Friday, February 14, 2014

Life Transitions

by Lorraine Bartlett / Lorna Barrett / L.L. Bartlett

Pete Townsend (of The Who) wrote: "I hope I die before I get old."

Never has a phrase been as poignant than that for Mr. L and his sister and me.

You see, Mr. L's mother is 99.5 years old.  In the past year or so, she's had several bouts of congestive heart failure, and this week we were told that her arteries and a heart valve are so clogged that she needs more care than the wonderful assisted living facility where she has been for the past 2.5+ years can give.

So, Mother must go to a nursing home.

: (

The thing is, Mother (as Mr. L and his sister call her (to me, my Mom is Mum)), is pretty darn sharp. It's not her mind but her body that has finally betrayed her. And as of this writing, she has no clue what awaits her in the next day or so. She cried and wailed when we moved her from her home of more than 50 years into an apartment (because the neighborhood had deteriorated so much) when she was 89.  And she cried and begged and pleaded "DON'T MAKE ME MOVE" when we brought her here to Rochester almost 3 years ago when it was apparent she could no longer live on her own, to an assisted living facility no more than 7 minutes from our house (less if you make a couple of green lights).  But then she quickly came to appreciate that her baby boy came to visit almost every day, and she enjoyed the things the home offered: BINGO, church services, ice cream socials, and more.

But now we are at a different place. She needs more care than the assisted living facility can give.

As of this writing, we don't know where she will end up.  It's all about space available.

Sadly, I've been there, done that--bought the T-shirt--when it came to the end-of-life decisions I and my mother had to make for my Dad. Everything we're going through has churned up all those feelings which I thought were long past. They're not. They're just as fresh today as they were in the fall of 2009.

Contrary to popular belief, you don't simply get over the loss of a loved one in a matter of days, weeks, or months. Grief, as our own Kate Collins has spoken of many times, takes a long and terrible toll on your soul.

The truth is, my mother-in-law and I were never close; but Mr. L and his sister love her with all their hearts.  How could they not? She is their MOTHER!  We have strived to make sure that my mother-in-law has been in a safe place where people can take good care of her.  Nobody deserves less.

I am so sad for this woman who loves to read. She lost her sight last summer, but thanks to cataract surgery got it back this fall.  And what is she currently reading?  The large print edition of my latest Booktown Mystery, thanks to the author copy I recently received.

The thing is, nobody escapes this life alive. There are only two eventualities:  death and taxes, and sadly, death is all my mother-in-law has to look forward to.

Like George Bailey, she's had a wonderful life, but it's breaking our hearts to know that her life will soon end and the sadness we feel is overwhelming, for never can one recover from the loss of a parent, sibling, or child.

I'm not asking for prayers or good wishes or anything else. I just needed to vent. I know almost all of you have gone through this same kind of soul-searching grief. We are one in our sadness.

Valentine's Day is supposed to be a happy event, and I'm sorry but I just can't muster it today. But I do thank you for listening, and I invite you to share your own stories of grief in honor of a loved one. If nothing else, we can commiserate.