Mom's Journey Blog

My Mom's Final Days on Earth

 

This blog post is the last chapter of the book my mom mom was writing on her life so that we could have some memories of her and my dad. she told me that if she didn’t finish writing the book, that I was to do so. 

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First of all, a reminder to everyone reading this book: God didn't design our parents to live on this earth with us forever - He gave them to us to care for us when we are born and as we are growing up, and to help prepare us for life, independently of them (and that is just one of the tasks God has for them). Once their work is done, they deserve the rest for a job well done. Now both my parents are enjoying that wonderful eternal rest in the presence of the Lord. No better place to retire; better than any resort on earth!

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After what was supposed to be a minor surgery under her eye in October of 2015, there were many complications. Arlene’s health quickly started spiraling down. Her immune system got shot way down and she started getting infection after infection. She recovered pretty well after her first stay in the hospital and then several weeks St Elizabeth rehabilitation center, but not completely. Her legs were still very weak and she kept on getting gastrointestinal infections for which they prescribed all different kinds of antibiotics. Her body got extremely weak and fragile.

 

She was able to live in her apartment at Emerald Court for a little while, but ended up needing more help at night, and then also during the day. She got to attend Easter breakfast and church service with me and my family at Our Redeemer Lutheran church, but for three weeks she needed a lot of help; she was no longer able to live on her own. She started with just help at night, and then ended up needed help 24 hours a day. The third Sunday after Easter, she slept all day. Her caregiver called my brother John and told him and also said she had developed a cough. He let James and I know by text and said he was heading over there. I left the house right away and when I got there, John had called 911 and had her taken to the hospital to be checked out. She got much weaker there and we thought that was to be the end.

 

A few days after being in the hospital, during one of my daily morning visits, she told me of a dream she had that night. She said that in that dream she heard someone say that she had been chosen to live, to which she replied with a sour look on her face, “Why me?” That was the end of her dream. The question was never answered but she accepted the fact that she was to live, not knowing how much longer, but told the Lord and everyone else that she was ready to go to heaven whenever the Lord wanted to take her to her eternal home. I can picture her singing the last verse of “How Great Thou Art”, which says: “When Christ shall come in shouts of acclamation and take me home, what JOY shall fill my heart; then I shall bow in humble adoration and there proclaim ‘My God, how great though art’.” She truly yearned for that day! A few days later she was released to a rehab center because the hospital felt there wasn’t anything else they could do for her there.

 

At Park Regency rehab center, mom slowly recovered for a little while. She got to enjoy a whole week with her sister Georgia, who flew in from Africa to visit her. They laughed, talked, ate strawberries, and reminisced about the days when they were little girls. A few weeks later, some of her friends from her missionary days in Colombia came down from Canada – Alicia (Morck) and her husband Max. They spent the week in California and visited her every day, reminiscing good times and singing songs she enjoyed. Her sister Sherry called every morning on my cell phone, taking advantage of my daily morning visits,, and was thrilled every time mom’s voice was strong enough and they could talk for a while; sometimes it was a whole 5 to 10 minutes, but most times only a minute or two, many times in a mumbled voice. At those times, I would talk to her let her know how she was doing.

 

She was in Park Regency for five weeks, almost six. The bedsore on her back got worse – they couldn’t get it down from stage three– and she developed sores on both of her legs. Her entire body was chronically inflamed – legs and stomach especially. She could not control her bowels or urine flow at all and needed to be turned every two hours to change position and to check to see if needed changing. She hated that! Plus, it hurt her a lot when she was turned; she didn’t feel safe and she said some of the people that turned her were very rough with her. There were days that she could eat on her own, but most days she needed help with eating and drinking. Her favorite meal was breakfast, and she said the rest didn’t really taste that good to her. Finally, he doctor in charge of her at Park Regency said they felt that the intervention they were giving her was not  helping and that he recommend that we put her on hospice so she could get the rest her body needed. That is what we tried to do, but it was a lot more complicated than we thought it would be. Even though the doctors had said she needed rest, she was still woken up every two hours and it got to the point when I would come in the mornings and when I first talked to her she would have this sour look on her face and say “Now what???” I would let her know it was me, she looked intently at my face trying to focus, then smiled and said “Oh, so it is. I’m glad you are here!”

 

I would come every morning at 6:30 to be with her for breakfast and stay there at least until 9 or 9:30, but sometimes it was until 10 or 11. We would read her devotional, but she was no longer able to write in her book; her eyes were getting worse and worse every day, so she would on occasion have me write in it, but mostly we just read and they she would pray. She no longer desired to play Scrabble, her favorite game, which we had gotten into the habit of playing in English, Latvian and Spanish every week. I would just help her feel comfortable and peaceful, which is what I felt the Lord wanted me to do. My brother John would visit her in the evenings and my brother Jim would fly in from Colorado any chance he could, sometimes alone, and sometimes with his wife and daughter.

 

Looking back now, the last month or so of my mom’s life was just granted to us on his “permissible will” because we could not let her go emotionally. There was a lot of strife as to what was the best way to care for her, prolonging her life here on earth, when it was obvious that her life was torturous and her days were endless while in the rehab center. My mom never desired her life to be prolonged and every day in her prayers she said she was ready to go whenever he wanted to take her. Finally, the Lord had to remove all of us and allowed only John to remain with her and be with her during her final hours. He wisely chose not to have an IV stuck in her arm and allowed her to go where she desired all along – to heaven. He thanked her for all she had done for us and accepted God’s will. She was taken May 17th, the day I was celebrating my husband’s and my anniversary; we had taken a 4-day cruise a couple of days before her death, though part of me did not want to go. I know God removed me for a reason.

 

One major thing I have learned during this time of mourning is that God always knows best. Sometimes things happen in his “permissible will”, but that usually only happens when we just can’t immediately accept His “perfect will”. It’s important that we learn to accept His perfect will as soon as possible, though. In the long run we will actually be saved from a lot of suffering, and save others from the same.

 

I don’t know if my mom is still resting, or if she is enjoying walks with my dad again, and singing in the heavenly choir or with a bunch of little kids, but I know that she is happy. She is in the place she desired to be for weeks before the Lord chose to finally take her! As I said at the beginning of this chapter - God didn't design our parents to live on this earth with us forever - He gave them to us to care for us when we are born and as we are growing up, and to prepare us for life, independently of them. Once their work is done, they deserve the rest for a job well done. There is no better place to retire!

 

My mom wanted to be cremated and my brothers and I honored her wishes. When I got back from the cruise on Thursday morning, I called my pastor and he agreed to meet up with us that afternoon. We set the Memorial Service for two days from them – Saturday, May 21st, at 3 p.m – which was to be a celebration of her life here on earth. We had a final viewing of her body on Thursday, before the cremation took place the next day; there was no longer any inflammation of her body. John and James picked up the ashes the next day, along with James’s wife Cristina, and brought them over to the church. Several people attended the service, more than we thought would attend, actually, and all went very well. James and I sang a song – “Nearer, Oh God, to Thee” – and John played the piano. My son 16 year old son sang and played a song in her honor with the guitar. Each of us gave a little speech, in order of age, and the pastor gave a short encouraging sermon. We took her ashes up to deserted area in a park in Orange on Sunday evening, at 7 p.m. A friend of John’s, who is a manager of that park and was honored to help us out in this way, took up us up in his truck before sunset. The way up was absolutely gorgeous – it reminded me of the mountains in Colombia, on the way up to the little cities called Socota and El Cocuy, which my mom enjoyed visiting when she lived in Colombia. After about a 30-minute drive up on the bumpy road, we got out and went up on some rocks, facing the sunset. John gave each had a cup with some of the ashes and, when we all had some, we let them fall out into the wind. We finished right when the sun set, a beautiful imagery of my mom’s life ending, but yet rising in a different place.

 

Mom will be missed immensely (just as my dad has been missed) by people all over the world who were privileged to get to know her – not only her family. However, we know that God will continue to fill us with the peace and strength we need to continue the journey without her, until the day the rest of us get to go to our home in heaven as well. What a wonderful reunion that will be! May God keep us in His love and peace until that day arrives.