4.26.2016

New Beginnings

New Beginnings

I've been absent from my blog for some time now.  As many of my readers know, my Oma, (grandmother) was nearing the end of her life as she was 95-years-old.  This past holiday season things started to go downhill very quickly.  My mom and I noticed a steep decline after Thanksgiving.  After my uncle from Texas visited for Christmas, there was an even steeper decline in both the mental capacity and health of my Oma.

In early January, our family made arrangements with my Oma's doctor to have her enrolled in at-home hospice care.  She was, of course, admitted into hospice.  All of our lives changed that day.  From then on out, the time she needed from me for care increased exponentially day-by-day.  My Oma could no longer use her walker and we were moving her about the house in her transfer chair.  She also could no longer get up and toilet on her own and needed help being transferred to the bedside potty.  We were feeding her and each day it became more and more of a liquid and soft food diet as her dentures no longer fit well and because it became harder for her to swallow.  


The Vintage Wedding Layout that Almost Wasn't:  I made this layout for my Oma and Opa's wedding photo but I  almost didn't make this layout.  After a huge fight with my Oma, I threw the page in the trash.  The next day I fished it out of the trash to finish it.
The Vintage Wedding Layout that Almost Wasn't:  I made this layout for my Oma and Opa's wedding photo but I
almost didn't make this layout.  After a huge fight with my Oma, I threw the page in the trash.  The next day I
fished it out of the trash to finish it.  







There were several days where my mom had to come home early because my Oma was too afraid for me to leave her side and I couldn't take my dogs out to potty or even use the bathroom myself.  The hospice workers said to get rest when she slept but there were many times my Oma would fight nature and the meds and would stay awake out of fear.  I know she always wanted to go in her sleep and she was afraid that would be the last time she would see one of us.  

Her communication skills decreased and mostly became yes and no answers with few moments of lucidity and several word answers.  I finally figured out that she wasn't really afraid to die but to leave my mom, sister and I alone.  She was afraid that we still needed her, despite the numerous amount of times everyone had told her it was okay to go; that we would all be okay because we had each other.  She was always the typical stubborn Germanic woman.  

The last few days of her life consisted of baby food (we told her it was pureed fruits to spare her what little dignity she had left), glycerin swabs, popsicles, water and her favorite, beer.  This was on top of the round-the-clock medicine doses which all had to be given in liquid form.  We had to prep syringes of morphine and crush pills and use water to pick it up into syringes.  

On what was to be her last evening, the on-call nurse called to notify us that after looking at all that had happened in the last couple of days, that my Oma was now bed-bound.  But my Oma was proud and wouldn't use her Depends.  My mom had to run an errand after work and my Oma was fidgety.  I told her to use her Depends or she would have to wait until my mom got home as she was a 2 person lift now.  My Oma waited for my mom to come help and lift her to the bedside potty.  While we waited for my mom, my Oma talked about seeing her mother and her sister Edith, whom she had never mentioned seeing before.  I knew from this, that the end was even closer than we had originally thought. When my mom arrived home we got her to the bedside potty then fed her dinner, which was a popsicle, and then gave her some beer.  


My Oma meeting my puppy, Magnus, for the first time.  She couldn't understand why I wanted a second dog…but it was love at first sight!  She and Magnus bonded during the last couple months of her life; August 2014.
My Oma meeting my puppy, Magnus, for the first time.  She couldn't understand
why I wanted a second dog…but it was love at first sight!  She and Magnus bonded
during the last couple months of her life; August 2014.  

When my mom was giving her beer, my Oma had a lucid moment.  She pulled my mom's ear toward her mouth and whispered, "Please stay home from work tomorrow."  My mom of course agreed to honor her wish.  I remember my Oma falling asleep unusually fast not long after.  My Oma didn't wake at all during the night.  There had been a few nights where she tried to get out of bed about every minute or so and many nights where she woke every couple of hours.  

The next morning my mom and I were there to greet our normal Thursday/Friday morning caretaker, Berta.  I had promised Berta last week that I would be around the house just in case she needed help with anything.  Berta was surprised to see my mom.  After telling Berta about my Oma's request Berta laughed and said, "It would be so like Ruth to schedule her own death!"  We all laughed at that because it is definitely something my Oma would have done.  She was always a scheduler and planner.  "10:30, die, check!"  That was at about 8:30 in the morning on Thursday, February 11th.

That afternoon her nurse, Emily, called to see how things were going and to make arrangements for a medication delivery on Friday so we would have enough to get us through the weekend.  I remember my Oma making some noise through the baby monitor while my mom was on the phone but she seemed to finally quite and settle down.  After my was quiet, Berta went back to my Oma's room to move the chair she had pulled up to the bed to just sit next to my Oma while she slept because she realized we couldn't see my Oma on the baby monitor.  She came out of the room and called for my mom but since my mom was still on the phone, she waved her off.  I got up and went back to see what she needed.  The color had drained from Berta's face.  I knew something wasn't right so I went into my Oma's bedroom without asking.  I remember Berta saying something as I passed her but I don't know if Berta's words came out jumbled or if I just heard it jumbled.  My heart was pounding and it finally registered that Berta was saying, "Somethings not right" over and over again.  I watched my Oma's chest for a sign of breathing and saw none.  


My Oma proudly holding up her official White House greeting for her 95th birthday; July 2015.
My Oma proudly holding up her official White House
greeting for her 95th birthday; July 2015.
 
I ran out of the room and called my mom, very insistent that she needed to come down to Oma's bedroom.  Mom was about to hang up with Emily but  had her hang on because something was wrong.  For some reason, my mom handed me the phone when I met her halfway.  I remember saying something along the lines of, "This is ridiculous, just bring Emily with us, she's the nurse" and then realizing Emily was on the phone and amending my statement.


My mom looked at my Oma for a few seconds then said, "Oh my God, Emily.  My mother died while we were on the phone."  Emily said she was hanging up and coming out right away.  I had to gather myself to call my sister's work to let her know I was coming to get her.  That was 12:20 on Thursday, February 11th.  

The rest of that day was a whirlwind but I still felt like I was moving through thickened glue.  A few days later my uncle and aunt arrived from Texas to help start cleaning out the house for the next five days.  I remember hardly having time to grieve.  I was just thankful that my Oma and I had a chance to make amends before she left for her next life's journey.  

Two months later, with my Oma's ashes interred next to my Opa's coffin and life moving on, I began working on my resume.  I need a regular job again.  I returned to my gardening as spring had literally sprung in all of them and I continued packing up my Oma's house and my mom's house.  


My sister, Caitlin, sharing a special moment with our Oma not long after she was admitted into at-home hospice care.  This was about a month prior to her death on February 11, 2016.
My sister, Caitlin, sharing a special moment with our Oma not long after she was admitted into at-home hospice care.  This was about a month prior to her death on February 11, 2016.  

Yesterday, my band began prepping music for our summer concert series.  One of the concerts in the series is entitled "Night at the Symphony" and includes some band arrangements of, as I would refer to as, heavy hitters:  Tchaikovsky's Finale to Symphony No. 4, Gershwin's An American in Paris and Mozart's Overture to the Marriage of Figaro amongst other pieces.  But when we started practicing Strauss' An der Schönen, Blauen Donau (The Beautiful Blue Danube) I nearly broke down sobbing.  I just barley held it together…it was a lot harder than I thought it would be to hear and play the song that is so emblematic of my Oma's motherland, Austria.  

And so my grieving process continues.  I will have to prepare myself before the concert with this piece in June.  Listening to it on repeat should help.  I can hardly break down during a performance or mess up notes--especially on piccolo!  I've now gotten to the end of this post, only realizing I meant to say a quick "I will be back with regular posts soon" now that things have calmed down in my life.  Perhaps I needed this cathartic exercise.  Here is to my new beginnings!  

Adrienne