I was re-reading my journal the other night, recapping life since May 2014 (when I started this particular volume).

On December 10th I had written, “Mom’s (my mother in law’s) hip surgery is today.  Life as you know it will stop.” I have no idea why I wrote that other than I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit.

My mother in law is (or was) 94 years old and has lived with us since January of 2007. She was diagnosed with vascular dementia last summer, prompting us to hire a part time caregiver for her.
(When I say she lives with us, she actually had her own space in a finished 1 bedroom apartment downstairs–kitchen and the whole thing.)

After her diagnosis, she continued a steady decline. In September she took a fall, leaving her with a nasty cut and a bump on her head.  Said fall only aggravated an already repaired broken bone from LAST summer and led to this second surgery because of the deterioration in the hip joint.

Life didn’t exactly stop on December 10th–it went into excruciating slow motion, squeezing out all the rest of What One Normally Does during this season of the year.  

Mom’s (I called her mom) recuperation after surgery dragged on past the normal 3 days, as she decided not to eat.  On Day 4, I called my husband’s sister in New York, desperate and worn out–dealing with daily visits to the hospital, working my subbing job as a teacher and trying to support my stressed out husband was leaving me in a very needy state.

My sister in law (newly retired, thank you God!)  listened to me pour out my frustration and called us the following morning to say she’d be here in Seattle the next day. I broke down in tears from the relief.

With Jo’s arrival Mom seemed to rebound. She made the move into Rehab care and Jo took up the daughterly role of encouraging her and advocating for her. There were small victories each few days.

Still there was nothing normal about this season. I didn’t put a Christmas tree up, but we did go to Goodwill and get a ‘senior tree’ for the living room (which I took down 2 days ago).
We didn’t decorate our house, but we decorated Mom’s room at the Rehab–hanging lights, a wreath, Christmas cards, the whole shebang. People loved visiting her room!

We spent Christmas Day in the Rec Room at the rehab facility and a week later, with Mom safe and cared for on New Year’s Eve, we sat exhausted on our family room couch watching the ball fall down in Times Square.

Then–Happy New Year!–the caregivers called us New Year’s morning at 6 to say that mom had fallen in the early morning. She forgot she’d had surgery and left her walker behind as she made an attempt to go to the bathroom.

That was the beginning of the end, really.  Back to the hospital and an agonizing 36 hours of decisions. There were two choices: surgery and ANOTHER 6 weeks, not just of rehabilitation, but complete immobility, plus significant pain.
We could choose that course or we could choose……well, to do nothing. 

Mom had already decided to stop eating once again, had told us for months she was ready to go be with Jesus.  She had a heart condition, a mild infection, many things that could well, take her life essentially, in 2 -3 weeks.

We spoke with her Physician, consulted the surgeon, talked with the hospital floor doctor.  We questioned our pastor–are we playing God by deciding to essentially let her die? Is that a godly decision?  

The most difficult time came in the hospital’s Family Room, a private space for relatives, where we sat and prayed and cried together–my husband, his sister and I, as we sought the Lord for what to do.
We decided to sleep on it and the next morning decided the ‘let her go’ choice was best.

The course we had chosen–‘Comfort Care’–provided time for family to come and say their good byes, for relatives to reconnect and for small miracles of God’s timing and presence to permeate each day. 

We were able to change her needs to hospice care and brought her home, where she passed away peacefully on January 19th.

Although Mom lived for four weeks after my sister in law first arrived, it seems like it has been much, much longer.  There had been so much activity family and friend-wise, not in a way that my life ‘stopped’ per se, but in a way that it signalled the end of one season and the beginning of another. Definitely a transition time: painful and messy, but there’s a wonderful new ‘something’ on the other side.

The most significant change would be our living conditions. My husband and I have had either my son and his family or my mother and father in law living downstairs for OVER 14 YEARS……that’s a long time.
I can’t even remember what it was like to not have someone else in our home….sharing the laundry room, stealing my newspaper (smile) or playing the TV too loud.  

My sister in law returns to New York in a few days (thank God for her! a thousand times over). I’m so grateful that she’s been downstairs, easing us into the loss by her presence.
We will miss her, but frankly, I look forward to having my house (and my husband) all to myself again. 

Now that I think about it, I guess my journal notes were prophetic.  
Life as I know it DID stop, but as sure as the birch tree is beginning to bud, new life is coming. 

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