Hospice. Stunned. Expected.

This is my mom as a little girl in New Zealand. Next month, she will be 91 years old. I am praying she makes it to her birthday. I have shared with you all about our journey with mom and her Alzheimer’s disease. It really is the long goodbye, and there are some awful moments. But there is joy along the way as well. We have spent some horribly tearful moments with mom, but we have also had ooodles of laughter. She is beloved by all that come in contact with her. Below is mom with my younger brother. They laughed and laughed.

Mom loves her kids and grandkids, and the great-grandkids. She had a way of making you feel like the most important person in the room. And to her, at that moment, you were. When she visited for the first time in Alaska, our oldest son’s children were little. Like 3 and 1, I think. She would get down on the floor and play cars or whatever it was they were doing. I loved watching her do that. And the kids were loving it, too. She always is smiling and never wants to be a bother to anyone. And since I am her only daughter, she loved to help me in the kitchen. (Which I found funny, because I was not allowed in hers!) We spent many happy hours washing dishes and gabbing. It took me back to when I was a child and we would clean up after family meals at my grandma’s house, and all the female family members pitched in and washed and dried all the dishes – those were the days before dishwashers – and I loved seeing all the towels hanging around the kitchen, draped over the oven, counters, sink. It warms my heart. And mom and I re-created some of that with just the two of us. I smile when I think of it.

Mom’s friend, Jeannie, sent me this photo above and I just love it. It is of mom and her husband, Frank. It is the last time the four of them were together. And they look so good. I miss Frank a lot. He was such a joy in our lives, and mom misses him every day. In the hospital, she kept thinking the people walking into her room were Frank and she would say, “Frank, darling, is that you?” Breaks my heart!!

Back in June, mom fell and broke her hip. She had surgery and recovered so fast, we hardly knew it had even happened (we know she did not know it happened!! ). She had been doing so well, we had to place alarms by her bed and chair. She refused to stay down for more than 15 minutes day and night. It was disconcerting. She thought she was about 40, in her mind, and 40-year-old’s do not use walkers! And so, like we were afraid of, mom fell again and this time broke her opposite hip. She underwent surgery for the second time in 4 months. She now has, what the doctors called, “a matched set.” She has no idea she broke anything, just like the last time. Only this time, she is not progressing. And so today, we moved her back to her assisted living home, under the care of a hospice team. It is devastating, but I expected it long before this. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

Hospice in the age of Covid and governmental oversight is a new and tricky endeavor. Each state, each city, has precepts in place, as well as CDC guidelines. (To be clear – there are no LAWS. Just governances and statutes, precepts and guidelines. But no LAWS). To say it nicely, the elderly under hospice often die alone, with no one from their family allowed to be present. Some states are allowing, under a case-by-case basis, family members to come in. It is usually only 1 person, and it is the same person each time. It is cruel. And I officially hate this entire journey with this ugly virus around. Alzheimer’s is bad enough, let alone adding Covid to the mix. To my way of thinking, I can’t make mom any worse than she already is, considering she is on hospice care. And no one can be in an assisted living home unless they test negative for Covid, or are screened. (Perhaps NY is an exception??). For me, I believe I am healthy enough to be with my mom, and she is certainly no danger to me. So I am very frustrated. To say the least.

One of the best things I did for myself and my mom, to prepare for her living with us, was to take advantage of the resources I had. And one of the best, hands down, is Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska. Honestly, they are the nicest group of people who go out of their way to assist you in any way they can. You are able to walk into their offices, plop down into a chair, and bawl your eyes out if you need to. They even provide tissues and a hot cup of coffee, along with an experienced shoulder to cry on. (I also did that when I was tackling Medicare “everything” for my mom – only this time I went to Links of Alaska. I also got coffee and tissue! They helped me get through stupid amounts of paperwork, and they also made sure mom got all the assistance she was entitled to. They are amazing, and coordinating benefits is what they do best!!) At ARA, I took their in-person courses as well as their online offerings. And truly, I would not be able to handle everything I have in front of me, nor the journey thus far, without their input and instructions. I read what they suggested I read. I devoured everything I could about Alzheimer’s because I was about to become my mom’s caregiver, her voice, her protection, and her resource for everything. And trust me, it is nothing like becoming a foster parent or adopting a baby, because I have done both of those things, too. The staff gives you their personal cell numbers. They expect and encourage you to call anytime with questions or problems you need help getting through. They also provide a Care Coordinator, who works with the state and the federal governments, assisting families to ensure their loved one receives all the benefits and care they are entitled to. A wonderful, comforting group of people.

When you take on someone who has lived on their own for decades, and you try and assist them, it can be rough. In addition, when it is caught early, they understand their diagnosis. Mom knew what she had and told me she hated it. She has no clue now, but that has taken 10 years. It has been the past three years that she has been my sole concern. It is not easy. Not everyone can do it. I lasted almost two years before we placed her in an assisted living home. I tried but we did not work well as mother-daughter when it was all turned around. I think deep down she expected that she would care for me, and in her home, not the complete opposite. But now I am at arms-length because of Covid. And that hurts, it really does. The one thing I can be, and enjoy fully, is her daughter. Thankfully, through everything I learned through ARA, I was ready for today. I understood what mom wanted and how she wanted her last days to go. And I am keeping that promise to her. We had a day of lucidity several years ago and I am so grateful I had the courage to ask the tough questions. Because I was encouraged by ARA to ask the hard questions and to delineate all my mom’s wants, desires, and needs. We processed all the needed paperwork early and every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed and it’s notarized to boot!

I hate that this is the most recent photo of me and mom – masks! Ugh! Anyway, she fell just two days later. So you never know when you will need all the things that you need, until you need them. I made copies upon copies of every piece of paper we signed. I have file folders and clipped ID cards. I have files for Power of Attorney, and for medical information, for her burial/cremation, for her DNR/Comfort Care. There are copies for every bill we paid and every doctor we visited. I have copies of her information on file with all the EMTs and ER Hospitals in the area. It makes handling an emergency with a loved one so simple. All the local hospitals have all her records. They share back and forth and so it makes medical history so easy. All her medications are listed in one place (well, she only takes one medication and vitamins, so it is pretty easy!) for easy reference. You especially want that in case giving your loved one medication in the ambulance or ER may interact unfavorably with a prescription. And I have all the local pharmacies we can use, familiar with her information, as well. And I learned all this preparedness through studying and taking courses with Alzheimer’s Resource Alaska. I am sure there are agencies like it where you live. I also used LINKS Resource Center here in AK, as well. They both excel at what they do!!

My advice? Be prepared. Be over-prepared. Because when an emergency strikes, it conjures up all these emotions and we often do not think clearly. I was so grateful I just had to reach for a piece of paper in a familiar file folder – neatly labeled where I could easily see it. And with all mom’s information already on file, treating her in a timely matter was easy. And the hospital staff appreciated having her medical history at their fingertips. In addition I was sure all the agencies had my information readily available with current phone numbers, email address, and my POA paperwork on hand.

Mom is entering something new. She will be cared for, I am certain of that. She will be pain-free, I am also certain of that. And she will be lovingly walked through this next phase of life. And I am free to be her daughter, just the way it is supposed be. Please keep us in prayer!

Prayer for the Terminally Ill

Lord, Jesus Christ, Who suffered and died for our sins that we may live, if during our time we have sinned in word, deed, or thought, forgive us in Your goodness and love. All our hope we put in You: protect your servant, Maureen, from all evil. We submit to Your will and into Your hands we commend our souls and bodies. For a Christian end to our lives, peaceful, without shame and suffering, and for a good account before the awesome judgement seat of Christ, we pray to You, O Lord. Bless us, be merciful to us and grant us life eternal. Amen.

“Don’t want to beat a dead horse…”

I have had an interesting past couple of months. I had injured my back and my shoulder, simultaneously it turns out, and began visiting a chiropractor, who referred me to my personal doctor, who referred me to a neurosurgeon, who in turn referred me to a pain management physician. Whew. Lots of referrals. And last Friday I was given injections directly into my spine to try and ease the pain. I was scared to death, because I faint when I get shots. So one in my spine was scaring the poop out of me. I must admit I was being a baby. But this stupid dance with 24/7 pain for the past 8 weeks, has been one filled with (if I can carry the analogy even further) trips and stumbles, and very little harmony or joy. At least the neurosurgeon did say that nerve pain is far worse than giving birth. I think I would agree, since when I did give birth, it was done without even Tylenol. And so I felt acknowledged and that was comfort in and of itself. And although Friday was not a fun day, especially when the lidocaine wore off, by Saturday afternoon, I was pain free. For the first time in more than 70 days. And trust me, I am extremely grateful.

I was introduced to this “attitude of gratitude” idea a few years ago. I was challenged to keep a Gratitude Journal for 40 days. I would wake and say my prayers, and then immediately express my gratitude for whatever was in front of me, good or difficult, for that day. It was a struggle, day after day, to start with a thankful attitude. But what it did for me, well, it changed me. Because I learned to be grateful for the blessings, but also the opportunities to learn to feel thankful for the trials in my life. It is a big adjustment.

Each season, I drag out this box that barely fits under our bed, filled with seasonal decor. I have something for each “Hallmark Holiday” we have throughout the year. There are stickers or clings for my windows, different placemats I put on our side tables, little statues or signs. Even wreaths for different seasons for our door, and flags for the little flag display in our front flowerbed. And I keep specific things in my cupboards above my washer and dryer (I am vertically challenged and they are way too tall to use regularly) that won’t fit under my bed. As I hauled down my paper mâché turkey for our table, and my pretend tiny pumpkins for my little crystal bowl, I found this banner I had bought a couple of years ago. It is made of balsa wood and is colored in fall colors. It’s made of little leaves strung together on twine, separated by letters. And this year I thought to myself, I want this above our fireplace/TV area. It is where I would look at it every day. At the time, I was facing surgery for both my spine and shoulder. And I was frightened. But I wanted to remind myself that even in the worst of times, we need to be grateful, and we need to subsume our will to the will of God, for our lives. What is below is as close to what I have that I could find online.

I was trying to feel grateful even for the days of fog spent with pain and medication. Now please don’t get me wrong, I am not whining. I am trying to share from the point of view of where I am learning to place gratitude first. And, honestly, I am so very grateful. Because I believe God brought me to an abrupt stop. And He gave me time to reflect. He gave me time to gather myself. This world can splinter us. It can get us into a space of crazy chaos and noise. It can make our days fly by with no discernible accomplishment. An accomplishment can be simple – we give thanks to God. We make our bed. We get dressed. We call that person we have been meaning to contact. We file papers. We are present to those who are around us. We do the job we were intended to do. It does not have to be equal to slaying a giant with a rock, or some epic task. That being said, all our small accomplishments each day are our giants, and we are David, gifted with a small rock.

Today I was reflecting, as I glanced up at my “Gratitude” banner, that I am so very blessed. I had prayed for deliverance from the cycle of pain I was in, through God’s grace and in His plan for my life. And here I sit, my 3rd day with no pain. I am truly grateful. And I am focusing more on what is out there, in front of me. I am grateful for my husband and family; for my friends who I can call and whine to and who get me. I am beyond thankful for the health professionals who are caring for me, and helping me heal, pain-free. I am grateful for where I live. I love my home and the property around us; the trees and weather and my cute little bird houses outside. There is so much that God is doing for us, if we just stop and notice. When we make our environment simple, the blessings can jump out at you. And today, with the frost sticking to the ground for most of the this day, I am grateful to live where I can see the movement of nature and the seasons. I can appreciate the brief sunshine on the plants I rescued this weekend from the death of frost outside, sitting by my windows in their new pots. I can reflect at the little things…the wag of the short tail of our dog; the smile on my son’s face when he came home from a fire-fighting training. The joy of laughter shared over silly stories and jokes. The joy of having the life I have. An attitude of gratitude can color even your darkest days. And in those places, God reaches out to you…grab ahold!

Oh my word…

So, I have been in a lot of pain from my back, I am not on social media insofar as writing goes, and I have been stealing away to mystical, wonderful Mitford. Ahhh…the joys of a little town. An escape to a place where there is no overt sexuality, no profanity, and no violence! It is a balm for the soul. The series of books written by Jan Karon have been just what I needed. They have calmed me, made me laugh, and been a true respite from the inane sounds coming from the television in terms of news and/or programming. Wonderful!!

But when I finally chose to come back and post on my blog, the entire thing has been updated. The template I have been using all these years is gone. And I am in full-blown panic mode. I do not know how to use computers all that well. I can plunk my way through things, but technology is racing onward. You know, I don’t get why I can’t keep that old format. New is not always better, sometimes it is just new. And they also have narrowed down, for those of us who use this for free, our options. I don’t blog as a business. I don’t do this so readers will help me earn a living. I do this to get stuff off my chest, and to share. Who knows? Maybe some of you can relate to what I am going through, and it will make you not feel so alone in this insane world we live in. And I am about fit to be tied with this thing. I have no idea what this will even look like when I publish it, so bear with me. Change is hard. Very hard. And I try to be open minded and try to learn, but most days I could care less. LOL. Sad, I know. But dang it, I went to school decades ago and I am done. Plus they keep changing the facts. I want a refund. LOL. I know – reparations! LOL! I want reparations for all the crap I had to learn that everyone now says is incorrect. All the coffee I ingested in college, trying to stay awake and cram for tests of history and anthropology, which I am now told are not true. Ugh.

And here I am, trying to deal with this little nugget of change in my life. It truly is no big deal. I can choose to not blog. I can choose to keep things to myself. I can choose to type and just let it sit in my computer. I can pick up my current Mitford book and just float away into a lovely town. Or not. I can grab my big girl panties and learn something new. I can accept that this is how things are going to be and I can flow with it. I am working on the flow thingy. Right now, it is not easy. LOL.

There are so many options in life. And there are a myriad of choices we can make in any given situation. We should strive to choices that err on the side of good, and righteousness. We should always err to the right and not stumble and fall to the left. To be honest, in today’s world and the choices we have in front of us, we truly need that roadmap of faith to guide us properly. There are so many sayings about making the right decisions about the choices we can make. Because decision and choice are not the same thing. I can choose to go left, but I decide to make that turn. I can choose to go on a diet, but I must decide what food goes into my mouth.Right now, we have choices before us, and decisions to make about those choices.

We are hearing and seeing discrepancies from our media these days. People are worried about my sanity, because I choose not to listen to a lot of it (the mainstream media). And misinformation is flying on both sides, the right and the left. There are crazies on both sides and talking heads on both sides. And I am just looking for some peace, because I am tired of the chaos!! To that end, we enjoyed a wonderful meal with some close friends the other night. It was, first and foremost, a wonderful experience to eat at the same table, no masks, and enjoy one another’s company. The restaurant was full and everyone was laughing. It almost made the scamdemic seem like it did not exist. Normalcy has seemed almost an intangible thing. But there we were, eating shrimp tempura and calamari appetizers, laughing away at stories we had to catch up on. It was over too soon!

And even though we stole away from all the current hysteria for a few glorious hours, we still have to deal with those same choices in front of us. Do we go left or right? Do we choose based on policy? Or do we have other things to base our choices on? For me, my line in the sand has always been, and always will be, the right to life. People say someone can be pro-abortion (which I believe is murder) and still have great financial policies. To me, you cannot throw money around at pet ideologies and still think murdering a baby up to 9 months, and now some even say immediately after birth, makes you a viable candidate for my vote. You know how it is said that children who physically hurt animals will someday be serial killers? Now I don’t know the science about that, but I do believe that character counts. It counts in all areas. It counts in business – can I trust you? Are your numbers true or inflated? It counts in international peace agreements – did you really get rid of all your nuclear facilities and cache? It counts in life – did you kill that child because they would not stop crying? Because they did not fit into your lifestyle? Because it would be too much of a sacrifice right now? Murder of the unborn is just a matter of differentials in time and location. They were too young and in the uterus, or old enough to live but not born, yet. Or maybe they are born but no one wants them? Murder past the birth canal or murder above the birth canal are both murder. It is just time and location.

So for me, the choice cannot be for the left. They do not support life. None of them. Their plank even says so: “Democrats believe every woman should be able to access high-quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion. We oppose and will fight to overturn federal and state laws that create barriers to women’s reproductive health and rights, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment and protecting and codifying the right to reproductive freedom.” That was found on page 42 of the Democrat Party Plank 2020.

Because I vehemently oppose abortion, I will vote Republican this year. I prefer being Independent, but in my state, if you are an Independent, you only receive Democrat information. And being pro-life, that gets me nowhere. So, I am now Republican. But they are not really as conservative as I am. And so among the Republican candidates, I look for those who are completely pro-life. People who have their pet exceptions are not pro-life. They tap-dance around the subject, too afraid to take a strong stand against any threat to the lives of the unborn. The Republican plank from 2016, which I am told has gone unchanged for this election is this: American taxpayers should not be forced to fund abortion. As Democrats abandon this four decade-old bipartisan consensus, we call for codification of the Hyde Amendment and its application across the government, including Obamacare. We call for a permanent ban on federal funding and subsidies for abortion and healthcare plans that include abortion coverage.

For me, this is a simple election cycle, really. It is simple because it is about good vs. evil. In a nutshell. And I know I am painting with a broad brush, but we all do that when we vote party. We choose one party over the other. I know not all Democrats are evil, but to be a Democrat means you support Abortion, because that party does. Republicans do not. They dance around it and are not truly partisan, but they do not support it. Our President has said he does not believe in it, and wants to reverse Roe v Wade and abolish abortion. And so for me, I will be repeating my 2016 vote for Donald J. Trump. And I plan to vote red most of the ticket I will be given. I will not be choosing the “lesser of two evils” because I believe the Democrat ticket is evil; they do not value human life. Born or unborn – Governor Cuomo and the elderly who were positive for Covid proved that. He, a democrat, did not value the lives of those elderly. The Democrat presidential candidates have both stated their support of full term abortion. And infanticide – allowing a newborn to die if they survive an abortion. I just cannot walk down that road.

I am not part of a conspiracy theory. Do I believe some of what is floating out there? You bet I do. But I only believe that which I have verified all by myself, tapping away on my laptop. Will I cease relationship with those who do not accept these theories? Of course not. Relationships are far more important than political theories. I am more than political theories. Some things I will not abandon, most specifically my viewpoint on abortion equalling murder. But it does not mean I cannot be friends with those who believe it is okay. I disagree with them, they know it, and I pray for their change of heart. But we can still enjoy one another’s company. I have friends who are quite liberal. I have friends even more conservative than me. I have friends of differing faiths. I try to be well-versed and well-rounded in what I believe and who I allow into my life. So should everyone else. I am inherently on the side of God and faith, goodness and life. And most people within my orbit get that about it and it is okay. And we have agreed to disagree about this election. But please know, on November 4th when the pandemic magically disappears, when my vote has helped usher in another 4 years of the Trump administration, I will be here, ready to chat. When heroes on both sides of the aisle have to face justice, I will be here, ready and able to help you make sense of it. In the end, God wins my friends, God wins.