Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Part V: The Questionable Viscosity of Blood

I continued to forget that my mother's brother, sister-in-law, niece, and mother were also "family," and I was regularly surprised when they participated in the "family" traditions (viewing the body before visitation, staying for the closing of the casket, sitting at the front of the church, etc.). They hadn't wanted anything, or at least not much, to do with her for fifty years, and upon her diagnosis and death, they became family. These are the people who didn't meet me until I was a preschooler, despite living an hour away. These are the people who berated my mother for struggling with post partum depression after my brother's birth. These are the people who inspired her work in domestic abuse awareness and advocacy, not through their convictions but in response to their actions. I am confident that they don't know their role in her award winning work.

And now, I feel as though I'm in a position to decide whether to contact the Catholic Social Services agency through which my mother adopted out a child when she was a teenager. My hope in contacting them would be to communicate to the woman that her biological mother died young of a particularly brutal form of breast cancer. That woman is in her mid-30's now, and I find myself obligated to provide her with the opportunity to learn that crucial piece of her medical history. The truth is that my father has always been particularly opposed to trying to get in touch with her, and Mom said that was something she didn't need to do. I continue to respect her wishes although I have some curiosity about this woman, primarily how much we may look alike. Still, there is some kind of moral imperative driving me to fret about this decision. I believe she has a right to know what might kill her. With any luck, I can get this information to her without either of us knowing anything else about the other.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Part IV: The Influx

So many friends and family members came into town Monday afternoon for the visitation and to stay the night for Tuesday afternoon's service. After seeing Mom's body for the last time, we all returned to the house where most of our friends and family were already settling in. My domineering cousin comes in handy sometimes, and she and a family friend orchestrated the warm-up and preparation of enough food to feed the twenty-five or thirty people. She sent one person out for disposable bowls for soup and another for more Mike's Hard Lemonade. When everyone had eaten, they washed the pots and wiped down the table and countertops. All of the food they heated, of course, was meaty, so I had Ramen noodles for dinner. Brooke had a Swiss cheese sandwich.

That night, I took requests for copies of the CDs we had played, and the response was overwhelming. I drank Mike's, made CDs, and talked marriage versus civil unions all night. Evangelical "Aunt" B was in the room for that but had the tact not to contribute to the discussion. She made Mom proud with that. Mike and Laurie stayed late into the night, typical for our gatherings with them, and we reminisced about joint family vacations and the debacles and hullabaloo thereof.

Tuesday morning, everyone was on edge. I freaked out at Paul for trying to do (irrelevant!) laundry when I had other, more important laundry to do. In retrospect, my anger was excessive, but by that point, his disregard for others was an ongoing theme. Nevertheless, we were all cleaned, coifed, dressed in clean clothes by the time we needed to leave.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Part III: Semi-Attack of the Colons

More than one person approached me with the comment that I must be Suzanne's daughter. My best friend's mother (who convinced my friend not to come out from medical school for the funeral) hugged me tightly and said that she had been doing okay until she looked at a photo of young Mom and saw me. Strangely, my grandmother, Mom's mother, was cordial and mildly chatty with everyone except me. I realized days later, after being confused and put off by her ignoring me, that I look like the daughter she rejected. I bear a striking resemblance to my mother, so striking that on her deathbed, yellow and withered, the likeness was still pronounced. For whatever reason, my grandmother did not want to communicate with her daughter's doppelganger.

We returned home to eat and hang out with friends and watch the Sardines (huh!) and Pork and Beans (huh!) video and eat macaroni and cheese and pasta salad. All the while, fellow bloggers Leigh Anne and Terri were plotting with Brooke about getting that on the Internet in video form.

The DVD was not fixed by Monday, and I expressed my disappointment politely but clearly. I did not intend to embarrass the director, but that may have been the end result, and I'm not sure whether I'm upset with myself for it. Dad had prepared a sign to put up in case the changes had not been made. It read: Sorry – Corrected version still not available. (Suzanne would be annoyed.) I was relieved not to have to spend so much time railing on about the inappropriate use of a semicolon; the sign was adequate.

Part II: Notes on details

The five of us (leaving Hannah with someone… Hope's aunt, maybe?) went to the funeral home that afternoon to talk about Mom's life, choose a casket, etc. The discussion was on the vault too long for my tastes. We were to have a draft of the extended obit by 9 that night, as the funeral home person would turn in her notes to the writers after our meeting, and someone would go to work. It turns out that she didn't get her notes in until 6 (even though our meeting was over before 4), and there was some kind of backlog. The newspaper obit draft came to us via fax around 10 the next morning (Saturday), and there were significant errors of fact to correct as well as some pretty crappy writing. We met again with the same funeral director, and by the end of my corrections, she seemed a bit miffed. Indeed, I suggested a better phrasing and punctuation situation for the funeral home's name and location, and it was as though she were a Marvel villain shooting hatred beams out of her eyes.

Around dinnertime, the extended obit was finally available. Dad printed three copies and told Paul and me to go to town. Paul found the same errors of fact as had been in the newspaper obit, and although he wasn't thrilled with most of the writing, he only made the change from "particularly prouder than peaches." I rewrote most of it, and I still have a hard time believing that they paid someone to write such a thing. While the creation of the story from the notes taken by the funeral director was impressive, I am uncomfortable with the quality of the product that was returned to us. I retyped the extended obit and emailed it to the director with instructions simply to paste it into the form and not to screw with it. The five of us spent the evening working on photo boards and compiling songs for the CDs to play in the background at the funeral home.

Sunday, during the first visitation, they began showing a DVD, which took snippets of the obit and matched them with pictures of Mom. Unfortunately, they used the original text, errors of fact, hideous grammar, and all. My father and I spoke plainly about this to people watching the DVD, and a few times, I began what could have been described as the Writers Among Idiots Manifesto: Haunted by semicolons. As we left, our friends standing among us, I inquired as to the likelihood that the DVD would be fixed by the next day's visitation. The director expressed sympathetic doubt, so I increased the volume of my voice slightly and reminded him of the significant errors of fact. He seemed only slightly more hopeful. The music went over well, although when it first came on, it was too loud and happened to start in the middle of "Dancing Queen," which may have been a bit too spunky for any funeral except Mom's.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

In pieces…

Part I: The Facts

Friday 1/30

Decided to discontinue treatment. Tired. Sore. Using heating pads on lower abdomen and sternum. Told Emilin and Brooke. Said possible time frame is “a couple of weeks to a couple of months.” Perhaps called Whitney to set an appointment to get to know each other. Said that she can’t even proofread anymore.

Saturday 1/31

Told Paul and Hope. Had what seemed like chemo brain. Talked about wanting to make it to Hannah’s birthday. Discussed possible clothes for her casket (perhaps buying a pink cabled cashmere sweater and white winter pants), plans for the service. Wanted to be comfortable (55 degrees, no wig, etc.) and look like herself.

Sunday 2/1


Monday 2/2

Spoke with Hospice, did intake. Signed a DNR, was lucid enough to do so.

Tuesday 2/3

Much weaker, more foggy but still able to have conversations. Spoke with Emilin on the phone, and had more difficulty communicating that way. Needed to rest on the way to the bathroom from the family room.

Wednesday 2/4

Using wheelchair and commode seat over the toilet. Emilin and Brooke arrived. Was instructed to wake Dad up for help going to the bathroom. Got up on her own anyway and fell. Bruised her right buttock quite badly, got large sore/bruise on her shin. Dad had a lot of trouble getting her up.

Thursday 2/5

Met with Whitney. Saw Dr. L for the last time. Created schedule for visitors and Hospice help.

Friday 2/6

Hospice social worker, home health aid, and nurse all came over. Paul and Hope arrived. Hospice worker brought over a strap/belt to use to get Mom up when she falls. Lynn and Dana came in the afternoon to visit for the day. Carol, our former neighbor, arrived after work and stayed until the late evening.

Saturday 2/7

Got out of bed by herself and fell on her way back to the bed. Gashed chin, couldn’t get up. Emilin and Dad were going back to help her with nighttime meds (had forgotten) and Dad heard her fall as they walked down the hall. Emilin went back to get Paul and the strap/belt from Hospice.

Sunday 2/8

Couldn’t walk from wheelchair to toilet, couch to wheelchair, etc. Could stand when stood up, but needed help up. Decided to get hospital bed. Mike and Laurie visited. Art came by for a couple of hours. Paul, Hope, Hannah, Emilin, and Brooke all went to Whitney's church for the service and to talk to Whitney.

Monday 2/9

First day that she requested pain meds. Went from offering them prophylactically twice a day to three times a day, still only one-eighth of what she could be getting. Jennifer put a catheter in. Em and Dad couldn't decide about the catheter until Jennifer discovered that her bladder was distended and therefore neurogenic. Decided the catheter was best. She ate for the last time—a few strawberry slices that Ginny, our neighbor, brought over. Very agitated for part of the day. Somewhat confused, but seemed to be only day with any confusion.

When Dad was gone, she wanted to get up, saying she had to go somewhere. At first wanted Emilin's help, but Em wouldn't help her get up without a reason. Said that she had to "get out of this car," "go upstairs," and "go over there to get to Berlin." Became so angry with Emilin that she held onto Em's arms and tried to shake them. When Dad returned, he reminded her of the catheter and offered to take her on a wheelchair ride around the house. She agreed, and after a few minutes was ready to return to bed.

Tuesday 2/10

Brooke arrived this morning. Around 6:45am, Dad and Emilin decided that they needed another person in the house to help with Mom and Hannah, who would be at the house needing supervision for a few hours that afternoon. Brooke had just finished making arrangements to come when Emilin called her at 6:55am to ask her to come. B arrived around 10:30. Whitney came over one last time before Mom's death.

Began having trouble sucking through a straw, and started taking fluids (juice, mostly) through a syringe, about 1 mL per swallow, 5-10 mL at a time. Gerber pear juice went over best. Took another wheelchair ride around the house, and returned to the kitchen to find friends/coworkers there to see her. Got back into bed.

Hope and Hannah arrived in the early afternoon. Hope went to work at 4pm, and Paul arrived at 6:30.

Took some chocolate sauce on a spoon that night. Language has diminished significantly, although can communicate YES and NO clearly. Still greets people and tries to hug them. Dad notes that she can "still give and receive love," and we all agree that that is a wonderful thing.

Wednesday 2/11

Hope arrived this morning. Mom is basically non-verbal at this point. Some time in the afternoon, she only stirs but does not actively respond to a neighbor's greeting. Becomes agitated at Hannah's fussing. Pills have become difficult, and Jennifer suggested grinding them into paste, mixing with a small amount of water, and administering them that way. Mom really disliked the taste, and Dad decided to switch to the liquid morphine in the Hospice "Comfort Pack" for morning meds. Late that night, around midnight, had a "conversation" with Em, who had been speaking to Brooke about something when Mom stirred. The conversation is one that had significance to Mom, and she responded to questions, nonverbally but vocally or through head shaking/nodding.

Thursday 2/12

Her body seemed to be producing a lot for the amount of nourishment and liquid that was entering it. She took the morphine in her mouth quite well, but didn't have the muscle or reflex to lick her lips or catch a drip with her mouth. Jennifer told us that "we're within a day or two," and told Dad what to do when Mom passed and what would happen when he called. We began rolling her as necessary from side to side every hour to prevent bedsores. In the late afternoon and evening, it became clear that her body was slowing down. Everyone gathered in the family room that evening to sort through pictures, and we came across a poem Paul had written for Dad's mother when she died. Paul decided to hold on to it and consider reading it at the funeral.

Friday 2/13

Died around 6:15 am this morning. Em and Dad were finishing late shift around 5:30 and went to turn Mom to her side from her back. Made a protesting noise in her throat, and Em and Dad left her with Paul and Brooke. Brooke woke Dad, Em, and Hope at 6:00 because Mom’s breathing had changed. She took two or three breaths after all six arrived.

Hospice arrived around 7:30—the same nurse she had been seeing, Jennifer. Jennifer did the death notice, and the funeral home was called. It took them a really long time to arrive, it seemed. Mom's body was lying on the hospital bed, all alone in the family room.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Weep for me no more

I'm going home for the first time in two weeks. It's really only been two weeks and one day, but everything has changed. My relationships with my father and brother and sister-in-law and niece have all changed. My body has shrunk. My relationship with my mother has changed form. My spirit has grown in ways I don't understand. I'm wearing cashmere every day.

I don't like my choices. My life feels stuck. I can't get out of where I've been, and I haven't really even tried. I don't plan to go back to my regular life--as I knew it back in November--until March first. That's Brooke's birthday. It's the day I'm going back: a new month, a new week, and a whole new life. She got a job, something we had been hoping and praying for, and I haven't yet rejoiced in that. I don't know if and when I can. She's started her life--a new life for her, too--without me.

Brooke has a game she plays with little Max that he calls "Stuck." He runs around saying, "Play stuck with Max! Play stuck!" She sits in a doorway with her feet and back against the jambs and blocks him from passing through. "Oh no! Oh no, oh no! You're stuck! Oh no!" He loves it. He's stuck but not really stuck. He isn't stuck. He can move freely through after enough giggles, and he doesn't have to play the game.

I do. It's not something I requested.

Brooke has been home since last night. It seems like longer than that, since Dad and I were alone for several loads of laundry, dinner, and Letterman. We spend a lot of time sitting and talking. I couldn't tell you what all we've discussed, but I know some of it made us sore from laughing, and some of it made us cry. We chatted about things I never covered with Mom. Stuff I never realized I had kept from her. That terrifies me. There was so much that we missed. There is so much missing. And I have to start life again, without her, without the opportunity to tell her everything.

I try to remind myself that I can't change what has been, but I can move forward from where I am. It doesn't help a whole lot. What I need is Momma and this grown-up spirit and to start all over again from her diagnosis.

Aside from the panic induced by climbing onto a train for the first time in weeks, I'm really doing okay. Honest. I think I cried more in the week before her death than in the week after. With my family, but especially with my father, the bone-chilling ache of loneliness isn't there. I slept alone last night, and I didn't feel as empty as I had anticipated. Dad and I talk about her not being there, what she would have done, what she would have said in a certain conversation, and there were no tears--only a subtle and unspoken pause of remembrance.

The visitations were strange. My mother's body didn't arouse the kind of emotion I expected. I bawled with my father minutes later over the fact that her body didn't sadden me, but knowing that she wouldn't be there did. Everyone outside the six of us cried more than we did. I saw people I had forgotten about, people who wept in my presence at the death of my mother. A former neighbor, a man in his early seventies, shook with grief as he stood in front of Paul and me. Her community group friends were the most incredible. I saw people who knew her and watched in awe as she knocked over obstacles and got what she wanted and what the community needed. They praised her work ethic. They praised her diplomacy. They praised her ability to talk anyone into anything she wanted. When talking didn't work, she ignored you and did it her own way.

More than one person told me that Mom "made you feel like you were the only person in the room." My mother had a special connection with women that couldn't be spelled out and was only defined by the women who knew her. One of Mom's friends said that people either loved or hated Mom, but those who hated her regretted it.

The service was beautiful. The sun was shining, and the sanctuary was bright. Mom had requested a warm, sunny day with lots of flowers blooming. She got a warmer than normal, sunny day in February and lots of flowers from her admirers.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Oh, very young

I’m still working on the details. They remain somewhat fuzzy. I have, however, a few things, in brief, to mention at this point.

1. I didn’t realize that my father and I could have this kind of relationship, and I wonder if my relationship with my mother simply eclipsed it.

2. My mother’s best friend called this morning and asked how she was doing. I panicked that she hadn’t made the Call list, but it turns out that Dad had left a message that Aunt Friend never got. The message mentioned an update on Mom, not her death, so it may have fallen by the wayside. Aunt Friend missed the opportunity to go to either visitations or the funeral, so Dad invited her to the burial in the spring. Aunt Friend is the woman who shared her twin bed for several weeks with Mom when Mom was kicked out of her parents’ house in 1969.

3. The number of people who love my mother, who respect my mother, and who shared life changing experiences with my mother is greater than I may ever know. Women who never met her wept during the service.

4. This morning, I weighed 116 pounds. That needs to change. Tedious though it may be, I’m going to track my progress until I move up to a healthy weight.

Sunday, February 15, 2004


I really wish “surreal” didn’t seem like such a trite way to describe the last two days. My thesaurus doesn’t provide anything quite as accurate and not as annoying.

Yesterday, after the funeral home dudes wheeled Mom out of the house (during which time I was camped out in the basement waiting for them to leave), I ate some and made my phone calls. Some were strictly information, some were emotional. I called one friend at work in an absolute pitch because I couldn’t reach the people I wanted to tell first. She talked me down, and I huddled on the floor by the sliding glass door, blowing my nose in a dishtowel I pulled from a basket of clean laundry. I felt so substantially better after talking to her that I refused to make any calls for another hour or so.

We fought to get the hospital bed and other medical equipment out of the house immediately. The deliveries are, of course, more important than the pick-ups, and we hadn’t left directions with them just to come to the house, that someone would be there even if the phone rang off the hook. They didn’t come for twelve hours after her death. Seeing the bed in the middle of the family room reminded me that she had been there and was now gone. She’s gone. She’s in the basement of the funeral home. Whatever it is that made that body into the person that she was is, well, sure as hell not right here with me. I don’t know why I feel so removed from her now, but I do.

Today we met for the third time with the funeral home, second since her death. The obituary they mocked up was impressively badly written. I corrected punctuation, grammar, spelling, and sentence structure eight ways to Sunday until the woman we were working with was thoroughly miffed. We had a go at her extended obit—one of those ones that’s online—tonight, and that was worse than the first. I’ll spare you the details, but one fun phrase we axed is, “particularly prouder than peaches.” Lord, help us all.

We also met with the pastor again. She’s a wonderful person and has the rare skill of exuding this comforting spirituality in a room full of mixed religious devotions. We spoke with her about Mom, about her life and our lives with her.

When Mom was working at a major bank in a secretarial position, she had a somewhat negative performance evaluation from her boss. “Sometimes insubordinate” was the primary complaint. Mom, having recently come from apathetic parents and a poor school district, needed to look it up. She found “refuses to be inferior” in the dictionary and returned her signed copy to her boss with defiant agreement.

Of course she refuses to be inferior. Why should that be a problem?

She taught me that. She taught me to give and receive love. She taught me never to accept anything less than I deserve. She taught me what it is to be a mother, a good parent. I’ll be forever grateful to her for that. I just can’t get past the fact that she’s not here to teach me anything else.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Yes, she did.

It's true. Mom died this morning.

It was a bit after 6, maybe 6:10 or so. Her breathing changed, and Brooke came to get me. I had been in bed for half an hour after staying up through the night and watching her breathe. It was the fifth night in a row that I had taken the overnight shift--the fifth night in a row that she had needed constant vigil.

I missed the last half hour of my mother's life.

The six of us came around the bed and watched her breathe her last few breaths. I may have seen three, but I'm only confident of two. Her hands were cold, but her head was still warm. I climbed onto the bed by her right side, tucked my face beside her head, and I felt her body fail.

It was startlingly peaceful. Her body slowed to a stop. Liver failure is the way to go. The same stuff that made her skin yellow reduced the capacity of the nervous system, and she had almost no pain. What pain she had was well managed by tiny doses of narcotics--oxycodone, then morphine. Forty-five minutes before she died, Dad and I had started to move her onto her side to help prevent bedsores. She was nonverbal and didn't move, but she made a sound in her throat to tell us she wanted to stay put. We did it her way and went to bed.

Dad started the coffee pot, and we sat back to look at her. He called Hospice, and the nurse--the same nurse who had been seeing Mom--came out to check for a heartbeat and complete the death certificate. We sat around staring at each other until someone started breakfast and I broke out our phone lists and started calling.

Today consisted of answering the phone, making phone calls, being fed regularly and somewhat forcefully, picking constantly at my cuticles, and selecting a casket.

I'll have more to say when I can get my thoughts in order. I haven't written since last Sunday, but I'll have to do it soon or else lose what I now know. Soon. It will come in pieces, but it will come.

Monday, February 09, 2004

The guard

I’m on my first overnight watch. She fell last night (was it only last night?) after getting up to go to the bathroom. She was fine until she was on her way back into bed, then she fell onto her front, cutting her chin on a box fan on the way down. Dad and I were on our way in to give her night meds, as we had both forgotten to give them to her on her way to bed. Dad said later that he heard her land, but all I know is that when I arrived in the bedroom a moment after him, Mom was flat on the floor in the dark. I ran to get Paul and the strap/belt that the Hospice person had brought over to aid in getting her up.

With the two of them taking care of things, I walked into the bathroom, slumped to the floor, and started to cry. I had purchased a $50 baby monitor so that we could hear her when she got up, and even though I had spent the better part of the evening hunting down screwdrivers in the right shape and size in order to assemble it, I had forgotten to turn it on. I left Dad to say goodnight to Mom in private, intending to turn the monitor on when he returned to the family room. I ran through the whatifs and didn’t come up with a satisfying end. It was my fault. She could have been so badly hurt. We might not have found her like that for hours. The purple remains of the cut remind me that, at least for one evening, I failed in my caregiving duties.

Dad, never a man of emotion, gave me the longest hug we’ve exchanged since I got all my teeth. Paul, he of brute strength and aggression, held me carefully for what may have been more than a minute. Hope brought me Kleenex, and Brooke sat on the floor in front of my chair, patting whatever part of me she could reach. Then Dad went out for a cigarette and Paul returned with another round of drinks. Over more tears and a Mike’s Hard Lemonade, I tried to resign from this taking-care-of-my-dying-mother crap. Everyone looked at me silently for a few moments, generally expressionless, and turned back to the TV in the hopes of finding something that would be Not This. We settled on Law & Order: SVU, an episode involving the murder of a rapist and torturer.

This all leads back to me, right here, on the couch, which I’ve made into a bed. And writing. Since I sat down to write, I’ve gotten up three times to help Mom get comfortable.

Oh, yes, details:

Mom is weak and can’t lift herself into a sitting position, much less walk from the wheelchair to the toilet less than two feet away. This morning (Sunday morning), Dad and I agreed that a hospital bed was best, and he placed his order this afternoon. It arrived without warning an hour later. The overstuffed armchair, Dad’s favorite, is now in the front room, and we rearranged to fit the hospital bed in the family room in front of the TV. It’s near the kitchen, so anyone from the refrigerator to the couch can see her to see if she needs anything. Mom’s also not isolated, but is in the middle of the fun that is family life around here these days.

So here I am, on the couch. I’ve taken to fussing about even more neurotically than before. I managed to get my third stye since the middle of December, as well as since my birth. Normal people get hives, you know. I’m also breaking out like mad, but maybe it won’t be long that I’ll look like I’ve been attacked by mosquitos. And this is neither here nor there, but it’s disconcerting to share my waking hours with no one but a socially inept Persian with a propensity toward humping blankets.

I never expected that my father and I would bond the way we have. We actually talk about things. We’ve talked about our emotions and how we feel now and how we’ve felt and what things might be like in the future. I know now that I have a connection to my father. For so long, it had been overshadowed by my connection to my mother, but it was there. It’s been made and is being made stronger by our mutual love for Mom, the woman we’re watching die.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

In brief

Cleaning, shopping, crying, packing.

Chicago: church, brunch, moving, shopping (without paying), tea and monkey brains, check-in, walking a mile out of the way to get sushi, talking, talking, talking, sleeping.

Chicago: breakfast, check-out, driving, working.
Home: working, working, working, tea, pregnant sister-in-law.

Working, working, the best kind of interview, working, tea, ground nut soup, phone calls, crying, emails, working.

Working, working, emails, cat-sitting preparations, presents, working, dog-sitting preparations, driving, resting.

The minister came over, and we discussed Mom’s funeral with her right there in the room. We talked about what kinds of music and words would best celebrate her, and Mom suggested Eva Cassidy. It was surprisingly uplifting and peaceful.

The doctor’s visit was pretty distressing. The doctor, Mom, and I all cried. She makes house calls if we need her, but most of what we need is from Hospice.

Mom fell last night trying to get out of bed. She’s bruised on her bottom, and her shin has a large bandage over a cut and another bruise.

I don’t remember how many people came by, but very few bothered to call and ask if it was a good time. It usually wasn’t.

People in and out all day long. Employees, friends, Hospice workers—we met the social worker, a home health aid (to help with baths), and a nurse. And then someone else from Hospice dropping off a strap to lift her off the floor when she falls.

My cousin, for one, came by with her boyfriend, the one she brought to my uncle’s funeral when she was still married to her ex husband. That was surprisingly low stress, but only because she cowed to me. Ha!

Later that night, after cousin and concubino left, we sat around and discussed the people who would be notified at the time of her death as well as some of the nitty gritty about the arrangements. I called for only immediate family—that is, Brooke and me, Dad, and Paul, Hope, and Hannah—staying in the house in the days around Mom’s death. They agreed.

My grandmother came today. She brought Mom’s brother and sister-in-law, one of whom Mom really cares for and one of whom she does not. Mom also does not care for her mother much. Even amidst her occasional confusion, she was lucid at the moment I was helping her get dressed and told her her mother was coming. Her response, in brief, was exasperated dismay. Today? Yes, Mom, today; in another hour or so. We have to clean up the living room. She’ll deal, Mom; let me help you with your sweater.

Oh, and the visit to the funeral home. Yeah. So incredibly uneventful that I’m still bewildered by it.

In general

She’s yellow, more so than she was on Friday when I first found out that she was ready to stop treatment. The confusion is a result of liver failure—the same stuff that makes her skin yellow is impacting her nervous system, making her shaky and confused. When she’s lucid, she’s really lucid. We have tender moments, and she can make decisions for herself. When she’s not, it’s difficult to talk her into what needs to be done.

Mom, wait for me to get the wheelchair. Mom, hold on to me, and I’ll help you stand up. Mom, hold on to me; don’t lean down; I’ll pull your pants up. No, Mom, it’s not time for your bath. Can I help you put your sweater back on?

Brooke is going back tomorrow. She’s going to start a [entry cut short because Mom fell]

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