My mother’s moving soon. Before my next column. So I need to say what I need to say here this week. I’m proud of her. Very proud.
She’s been struggling for the last couple of years since my father died. They had been together for over 50 years and even though he hadn’t been healthy for quite a few of them, we were all a little shocked with how quickly he left us.
It just happened one night. He suffered massive internal bleeding at home and was rushed to the hospital at 3 a.m. They stabilized him in the emergency room, and it looked like they were going to be able to patch him up once again, as they had several times before.
And after being poked and prodded for a few hours, as was my father’s way, he apologized to my mother for the mess he made in the house (he had vomited quite a bit of blood). That was what he thought was important at that moment. He then told her she needed to go home for a little bit and make sure the dogs were okay (the entire event had scared them quite a bit). Then he fell asleep.
After my mother left for home, the hospital staff attempted to dialyze my father. It was a very bad decision. He “crashed” during the dialysis session and slipped into unconsciousness. A lot more tests were taken, and as the results came back, the doctors realized the extent of his injuries. As often happens with dialysis patients, the vascular system eventually wears out. Sometimes it can be turned around. But not in my dad’s case.
As my mother stepped off of the elevator to come back to see how my father was doing, she ran into his primary physician, who told her she needed to make some tough decisions.
He told her what had happened and that there really was no way they would be able to help my father this time around. He suggested that my father only receive palliative care and then be moved to the hospice unit where he could be cared for until he let go.
My dad had already signed “Do Not Resuscitate” orders a few weeks earlier at the dialysis center that he went to. He sensed the end for him was coming. And while his decision gives us all some comfort now, accepting it was very painful for us at the time. Most of all for my mother. She was there in Florida alone, I was here and my brother was in North Carolina.
So after 54 years of life with her high school sweetheart, she let him make the final decision and agreed to what the doctors had suggested. I can’t imagine what that felt like. My brother and I were spared the decision making process. We only managed
to get there (me with Codie in tow to meet her future father-in-law for the first and last time) a few hours before he passed away.
My mother has lived with the decision to let him go peacefully for just over two years now. I know it still haunts her. She still questions if she made the right decision. She did. I say that as a medical professional and as a son. He had been fighting to stay in this life for a long time, just for the family. He deserved to make the final choice on this.
I’m proud of her for making that decision back then. But it’s not what is making me proud of her today. As I said in my first paragraph, she is moving soon. It’s her second move since my father died. She moved last year from the house she lived in with my father and from the neighborhood they both loved. Being there without him brought her pain every day. So at the urging of my brother and I, she moved to the other end of the town they lived in. She did it on her own and sucked it up and made the best of it.
She had always been the more headstrong of the two of them, but after his death, she crumpled into herself. She struggled through each day because she still had just enough spirit to refuse to give up. But I know it took everything she had.
Over the last year she has faced a lot of challenges with her “new life.” And she has persevered and slowly learned to start to live looking forward and not backward. Not completely, but enough.
Now fate has intervened and given her a chance to sell her home “on the other side of town,” and to move back to her old neighborhood (within a few blocks of it anyway). She’ll be going back as a different person, and alone, but she can now see friends again without breaking into tears. She’ll be in a different house, with the same two little dogs. She’ll get some of the familiarity of the area back to help comfort her. She’s excited to start living again. More often than not, she sounds happy now when I call her.
She’ll never “get over” my father, or “move on.” And I know she’ll never remarry. But she is moving forward. And that’s okay.
And that’s what makes me so proud of her now.
This is the first time I’ve shared this story with anyone. It’s been harder for me to write than I thought it would be. I know many of you have been through the same type of life events that I’ve described here. Some in the first person; not the second like me.
Keep moving forward. And be proud of yourself for it. Because you should be.