Dolores L Aber
September 4, 1935 – May 18, 2015
This is probably the hardest thing I have ever written.
Our journey together is something I will hold in my heart, with my memories of her forever.
If you follow my blog, you know I stepped away for a while to be with my mother. She took a turn for the worst in December and things progressively went downhill from there. It’s been a very difficult time.
Mom left us on May 18, 2015, she was 79 years old. I thought I was ready. I watched her decline for years. I prayed every day for the last 5 years that God would take her peacefully and painlessly in her sleep like my father and my brother. That wasn’t his plan. My mother suffered, she had many many heartbreaks and devastating loss in her life. So many health issues and years of chronic pain. She’s at peace now and I am so grateful for that. God had a plan for her. It wasn’t mine. I couldn’t control it no matter how hard I tried. My heart is broken and my entire life has changed. You see, I have been her primary caregiver for 16 years, my sister and brother helped, but it was mostly me. I don’t know what to do with myself. I am lost. I am trying to find a new “normal”.
Mom came to live with me nearly 16 years ago with a multitude of health issues that, naively, I thought I could fix. My amazing husband saw how things were going and suggested we sell our home and purchase a bigger house and move Mom in with us. I was able to give my mom nearly 16 years of love, care and companionship. It was frustrating at times, but it was a gift. She got to see the births of 2 more grandsons. She loved-on and enjoyed a step-great grandson and the births of four beautiful great-grandchildren who she saw on a daily basis and who showered her with love. She had constant, meaningful relationships with her children, grandchildren (and all of their friends) and great-grandchildren and extended family. She had a constant stream of children, friends and family showing her love that she would not have had if she had lived on her own. It was a good move–I was able to take care of her as her health slowly failed and she was surrounded by all the people she loved most. She was rarely alone! She was entertained–when you can’t get around and are a captive audience children come up with all kinds of entertainment! She was cared for and loved. So much.
The last 5 years had been the most difficult for her. She had a wealth of issues-diabetes, heart disease, congestive heart failure and COPD, severe painful arthritis throughout her body, and spinal stenosis among other things. She was in constant, chronic pain. Over the last two years hospital visits became more frequent and longer. But, through all of the sickness, she ALWAYS wore a smile, rarely complained, and ALWAYS took care of how she looked. My mom was beautiful and took pride in looking her best. She would wake up from anesthesia and look at me through blurry eyes and say “Karen, get me my earrings and lipstick”! No kidding, she really did!
She had a sense of humor too, albeit a bit twisted.
For instance, my father died in 1972, they had just celebrated their 18th anniversary. He was 41, Mom was only 36 and left with 4 children–I was 15, Rob was 13, Lynda was 11 and Harry was only 1 year old. (We always joke that Harry was a mistake and that he has an IUD somewhere in his head! The sick sense of humor is clearly genetic.) She used to go to the cemetery and yell at Dad– “I can’t believe you left me alone with all of these kids!” She went on one date about 4 years after Daddy died and decided that Daddy was all she every needed and never dated again! Her children and family and close friends were her life.
Anyhow, a couple of years later, while shopping for a prom gown, we passed the cemetery where my Dad is buried. She turned to me and said:
“You know, Daddy and I would be married 20 years this fall. I want to have a party!” I was kind of shocked and just nodded my head (in disbelief)! Then she says “I want a dance floor and a band. It will be catered under a big tent–and we should have it at the cemetery because, after all, it’s your father’s anniversary too and he should be there!”
I honestly didn’t know what to do.
I seriously thought she was losing her mind?!
Until I really looked at her and realized she was kidding. She had me for a second, she really did!
Another story that comes to mind is when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter Katelyn, I learned that I had Type “A” blood. I stopped by Mom’s on the way home and this is how the conversation went:
Me: “I have Type “A” blood. Do you have Type A?”
Mom: “No, I’m Type O”.
Me: “Then Daddy had Type “A”?”
Mom: “No, he was “O” too”.
Me: “Do two “O’s” make an “A”?”
Mom: ” I don’t think so.”
and she became very thoughtful for a minute and stated very seriously
“Maybe your father was fooling around!”
It’s been a running joke for over 37 years. I would ask her to tell me who my birth parents were! She would answer, not today Karen. She was really funny. I never did find out Daddy’s blood type!
A few years back Mom had lung cancer. She had surgery and radiation and came out totally cancer free. She was a fighter for sure. Anyway, my sister and I were taking her to the oncologist for her first post-surgery appointment. In the car she was telling us to “behave”, this is a serious place with very sick people. (Mind you were were both in our 50’s) No joking around! We get into the exam room and the young doctor comes in and goes over everything with us. He looks at mom, sitting all pretty in her “mu-mu” type dress and says “I want to listen to your lungs–should I go down the top or up the bottom of your dress!” I swear on my grandchildren–mom looks at him, totally straight-faced and in her best Tracey Ullman voice says:
“I have no panties!”
If you don’t get this google it! I thought I was going to die, my sister and I were on the floor hysterical. The poor doctor was red as a beet, clearly having no idea what she was referring too! (I did explain it to him when I was able to compose myself.) She did things like that all the time! We laughed a lot together and I am so grateful for that. By the way, she certainly did have panties on!
I made Mom’s health and care my number one priority when she came to live with us in 1998. I made sure she had her medications, the right diet, took her to her doctor appointments, treatments and that all of her needs were met. We had a sort of schedule, a rhythm to our day. It was easy. We were so close and together so much I could anticipate what she wanted before she asked. She swore I could read her mind. She had great difficulty standing and walking from the pain she experienced and it was very hard for her to get around. I was her caregiver, her nurse, whatever she needed me to be–that was my job. I don’t regret a minute of it.
Her last month was extremely difficult . In the last week or so she was in pain and they were having difficulty getting it under control. She had been on narcotic pain medication for years and the medications they were giving her weren’t cutting the pain. I was her advocate, I was in charge. It was the worst experience in my life, she was suffering and I couldn’t fix it. I raised hell until they made sure she was comfortable and pain free. She tried not to show her pain, but I knew her so well I could tell just by looking into her eyes. She couldn’t hide anything from me. She was dying, she knew it, I knew it, the doctors knew it. Give her what she needed to be pain-free. What was it going to do, kill her? If God wanted her to be here no amount of medication would change that. I screamed at God to stop her pain. It wasn’t fair. It shouldn’t be this way. Finally, they were able to give her relief. Her last couple of days were peaceful.
I woke up at 6:48 on May 18th.
I poured my coffee and was thinking about my task for the day. My sister was going to be with mom, while my brother and I were going to pre-pay and plan her funeral. At that point we were getting her switched to medicaid in order for her nursing home/hospice fees to be paid and it was something that was required. At 7 am the phone rang. The nurse said, “Dolores expired at 6:48” the exact moment that I woke up and looked at the clock. I woke my sister (she was staying with me through this so she didn’t have to be alone) and called my brother and we went to the nursing home to see her one last time. When we got there I asked the nurse if she was alone. I didn’t want her to be alone. It killed me to leave her at night because I was afraid the pain would start again and no one would be with her to know and fix it. She said “No, the hospice nurses and I had just finished getting her ready for the day, washed and dressed, clean bedding etc.” The Hospice aid had applied her makeup and brushed her hair, put on her scented lotion and lipstick. Her nurse Patti tucked her in, gave her her medication, kissed her on the head and went to adjust her pillow and she just “quietly and peacefully left”. I remember thinking “She was all dolled up and ready to see Daddy and Rob”. So peaceful after all that suffering. Thank You God! We said our goodbyes and left there feeling numb and empty.
An hour or so later, I received a phone call from a dear, dear friend, a counselor who had helped me deal with panic attacks years before. Someone I love and have a strong “connection”with. I call her my Angel on Earth. She laughed as I answered the phone, stating “Karen, I woke up at 6:48 this morning with your name on my lips! I never wake up that early. I want to come to the nursing home and sit with you and mom today!” I told her that mom had passed at 6:48 that morning!
There are no coincidences!
Mom told me that this past Christmas would be her last. She knew it and so did I. It was the worst Christmas of my life and a very special one too. We had the important “talks”. Nothing was left unsaid. I am so grateful for that. I didn’t have that with my father and brother, they left us quickly and unexpectedly. I thought I was prepared for this. I wasn’t and I’m not.
I did my best for her. I have no regrets.
I gave Mom my all. She’s gone to be with Our Lord. She is reunited with the only man she every loved, as well as my brother Rob (passed in 2006) and her brothers and parents. When I think of them together I can’t help but smile. I’m so happy for her!
My heart is broken for me, for the people who loved her and miss her here.
Everywhere I look, I see her. Everything reminds me of her. Sometimes it makes me happy, other times it’s like a punch in the stomach. I need to find a new normal. Just getting up in the morning without her is hard. My routine is smashed to pieces. I didn’t realize how much of my life revolved around moms wants and needs.
I’m lost. I miss her.
I love you Mom, so much!
I can still hear her say “I love you more!”