I’m sure every blogger has a story to share. So I might as well share our trifecta. I hope and pray we could help someone else and I want to never forget this journey.
Did you know Funeral Homes are non-essential??? At least in Virginia so I am sure they are elsewhere as all the states seem to be following the same guidelines.
It’s Never At the Right Time – Death
I wrote a Tribute to My Mom March 28, a few days ago. What I didn’t say was how difficult it is to try and plan a funeral when someone dies unexpectedly. Now granted, we did know mom’s life was fragile but still, we weren’t ready. We first learned she might have lung cancer around August 14, 2019 just five days before her 96th birthday. The good news was it got all of our attention (my sisters, grandchildren, great grandchildren and dear friends) – We needed to spend more time with mom! And to be honest, that was all she wanted her last few years on this earth. Most of us lived either out of state or out of town. We are grateful we had that wake up call so we would spend extra time with mom, especially over Thanksgiving and Christmas.
BUT it was not enough. We all wanted one more day with mom – to tell her how much we loved her, needed her, appreciated her and to thank her for all the good times she made sure we had with her. My daughter and I were both planning that “one more day” when mom passed. My sister held her in her arms when she passed – and she still needed more time with mom. That morning, she had called Hospice to begin providing care. We already had contracted them to provide the additional nursing services needed. So they were waiting for the call as they were receiving reports of mom’s condition. Neither nurse from Hospice suspected was going to be her last day, March 25, 2020. You just never know when someone’s last day might be – please don’t take life for granted!
MARCH 11, 2020 – Backing up a bit, mom was hospitalized on this date. Paramedics were called to her apartment by her home health nurse. Mom was not in distress – but mom’s blood pressure (BP) hit a number that made it mandatory to call 911. Thankfully, that was a “rule” set in place by mom’s Home Health Agency. The irony is that mom’s BP went back into her normal range by the time they arrived which was generally typical. They not only checked all of mom’s vitals, they spent time questioning mom. She had not been well for about a month, since she returned to her home from her six week stay in a Rehabilitation facility. From what she said, they suggested a trip to the Emergency Room. Mom had said no more emergency rooms a few times….we are so grateful she said yes this time. Her primary care doctor was treating the best she could, but….
Mom was admitted with double pneumonia! She was sicker than any of us knew. She was placed in the Oncology Ward’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU). My sister could not leave her alone. So she virtually stayed with mom for well over 48 hours until I could get there. Thankfully, one of her sons was able to get off work Thursday and Friday for precious hours to be with mom to relieve Marsha. News of the Coronavirus were permeating the airways, but it didn’t hit us, yet….
MARCH 13-14, 2020 – Then word began to spread about shutting down visitation in hospitals. We were holding our breath – my daughter and her family drove down so Jessica could be with her that Friday night and through late Saturday. Jessica and my mom had a VERY close and special relationship. It would have been devastating if she couldn’t be with her. Jessica’s husband their sons planned to stay in mom’s apartment – like they have done numerous times when mom was hospitalized or in Rehab. Sadly, they were turned away at 9 pm (well past the boys bedtime) – it is a senior retirement center! So after a full days work, picking up his sons, preparing dinner, packing up the car, then driving for about two hours, he had to continue his journey to my sister’s home.
This makes me wonder how the Coronavirus restrictions are impacting SO many other families. The hardships have become overwhelming. GRANTED, we have to take this seriously. We understand we must protect the fragile and high risk citizens of our country – my mom was one as are several other family members. It’s JUST so important to have all the family support possible as well as in my case, to have faith and a personal relationship with Jesus to carry me through….
March 14, 2020 – No one said anything to my daughter about limited visitation during her overnight stay. That was such a relief. She and I then took turns with mom the rest of the day – and I was able to spend a few hours with my grandsons while Jessica had such good quality time with Mom. My son-in-love helped move personal belongings from mom’s apartment. She was moving in with my sister and her (ailing) husband. They had to limit their activity and how much to take out due to the “no visitors” policy.
The nursing supervisor “let” me spend that night, March 14. They had established another coronavirus rule – no more overnight visitors started. I was instructed to NOT leave her room until after visitation started the next morning at 7 am. I obeyed and was so hopeful I could still spend one more night as I had to leave Monday, March 16 to return to Myrtle Beach to help prepare for our trip to the Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Florida for Bill’s surgery.
March 15, 2020 – My last full day with mom was Sunday (thank you Lord). When mom can’t be in church on Sundays, she watches Charles Stanley. I am so glad I was with her! We also had lots of time of prayer and love. I was finally kicked out around 9 pm, two hours after visitation ceased. Mom liked to go to sleep at 8 pm, but she knew I was leaving. She didn’t want to go to sleep. Since I couldn’t spend the night and she was so sleepy, I asked the nurse to come help us accept the fact I had to leave.
The nurse assured both mom and I she would be well taken care of. Call me skeptical how could they help her? Mom is legally blind – and her vision was worse than normal. Imagine needing a Kleenex and can’t find it? Mom also had to have someone help her with her meals: tell her what was on the plate, cut up meat or other items as necessary, coffee and/or hot tested so she didn’t get burned. Otherwise she could feed herself but the staff doesn’t do this for patients! We had the three call buttons within mom’s reach (two on the actual bed rails) and had mom practice. But her already limited vision was deteriorating rapidly. She was just about blind by now. I hugged and kissed mom good bye and assured her I’d be back beside her at 7 am, when visitor hours began. The nurse didn’t tell me the new rule started at 7 am, no more visitors! I called to check on mom at 4 am and she was fine. Then called the nurse again at 6 am and mom continued to be stable but she hinted I would not be let in for visitation.
I still went to the hospital and decided to beg them to let me in. They said only if she was “dying” meaning in hospice care. We weren’t ready to accept this although the hospitalist initially recommended it. Well, after all, the Physical Therapist had hope for mom after working with her on Friday…..
March 16, 2020 – Mom was set to be released this day at 5:00 pm. Too late for me to stay – then it turned out she didn’t make it to my sister’s home until 9:00 pm. It helped for me to pick up mom’s personal belongings since we had to “hire” an ambulance to move mom, transported “bed to bed” into my sister’s home. Marsha turned her guest room into mom’s hospital room over the weekend. So much to do on such short notice. While I waited for them to collect her items for me, I tried to call mom. We had her new phone within reach…I called and called. No answer and the staff couldn’t help me, even though I begged them to – while she was collecting mom’s stuff , PLEASE just put mom on the phone. Nope, they were scrambling to be in compliance with all the new coronavirus rules….Sunday night was my last time with mom. 😢
So what to do with my last few hours with my sister? I did all I could to finishing getting mom’s room ready for her and collected the few things I would need for “that day.” Marsha had so much to do and I wish I could have stayed longer – but the Mayo Clinic called and said they could move Bill’s surgery date up a week, to March 20! So now I had much to do to get ready for that six hour journey and find place to stay!
March 25, 2020 – Let us fast forward to planning mom’s funeral. Bill and I returned to Myrtle Beach from Jacksonville on March 25, 2020. I hadn’t talked to my sister for a few days. She sent a picture of mom sitting on the side of her bed and smiling on Sunday, March 22. Mom was determined to get her strength back. So as soon as we got home, I called her only to learn she had to call hospice that morning. Mom had a drastic decline in her health.
What a shock to get a phone call that evening at 10:30 pm – mom had passed. We never suspected mom was a victim of the coronavirus as there was strict protocol for everyone entering the house – and visitors were stopped. But something seriously went wrong. We will never know due to the new rules about funeral homes, I’m sure.
Mom had pre-planned and payed for her funeral arrangements. When our dad had passed away in August 1999, we purchased both of our parents gravestones, etc. So things should go smoothly, right? No, they did not. Soon after I returned home on March 16 with mom’s information for her funeral and cemetery information, I made a few phone calls. I wanted to have things more or less “ready.” I knew I was going to be pre-occupied with our travel out of state and with Bill’s surgery, etc. I was given a telephone number to call when she passed – and I was told she would be taken to a crematory in Poquoson, Virginia, not far from my sister’s home. When the morticians arrived, they said they would be taking mom to Chesapeake. That is not a convenient place for anyone in the family. Marsha held off calling me until 7:30 am to let me know.
This was not starting off right when we think most everything was planned! I had to do a lot of scrambling to figure out what was going on. I had to find the funeral home in Poquoson – there aren’t many, maybe only one listed. The funeral director listened to my story and assured me he was there to help. Although they were “closed,” as non-essential, he could still do everything we would need. But in essence, about the only “funerals” allowed now were graveside services. That was fine, it was really about all that was pre-paid.
For us as a family, the coronavirus didn’t really interfere with our funeral planning from our perspective. But I am sure the Funeral Director could tell us a lot about how the new rules impacted his business. The one thing he told me was he had to lay off his help. He gave me his cell phone and was available whenever I needed him. He was now a one man show! The only other thing he said was because his was not a big business, he did not keep a large stock of supplies – which are now in short supply. And because his business is not essential – he has to get in line behind the medical profession for the necessary things he needs.
My heart aches for people going through the death and dying process. Bill and I have lost both our parents. I’ve also lost a brother (in-law) too young. It’s always hard. I have many friends who have lost a child and more that have lost siblings. I know those are VERY hard to process and accept. And now the coronavirus is compounding life and making any loss even harder. But this I know, I have accepted the fact that I will one day be reunited with my loved ones. They all have made public professions of faith. I know this world is not all there is. The Bible teaches me about the after life – and while I am not in a hurry to go, I am ready!
Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” John 5:24