April 24, 2018

New Perspective

My mother died at home in the most gentle, loving manner. My sister, my father and I were holding her hands, stroking her face, telling her how loved she was. Her surviving sisters, brother and sister-in-law all called at one time or another to tell her they loved her.

Dad told her many times that he loved her and that she was beautiful.

We had decided to bring her home. Hospice ordered a hospital bed and all the supplies we needed to make her comfortable.

Many nights my 89 year old father would sit with her for hours, holding her hand.

Mom and Dad were the absolute best dancers I've ever seen. They could Swing Dance like nobody's business, always gathering a crowd around them as they boogied!

They collected albums (remember those) of all the Old Standards. With Mom's hospital bed in the living room, we would play Frankie Lane, Ella Fitzgerald, Keely Smith and Louie Prima. With each record that played, Dad would share a memory of their early days, dancing, concerts, picnics, camping in the Rockies. Sixty-eight years of marriage and lots and lots of precious memories.

There were also a tremendous number of epiphanies as we sat vigil with Mom.  It broke my heart to see her so vulnerable. Never in my life had I ever thought of her as helpless or indefensible. In those moments, I discovered that I had only thought of her as "Mom" never as a "Woman". I'm not sure I know how to explain it to anyone in a way they can understand, or if we all suddenly "get it" as our mothers pass from this world to the next.

As we have been sorting through her letters, memoirs, stories, we have uncovered incredible things about her. She saved every Mother's Day card, Birthday card or just card-card we ever gave her, sometimes not the whole card, just the part where we wrote, "Happy Birthday Mom, I love you".

We discovered that she wrote letters to congressmen, NASA, Historical Societies, and various VIP's. She kept copies (typewrite carbon copies) of all her letters, inquiries and thank you's. My sister and I were both awarded scholarships when we graduated from high school; Mom wrote thank you letters to the organizations and schools that awarded the scholarships. She fought hard to keep my brother from going to Vietnam and to get him out of Vietnam once he was sent there. At the time, he was in the Air Force and the only son of an only son. No descendants to pass on the Young surname.

She clipped every San Francisco Giants newspaper article for the past 50 years, as well as every article of historical significance. She clipped notes to many articles, explaining the mood of the country or what our family was up to at the time, what her thoughts were.

Her collection of Genealogy articles is overwhelming. She has copies of Land Grants, grant deeds, birth certificates, baptismal certificates, wedding certificates, honorable discharges. We had ancestors who have been state congressmen, sheriffs and sheriffs deputies in the wild, wild west. One great-great uncle had a run-in with Jack Black Ketchum and lost, she's got the hard evidence of that sad event.

Mom never, ever let the sun cook her the way most of us did. At the beach, in the garden, sitting on the patio, she wore a wide brimmed sunhat. Everyone who took care of this tiny 89 year old woman came in expecting someone with at least a bit of age to her skin. Every last one of them were visibly amazed at her beauty and skin. One of the visiting hospice nurses actually slapped both hands to her cheeks and exclaimed, "Oh my god, she is beautiful!"  When the mortuary people came to take her away, the woman also exclaimed the same exact words! 

Well, I didn't mean to go on and on. I just wanted to say that it was an honor and incredible gift to be able to take care of my mother in her last weeks of life. I discovered that she loved me (who knew?) and that I sincerely loved her.

April 09, 2018

Thank You All

I can't tell you all how much your comments and caring mean to me. Thank you with all my heart.

Mom is at home and in hospice care. Comfort measures only. The hospice nurses have been wonderful. They are tender and gentle, not only with Mom, but also with our Father.

This has been extremely hard on Dad. When going to reposition her in the night, I find him asleep in a chair next to her hospital bed, both of them asleep and holding hands.

One day I will share the nightmare of healthcare in Shasta and Tehama Counties. It truly feels as if my sister and I have been at war to protect our mother's health, safety and welfare.  Our fear is overwhelming for the older people who don't have family to protect them.

For now, all is going as smooth as can be expected...will fill you in on details, but going back to bed!

I miss you all. Thank you again for your thoughtfulness and caring.