday night, and I arrived at the hospital with the kids at 9:15. Dad took the kids from me and took them to the play area in pediatrics so he could "be Grandpa for a while." I took his post at Mom's bedside. She was passed out due to the comfort drugs. At 9:55 the nurse and I decided to call Dad back; her vitals were dropping fast. He made it in just as the nurse verified the lack of pulse; we were both there at the end.

* * *

Dad and I recovered pretty quickly; we'd both been there for the past six weeks so we'd had time to adjust. Within an hour we were picking up his things from the place he'd been staying in Tucson. Within 2 hours we were on the way to the small town where he lived. Amazing how fast life changes.

* * *

The "celebration" (Dad's term) was held on Sunday. Chris and I drove in Saturday afternoon and stayed at the only hotel in the small town. The beds sucked but at least it was clean. He really hit it off with my uncle and his wife. My uncle (Mom's brother) is a retired Army Sergeant-Major so they have a lot of common ground. All 4 of us are Catholics, and as much as we wanted to have a proper wake we could not find a single place to buy hard alcohol in that god-forsaken town. We made do with beer and alcopops.

* * *

It's odd going to a potluck honoring someone's life. I saw people I hadn't seen in decades, including the girl/woman who was my best friend for the first 14 years of my life. We'd drifted apart, mostly because she was an annoying know-it-all teenager. Nice to see that almost everyone grows up sometime.

* * *

The service was simple. Favorite hymns, Dad's eulogy, and whoever wanted to say something was given the chance to do so. Dad spent most of the service holding my seven-week-old nephew, and trying not to bawl. Evidently Philip was even more of a comfort to Dad than he was to me, and that's saying something.

As Chris said to Dad, nothing better to remind you why we put up with all of this pain than a brand-new baby.

* * *

I scanned a couple of old pics out of the family photo album and had them enlarged for the service. This is the resulting 11x14 that Dad ended up hanging up in the living room. He says that's the way she looked when they met almost 42 years ago.

I miss you Mom.