Since I last posted in this blog, life has changed forever for our family. My mom, Meredith MacEachern, died on September 28 after being sick for about two months.
When we arrived in PEI in early August for our usual summer visit, Mom was not well. She described it as a kind of physical and mental collapse all at the same time: she was lethargic, sleepy, emotionally blah, and lacking in appetite; she had gastrointestinal issues and a gross phlegmy taste in her mouth that actually bothered her more than almost all the other things she was feeling.
At first we hoped it might just be a minor problem: a virus or infection, maybe, or stress over apartment-hunting and the prospect of her and Dad moving off the farm -- something that time or antibiotics or a change in circumstances would alleviate. But day after day she got worse until she was sleeping 20 hours a day and eating almost nothing. Because Mom's own doctor was on vacation, we took her to the Emergency department twice; the second time, August 16, she was admitted to hospital where she would spend the next four weeks. Soon after her admission, blood work revealed that she had high calcium levels in her blood, which had been the likely cause of all her symptoms and which the doctor told us could very well be an indicator of cancer -- and a CAT scan soon revealed that Mom had stage 4 liver cancer, inoperable and incurable.
During the last couple of weeks of Mom's hospitalization, she rallied somewhat, as treatment with fluids and meds brought the calcium down and revived her appetite. In early September she was strong enough to get around with a walker and was able to move home to her and Dad's new apartment and have some brief quality time there. But her condition quickly started regressing, and the night of Sept. 28 -- about 18 hours after I'd said goodbye to her before flying home -- she died while asleep in bed with Dad.
There are many more details I could include, and probably will in future posts, as I reflect more on all that has happened. The paragraphs above certainly don't do justice to all we saw and heard and did and felt since August. But today I will just share a few things for which I'm grateful:
- Mom never experienced any physical pain or, it seemed, much mental suffering either. She was peaceful through everything. She went "gentle into that good night"; not everyone does.
- There was enough time for her and Dad to discuss the future, prepare themselves as much as possible for what was coming, even settle funeral details.
- The doctors, nurses, and other medical staff we met through the hospital and Home Care and Palliative Care programs were uniformly helpful, kind, supportive, and professional.
- Church friends, family, and neighbours (even people in Dad and Mom's apartment building who had only known them for a week or two) showered us with care, concern, and practical help.
- My brothers (I have 4) and I all had our own periods of quality time with Mom and Dad and were able to be present at important parts of the journey: I was there for the early crisis time when Mom was hospitalized and then for her final week of life; in a six-week period one brother made four trips from Maine to PEI to provide support at key times; another orchestrated the move from the farm to the apartment; another was there for Mom's discharge from hospital and early days at home; etc.
- From my dad, brothers, and other people I witnessed love in action: love that costs and requires sacrifice, not just nice-sounding words.
Especially in these early days, it's comforting to draw on memories that are suffused with gratitude and grace, rather than riddled with regrets. There will undoubtedly be other stages to come -- but for now I feel thankful for how we were given strength and spirit to get through this time.
Mom photo: Richard Prinsen 2012
tree photo: freeimages.co.uk
tree photo: freeimages.co.uk