Thursday, January 24, 2013

[The Life of Shaun #465] In lieu of flowers

Hi all,

A number of people have written to ask for details about services.  Per Mom's wishes, we won't be having a viewing or a memorial service.  Mom wanted those she loved simply to get together, drink, and have a good time with memories of her.  Dad, Lara, Lisa and I will be going up to Fish Creek, Wisconsin next weekend to spread her ashes on a hill overlooking water, as she requested, in a place that is full of good memories for her.

For those of you who would like to do something in her memory, I suggest making a donation to It's a Pittie, a rescue and education mission, in Mom's memory.  Mom had a bleeding heart when it came to animals in need, so a donation to this organisation would mean a lot to her.  Mom's "third daughter" (my cousin, Janine) is a head volunteer there, so Mom was a supporter.

If you would like to do so, you can hit the donation button at the bottom of this page:


Otherwise (or in addition), raise a glass to Mom when next you celebrate!

Cheers,
Shaun

_________________________________________________________________________
Shaun H. Coley | At large in Naperville, IL | shaunism.blogspot.com

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

[The Life of Shaun #464] 361 days

Mom died today at 11:04 am, just shy of a year from her diagnosis.  Yesterday, our amazing hospice nurse had been over for her regular visit.  In that meeting, she discussed the times people "choose" to die - not as in total control, but within the constraints of their reality.  I sceptically accepted it as benign comfort, but I think Mom died exactly when she wanted to.  I won't lie about the last days, they were awful and hard - but they were few.

We decided yesterday that someone should stay with Mom each night, just in case she came out of it and needed something.  Dad took the first night, and as a result, slept with his wife through the last night of her life.  The next morning, he drove down to pick up Mom's twin so she could be here with Mom, and during that time he was away, Mom died.  She died not unexpectedly, but before any of us could be scared about it, with all three of her children with her.

This year, despite the cancer, has been an awesome year.  We all spent so much more time with Mom than we would have otherwise, so many nights with friends and family, a surprise birthday party, countless games of cards and even more good memories.  And that's one of the things that really affected me; I love my Mom wholly, and consider myself so lucky to have her as my Mother.  I imagine most of us do with our mothers, but what hit me unexpectedly over the past year was the wave of words and expressions from others about how great a woman they thought Mom was as well.

To that, I'll leave with words that capture Mom better than I ever could myself.  After Mom was diagnosed, I was designated her secretary and handled everything having to do with paperwork, mail and eMail.  In that first week, she received one eMail that expresses so well why I am lucky to be her son:

"When I think back to my childhood, many of my best memories are of times I spent with Shaun, and you.  You were always the kind of mom I wish mine had been.  My mom was great, don't get me wrong, but there was something about the way you loved and understood your kids, no matter what, they never felt they had to hide who they were from you.  As my children grew into teenagers, you were the inspiration for the kind of mother I tried (and mostly succeeded) to be."

I love you, Mammy Spammy, and miss you already.

Shaun


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For those wishing to give something, Mom was never a flower type.  What you can do is donate to It's a Pittie, a rescue and education organisation for pitt bulls near Mom's home in Manteno, and where her "third daughter", Janine, is an active volunteer.  Mom always had an open heart to animals, and a donation to this organisation would mean a lot to her (donate button at the bottom of the page):


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Mom, her husband, kids, and one sneaky granddaughter.





_________________________________________________________________________
Shaun H. Coley | At large in Naperville, IL | shaunism.blogspot.com
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Monday, January 21, 2013

[The Life of Shaun #463] Live, Laugh, Love

Mom's decline from a surprising burst of energy Friday to today has been steep and sudden.  Friday night was family night, with Janine and my Aunt Judy (Mom's twin) coming over.  We had a great dinner, Mom ate pretty well, and we played cards (Mom kicked our asses, by the way - and we were not playing nicely!); Mom was alert, joking and smiling, giving us high fives.  It was a great night, but at the end Mom started to fade, and putting her to bed was the same choreographed traumatic dance it'd become in the days prior.

Saturday she slept more of the day than not, but was still up for dinner and cards, and even had part of a margarita.  But she barely ate and Lara did most of the work as Mom stared at the cards.  Sunday she only got out of bed in the morning because her sister was still here, and she wanted to spend some time with her before she left; that was just about 90 minutes.  We tried to wake her up at 5:00 for dinner time, and she wasn't budging.  Then again at 8:00 as she wanted to watch a movie, and she tried to be awake, but couldn't.

Today, Mom is nearly comatose, figuratively, if not clinically.  She's mostly asleep, only occasionally opens her eyes, and she is having delusions.  She'll smile at times when she recognises a story or someone she likes, and sometimes she tries to talk, but it's mostly unintelligible.  It's stunning to us how fast this happened, how quickly we lost the woman, the personality, that we knew as our Mom.

As discordant as it may sound, this rapid descent into an unaware state is a mixed blessing.  In the past week, it seemed as if Mom was approaching the edge of where the amount of good she was able to have each day would no longer outweigh the pain and indignity she was suffering.  We know from several experiences of friends the alternative path this story could take, the unknowable and unbearable stretch of time, bedridden as the pain grows and becomes ever more agonising.  

Our Mom's had a wonderful life, full of close friends, full of more joy than sorrow, and certainly full of love, given and received.  We want her to have as wonderful a death as she can.  These past six weeks, despite all the pain and sickness, have been wonderful.  Mom had her family, the thing that truly brings her joy, living at home with her to share and enjoy her life.  It may sound odd, but they have been some of the happiest days she's ever had.  Could anyone ask for a better way to go out?

Cheers,
Shaun



Mom enjoying a cigarette with her twin sister and Dad in the smoking lounge we built outside; this is the last pic we have of Mom from a good day.


Mom's life motto, hung on her wall.





_________________________________________________________________________
Shaun H. Coley | At large in Naperville, IL | shaunism.blogspot.com
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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

[The Life of Shaun #462] Switch

Last Wednesday or Thursday, my sister called me up from my basement "office" to help Mom get out of bed.  She went from having had relatively good days to not being able to move one of her legs at all.  That day, and since, Mom's needed to pretty much be carried from bed to wheelchair and back.  Her days in the chair are punctuated by frequent dozes; except when she is directly and immediately occupied, she'll often have trouble keeping her eyes open, and her naps are longer than before.  She's also stopped eating as much, and fairly often throws up what she does.

Since it was such an overnight change, we hope it's just that she's caught whatever germ we've been passing around the family, which has laid us low in bed as well.  But we're also aware that these are all signs pointing towards increased deterioration.  Mom's lovely hospice nurse, Nishita, was on holiday last week and after seeing Mom today after a week's absence pulled Lara and me aside to discuss what she saw, too.  In addition to the familiar signs we'd noticed, she could see the weight loss in Mom that our daily contact has hidden from us.  Though no one can know these things with any certainty, she wanted us to know that it's likely Mom's good days are drawing short, possibly as little as another week or two, and she's increasing her visits to twice a week.

Seeing Mom the past many days, none of us are surprised; the change is marked.  But then again, at other times, she's quite peppy - nagging Dad and going out in subzero weather to smoke - the most positive signs Mom can show.  So we don't know - Mom's already doubled what they thought without much treatment - she could be kicking around for a while yet.  But we're carrying the knowledge she mightn't as well.

Cheers,
Shaun

_________________________________________________________________________
Shaun H. Coley | At large in Naperville, IL | shaunism.blogspot.com

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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

[The Life of Shaun #461] How are you?

It's a question I've been getting a lot lately, so I thought I'd answer more broadly.

I am however Mom is.  When she's having a good day, I am too.  About five days ago, Mom had a really bad day; she was trembling and sobbing from the pain, and we ended up doping her up pretty heavily to get her through it.  But since then, we've had pretty good days, at least with the pain mitigation.  We're honing in on a regular and (so far, touch wood) effective rotation of her meds that keeps the worst of the pain at bay.  Mornings are the worst, as she has the longest period without regular "top-ups", so we have a routine to get food, morphine and pills in her as quickly as possible.

The disease is definitely progressing, though.  She has several golf ball-sized tumours protruding from various places, and these have grown noticeably since I arrived a month ago, and we see new ones starting to rise.  They get red and sore, so we have to be careful to avoid putting pressure on them.  Mom's legs have continued to grow weaker and she relies on us fully to help her up from bed and to her wheelchair and back; she can't walk more than a few steps, even aided.  Amazingly, for a lung cancer patient, her breathing is still fine.  We have an oxygen tank on hand, but she's not needed it yet.

So how am I good these days?

It's odd how your perspective changes when caring for someone you love.  I don't think much about the big picture of what's happening, I just think about what Mom needs right now, and that's what I do - that's as big as my world is.  Every now and then, my perspective pulls back, usually when I am thinking about Mom when she was healthy, and that's when it can hit.

Mom's spirits are still high.  I don't know where she pulls that out from, but she laughs and jokes a lot, and loves playing cards with us and working on her puzzle.  She still goes through all the trouble and effort to go outside and have a cigarette, so we know she's OK!  So there's still life to be lived with Mom, and we are all enjoying living it.

Cheers,
Shaun

_________________________________________________________________________
Shaun H. Coley | At large in Naperville, IL | shaunism.blogspot.com

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