I have decided that I will not post anymore after this last post. I have kept myself busy this week after returning to work on Monday to an extremely supportive co-workers, with the hope that slowly life will be back to a normal. A new normal that is, a normal without mom. It can’t ever be the same normal, where I could smell her, poke my nose play fully in her face and watch her laugh. I can’t ever touch her again or hear her call me to come sit with her. I was craving something sweet and went to raid the fridge. I saw apple sauce and without thinking took a cup out. Just when I got the spoon, it hit me that during the last stages, we used to crush pills and give it to mom with apple sauce, a trick hospital nurse showed us. Couple of cups had remained. I miss her. Small things make us miss her more, whether its visiting the Chinese resturant and eating walnut shrimp or making carne asada tacos.
Mom passed away early morning on Monday, November 28th, 2011. We were all with her, when she gasped for last breath and her soul left. The breathing rate had been slowing down a lot and there was no pulse for about an hour before that. She started to have gaps in her breathing which kept on getting bigger and finally, it stopped. Papa checked her heart with his stethoscope which she was still breathing with gaps but there was no beat. After, her last breath, I checked it. There was silence, a loud silence. Islamically, the body is to be buried as soon as possible. Since, we had already planned things, we were able to do the burial same day, later in the afternoon. Mariam, my sister and few other relatives gave mom her final bath. We prayed over her body, the final prayer of burial at the local mosque before proceeding to the cemetery. I got down in the grave along with my brother and two other close relatives to lay the body down. I was the last one out. I made her slant a bit to her right, so that she would face Kaaba in Mecca. She was buried without a coffin, wrapped in white sheets. When I was moving mud around her body, my hand touched her face and could feel her nose. That was the last time I touched my mother. Soon afterwards, she was under piles of mud, on her way to eternity. After, her washing, I saw her at the mortuary and she looked as if she was smiling , a slight smile, peaceful face and at ease. Its been a while since, we saw her without pain.
The support from our friends and family was over whelming. I can’t imagine anything better. Many of mine and Mariam’s friends dropped everything, took the day off work and came over to be by our side. They took care of kids, made arrangements for “A’zza” or the reception for people to meet family and give condolence. The numerous hugs and words of encouragement, teary eyes of these macho friends of mine, it all just over took us. One of my best friends dad saw me at the Masjid, gave me a hug and started crying. I had to console him! I met mothers of four of my closest friends, all of them crying. These people whom I am not related to by blood were crying for my pain. They were crying because they are related to me by faith and by humanity. We do not know how to repay them.
And Thank you all for your support and for sharing our journey.
Many of those who called from all over the world could not believe that mom was no more. They broke into tears and some just cried and hung up. The couldn’t talk. Baji was gone. Who would go around in the middle cold nights with blankets and give out to the people sleeping in the cold on the streets of our home town in India,, who would stop us from killing even a bee, Who is going to make sure, the baby of the girl who lives near our house gets milk, who is going to teach the neighborhood girls. The list goes on and the void gets bigger.
If I was asked to summarize mom’s legacy, it would most certainly be of charity and simplicity. She lived a simple life with minimal needs and wishes. What she had, was for others, she would always be giving. To help was her nature, it would melt her heart to see someone suffer. We have gotten quite a few emails from people who have benefited from this blog. Her disease, her pain became a tool for her to help others. She lives on in our hearts and hearts of many for reasons we would never know. She is her legacy, even in death.
So long Amma… Inshallah will see you in Jannah.
Wassalam Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatu
(May Peace, Mercy and Blessings of Allah be on you)
Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un (Chapter 2, Verse 156: The Quran)
“Surely we belong to Allah and to Him shall we return.”
Mom passed away. “The eyes send their tears and the heart is saddened, but we do not say anything except that which pleases our Lord.”
Its been more than a week since mom had a sip of water. Her heart rate is as if she is sprinting and breathing has gotten shallower. She sleeps most of the time and morphine is her only respite. It’s impossible to give her anything, since she can’t swallow anymore.
In between her 23+ hours a day sleep, she wakes up and looks. Her eyes tell it all. She is aware and knows whats going on around her. She can’t move or communicate much, she is too weak for that but a tear would roll down her dark sunken eyes..
My sister flew in this morning and my brother is coming in later tonight, Inshallah. For last couple of days moms respiratory rate (the number of breaths a person takes during one minute) has been quite high. In a normal adult, its supposed to be between 12 and 20, while mom’s has gone up to 36. Her breathing has become much shallower. She was diagnosed with pneumonia and now is unable to swallow much which puts us in a rather bad situation. Since, she isn’t able to swallow, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to give her any medicine. She seems tired and sleeps almost all the time (over 20 hours a day). The food and water intake is almost non-existent.
There is not much time left. Last night with eyes closed, she was saying something. I went near her to listen. In semi-comatose stage, she was saying ” La Ilaha Il Allah, Mohammad rasool Allah” : There is no deity except Allah and Mohammad is his Messenger.
There is not much time left.
Gurhia baji left Monday. She’ll be back in a few weeks so it shouldn’t be that bad. Mummy did get teary-eyed, naturally.
She and I sat down on Sunday to make a list of things to feed Mummy. Since her palate has completely changed, we have to sort of reinvent the wheel. Through trial and error we came up with ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Mummy gets anxious when people are over, because she wants to sit outside with them in the living room. It helps if we don’t talk as loud as we normally would, but not very much. It takes her a while to go to sleep because she’s so anxious to sit with everyone and talk.
Right now, her main problem is anxiety. She constantly wants someone to sit with her, hear her talk about how much pain she’s in, and give her medication for her pain. Even after we’ve given her all that we can give her, she still complains of pain. We have to decode what type of pain she’s having.
Sometimes, she’ll be anxious and trying to move about while complaining of back pain. That tells me she wants a position change, so we’d turn her to her side and prop up a pillow underneath her.
Sometimes, her diaper is itching her, so we just open it and readjust it, and that works. Sometimes she wants cream on her legs for dryness. Sometimes an eyelash went in her eye.
For all these things, she will complain of immense pain, get really anxious, and start calling everyone. Sometimes it’s hard to understand what exactly is causing her pain/discomfort. We’re still figuring out how to decode all this new stuff. It’ll get easier. It is already getting easier than what we initially anticipated this phase to be.
This month amidst of all of this we are supposed to be moving house soon. Packing should start sometime this week. No, we have not found a place yet. Yes, I’m panicking. Yes, it’ll all work out eventually. The plan is to move Mummy last, and have her room be the first one to set up at the new place, wherever that may be at this point….
Hopefully, once we move and get settled in the new place, maybe then the sense of normal will set in. I don’t know how these few weeks, months will pass. It could very well be that everything is calm and under control, or it could be that we’re freaking out and hyperventilating into paper bags.
We’ll just wait and see!
Mummy’s routine is now settled. She wakes up after at least a ten hour uninterrupted sleep thanks to a new medicine the doctors have given her. It’s medicine time and food time. In the morning, we normally feed her fruit yogurt and applesauce, followed by water. It is very important that she has water continuously. The nurse did say that her water intake needed to be increased, otherwise she would be at risk for dehydration again.
Usually around this time every morning, Papa and I have to change her diaper. By now, we’re used to it, it doesn’t gross us out anymore, and we do it efficiently. It still is a workout.
Lunch time, we feed Mummy a mix of lentils and rice (khichri). It’s light on her tummy, and it’s nutritious too. I try adding extra water to it to increase her water consumption. Then medicine time. She normally naps after medicine time because her medications calm her down.
When she wakes up, khichri again, or yogurt or fruit or applesauce again. Then medicine time. The only time she gets irritated is when we have to give her her medication, or change her diaper. She hates both. That’s when she might get angry and try and hold my arm away, or squeeze my fingers to show how angry she is but it usually passes.
Our main challenge right now is getting her to drink enough fluids. Food isn’t as important as water is. The last thing we need is her going back on IV. It’s uncomfortable for her, and it’s something that can be avoided if we just constantly try and get her to drink water.
As far as new deteriorations that are happening, every day something new is popping up. She sometimes does the opposite of what you ask her to do. If you ask her to open her mouth, she’ll sometimes close it. If you ask her to stick her tongue out, sometimes she sticks it in. And sometimes, when you ask her to swallow water, she spits it all out, in quite an impressive trajectile, might I add. Thankfully I wasn’t in the direct line of action, otherwise it would have been a direct hit.
She has also started talking to herself in her sleep. Before, she would talk to herself. Now, throughout her entire ten hour sleep, she is talking to herself. And during the day, even more so. Which also dehydrates her, so we have to be even more diligent with providing her with fluids.
She is becoming weaker, and she does cry a lot more. Everyday it becomes more apparent that these are indeed her last days. She is losing her appetite more and more as well.
We don’t know how long this phase will last, but what we do know is that 1) these last days of hers must pass as comfortably as we can make it, and 2) whoever wishes to visit her, greet her and call her: this is the time.
There is no better time, because time is running out, and it’s better to live without regrets, than to spend time regretting. She can talk on the phone, afternoons are best. Visitors are encouraged to come as early as possible. We understand that everyone’s busy and with work, school, etc and it might be difficult. She usually goes to bed by 8, 9, or even 10 depending on the day, so it varies. Just communicate with us and we’ll let you know when is good.
She likes visitors, so it might cheer her up a bit.
Keep her and us in your duas. Also take this time as a reminder for yourself, and make dua for yourself in your old age, for your parents in their old age, and for everyone you care about in their old age. Aging is a reality not a myth, you don’t know what situation you will be in or your parents will be in when old age approaches.
May Allah protect us and those we care about from trials, tribulations, sickness, and sorrow, especially when we are old and weak, ameen.
Mummy’s hospice phase is completely different from her pre-hospital phase in many ways. For one, now she is completely dependent on everyone for everything at all times.
Before, we would physically take her to the bathroom, but she would do the normal bathroom functions on her own. Sure, it would take a little coaxing, but she would tell us when she needed to go, and we would take her. Now, she does not leave her bed, and needs the assistance of tubes and medicine to assist her with simple bodily functions that she had been doing for the past 63 years of her life.
Her food intake is different. Before, atleast she would have one regular meal with all of us at the table, and she would eat whatever was cooked for dinner. Now, it’s mostly fluids, or semi-fluids, like applesauce. It’s hard to get her to eat solid food now.
Her stay in the hospital took a huge, ginormous toll on her. Wires and tubes and pokes and prods….for a patient with dementia who suffers from anxiety, OCD, depression, and God knows what else hasn’t been diagnosed, it was her biggest fears rolled into one, horrid, frightening experience.
Her hospice doctor came to see her today. He ordered some more medication, and ordered her bladder and bowels to be flushed. The nurse came later with the task to perform the glamorous job. Mummy was extremely uncomfortable with this procedure, and was frustrated to the point where she didn’t have the words to express how much she hated what was being done. But it had to be done for her wellbeing’s sake. She was given sleep, pain, and anxiety medication after that, and is now sound asleep.
The physical parts of this new phase are extremely difficult for us. Changing her diaper is a workout, leaving me out of breath and sweaty-faced.
The 4 A.M. wake up call is rough. In the middle of our deepest sleep, we are awoken by Mummy’s yells. Anis and I must wake up, calm her down, and find her anxiety medicine, while trying to open our other eye and turning on the light. It’s tricky, because she has a dozen medications. In the middle of our sleep, we have to administer the right dose of the right medication. It helps to either keep the medicine ready the night before, or make a mental note of exactly what to give and where to get it if or when she wakes up at 4 A.M. so that we can just jump up and know exactly what to do.
We’ve found our routine now, finally. Good thing it took less than a week. Plus, having Anis’s siblings here for the transitional phase was a huge help. His sister especially was a huge help. I would have been running around like a chicken with no head without her support.
When she leaves on Monday, it will all be on our shoulders. Anis will be at work, and it will be all on Papa’s and my shoulders to figure everything out and keep things in order. We’ll deal with that when it comes. For now while she’s here, I can breathe a sigh of relief knowing there’s an extra pair of (willing) hands ready to dig into whatever needs to be done.
After Monday, there will be another adjustment period, but it shouldn’t be too bad. Mummy’s routine is sort of set in stone, and her hospice case manager calls every other day to check up, her social worker is monitoring her case closely, and her doctor keeps an eye on her charts and updates. So even though it may seem like we’re all alone, we have this new support network who directly know everything about Mummy’s situation to help out, advise, and sometimes even just listen to us vent.
Even though we’re sad Mummy’s on hospice, I’m glad she’s getting the close attention and care that she needs. It gives us a few less things to worry about, and her medical team have been extremely helpful in assisting us with Mummy’s new phase. 24/7 assistance if we need it. Any question we have, whether dumb or important, they are available to answer every concern.
We may be physically tired, but, ironically, we have peace of mind. Hospice care was the hidden blessing we were waiting for. We needed help desperately, but didn’t know if it was affordable, or even possible, and we wanted it on our own terms.
Alhamdulillah (All praises be unto Allah), Who Knows what we needed, without us knowing how to verbalize what we needed, without us even realizing what we needed, or that what we needed was possible or even attainable!
Mummy came home Sunday night. Since then it’s been very busy around here. This is my second attempt at writing a blog post on the topic of Mummy’s return. Let’s see if this one actually gets finished or not.
Mummy is now under hospice care. To clear the confusion: Mummy is not in a nursing home or in any other facility, she is at home. Hospice basically means hospital care at home. So the nurses come visit her twice, maybe three times a week. Those funky electric beds that go up and down were provided. She has a hospice doctor, a hospice RN, and a hospice social worker that handle her case. They are on call 24/7. They provide diapers, gloves, diaper rash cream, absorbent diaper blankets to be placed underneath her. They come twice a week to bathe her, if we need volunteers to babysit Mummy while, for example, I take Papa to Jumuah prayer, they provide all that. Keyword: FREE! We just have to pay for wet wipes (this is where the handy dandy Costco membership comes into play), gowns (Walmart), and any towels, sheets, pillows Mummy might need (Walmart, Walmart, and Walmart, respectively).
All this comes with a caveat, though……….. They only do this for people who the doctor gives a prognosis of six months or less to live…………….Which means to get all this assistance………Mummy had to get a prognosis of six months or less to live……..which means……The doctor thinks Mummy has six months or less to live……..
Even though we were expecting it, the official doctor prognosis sort of hit us in the face like a pile of bricks.
Obviously, her life is in Allah’s hands, it doesn’t matter what the Doctor’s prognosis is, if Allah wants to take her soul 6 months or 6 years from now He will. What the official prognosis means is: her rate of deterioration shows that she might not last long, and if she does, her quality of life isn’t going to be good. Since her health has gone downward so much, there’s medically no turning back and making things better. This doesn’t get better, it gets worse and worse until…………”it” happens.
At home, Mummy is in such a state where if she is not medicated, and she is awake, she will be yelling and screaming non-stop from morning until night (which was yesterday for us). Literally. She woke up 3 times the night before last, had to be medicated, then woke up in the morning, was yelling all morning, all afternoon, and all evening until 9 pm where we gave her something stronger (by recommendation from her hospice doctor) and finally she passed out, waking up only once at 6 am today. She yelled so loud yesterday you could hear her from outside, with all the windows closed. For hours and hours. Just yelling and screaming. Think about that for a sec.
This morning we woke up with Mummy having soiled her sheets. Diarrhea started up again. Only this time, the nurses don’t check in every four hours, they come twice a week. So changing her, cleaning her, changing her bedsheets, EVERYTHING, needs to be done, by us mind you, while she is on the bed. To add an extra kick of cayenne to that, she’s yelling, crying, screaming while all of this is happening. To kick it up another notch, bhaiya (Anis’s brother) and Gurhia baji (his sister) are leaving in a few days. So we will go from 8 hands, to four. Which means it’s just Papa, and me. And Anis at the end of the workday.
I’ll admit. We’re new to this. We’re not as efficient as the nurses in the hospital, who could change a bedsheet with the patient on it with their eyes closed. It takes us a few tries, and that adds to Mummy’s discomfort, which increases her yelling, which adds to our anxiety, which leads to emotional meltdowns on everyone’s part.
If our stress level was high before, it is now orbiting space. If we had a meltdown every month before, it’s almost on a daily basis at this point.
Amidst all of this, we cannot let this affect how we talk to and take care of Mummy. It just cannot be done. If we’re stressed out, if our insides might explode from anxiety, we still have to speak to Mummy in calm, soothing, reassuring tones, regardless of what’s going on with us.
However we were caring for Mummy before, it is all out the window now. She has new needs and a new routine. Her laundry is done separately, several times a day sometimes because of all the sheets, towels, gowns, linens, etc…her food is different, her tolerance for pain is lower….we have had to figure things out from scratch again, but we’re finally getting the swing of things now.
Since she doesn’t have that much time left, we do encourage those who wish to visit her do so before it’s too late. Anis always says do what you can now so that there are no regrets later.
However, if you are going to visit, there are some guidelines. Please note, these are general guidelines, these are not meant to offend anyone or cause tension or hurt. Please share it with family/friends who might visit. From talking with Papa and Anis, these are the guidelines we agree upon that are meant to make Mummy’s life and our life easier:
We have been taking care of Mummy for a year, we know what she likes, what she doesn’t, what works for her and what doesn’t. Please, please, please let us care for her the way we think is better for her. If we are trying to get her to do something, it’s not because we are trying to annoy her, it’s because through consultation with her doctors and nurses and her immediate family, we believe this to be the best thing for her. For someone to come once every few weeks, months, or whatever, and all of a sudden decide they know what is best for Mummy based on what she used to like just adds to our already high stress level. We are her caregivers, let us do our job the way we see fit. It’s not a power struggle, it’s what’s best for Mummy. We’re not just looking at her behavior for the two hours that you are there, we are looking at what her behavior has been all day and all week. If we think it’s time for Mummy to sleep, eat, sit, poop, whatever, we would appreciate it if you went along with our plan and not yours.
Again, this isn’t personal.
This is what we need to keep things flowing smooth, and would appreciate it if everyone was on board instead of wasting our energy trying to convince you what is best for Mummy. Our patience is thin, our stress is high, just work with us and we’ll appreciate it a whole lot more.