“A Mother’s Love and a Daughter’s Love for her Mother”♥
As I look back over the past 6 months, well from July 26th 2017 to be exact; it all seems so surreal.
You see, my beautiful mom, Mara Neal, the one you see with me in the photo above, was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer on this very day.
My sister and I had to tell her that she could no longer live alone as she was unable to care for herself. And so she moved in with my sister Jennifer. My niece Janel took the first shift as “caretaker”.
Janel loved her Grammy, and the two of them had quite a unique bond. Janel is only 16, but she never hesitated, in fact she wanted to take care of her Grammy.
Once the summer was over, Janel had to go back to school and I made the decision to take off of work to care for her. Mom still lived with my sister Jennifer, but I would come to her house every morning and care for her while my sister and niece were gone for the day. We did this for 6 weeks until my FMLA pay ended. I thought I would have another 6 weeks with her, but didn’t realize the state of California only pays for 6 weeks. No matter that I had never in all of my career ever used this, still only 6 weeks per year. So mom and I would go to my little office in Clovis, CA every day during the week and my sister would pick her up in the evening once she was off of work.
It was a struggle, working full time and caring for mom at the same time, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. You see, I got to spend more time with my mom in the last 6 months of her life, than I believe I did for all of my adult years. While she got on my nerves at times, and I know I got on hers, still, it was precious memories I would always have.
One day she had started to repeat herself over and over and just wasn’t herself at all. Jennifer and I decided we would have to take her to ER that evening. She had gone through 3 rounds of chemo just fine, with only minor issues, but this 4th round of chemo took it’s toll on her. All of her blood counts both white and red, along with platelets were severely low. So they admitted her to the hospital, got blood and platelet transfusions to build her back up. Then, after about 4 or 5 days in the hospital she came home.
Mom never really was the same after that, and she promised to let me know if she ever had that feeling again so we could get her to the hospital right away. Mom was upset that her next round of chemo had been cancelled, and actually cried when the doctor told her. But her body just wasn’t able to handle it. And, unfortunately it never was again.
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I went to pick up mom from my sisters that morning. We were not able to do our normal morning routine because Mom was getting worse. So off to the ER we went. I was with mom most of the day, and Jennifer joined us as soon as she could. After a long day in the ER, it was determined that medically, on paper my mom was fine. But she would never be okay again. You know, I often wondered why my mom was fighting so hard. She really hadn’t had much quality in her life since being diagnosed with cancer, and yet now it seems like it went by so fast.
Mom ended up having to be placed in a Rehab center while we figured out what to do. So the evening before Thanksgiving I had to leave my mom in a facility. It broke my heart. So much so, that I decided on Thanksgiving Day that I would have to bring my mom home to her apartment where she would be happy. She had missed her apartment so much, but she just was not able to care for herself any longer, and both my sister and I would not stand for that. As it was, we were devastated when we learned how she had been living, not knowing she was unable to take care of herself anymore.
So fast forward about 12 days, when I brought my mama home. I left my husband and my puppies and moved in with my mom to live out what would be the last 11 days of her life.
She was so happy when she saw her apartment. We had cleaned it all up; the areas we absolutely had to in order to bring her home, and I went and got a few things to decorate with the color red she loved so much and for Christmas. She kept saying that she wanted to sit in different areas of the living room so she could see all of it.
And so the journey began. She never ever admitted to anyone she was dying. In fact, when Hospice came to meet with us, she wouldn’t even sign a DNR. She was such a fighter. And during this time, she and I had some quiet time together. We didn’t talk much, but just being with her, focusing on her, on her breathing, on her life, I got to know my mom even deeper. I absolutely cherish these last days with her. They were unlike any days I had ever spent with her in her life. Now it wasn’t a bed of roses, in fact it was real tough. At the time I was desperate for her to pass on and have no more pain. But now, it all seems to have gone so quickly. At the time I kept telling every one it was going to be over any minute….and that went on for days. People kept saying she wasn’t ready to go yet, that she had unfinished business. I kept telling her how beautiful she was….and I meant it! I don’t know how to explain it, but she was so beautiful. Perhaps only to my eyes, but at that time, that was all that mattered. I sang to her, read scripture to her, and well…….just listened to her breath. At one point, actually 2 or 3 days prior to her passing, I could focus on nothing but her. I tried packing up her apartment, but could only do it in the rooms where I could still hear her breathing. I was so afraid I would not be with her when she finally let go. At this point I could no longer sleep for more than a couple of hours for the same reason…..I could not let her be alone when she left us.
It was Sunday, December 17th, and the Hospice nurse was being persistent about coming to make a visit. I really didn’t understand the point…..there was nothing more they could do for her, but she was being so persistent so I told her okay come on by. So she did, and I am so thankful that she did. I was talking with her, asking her how she was able to still breath. It had been quite a few days since she had been conscious, with no water or food and her breathing at this point was so labored. As she and I were talking, I asked her about time, and she told me it could be up to two more weeks. At that very moment I wanted to die myself, I knew I could not make it another 2 weeks like this. I couldn’t handle no sleep and listening and watching my mom struggle to breath. So we changed her clothes and cleaned her up a bit and while we were talking, she stopped breathing……..I was hoping it was the end, but never trusted it would be. I rubbed my moms cheek and told her how proud I was of her, that she had fought so hard and told her how much I loved her. I remember that moment and always will. As hard as it was….it was how it was supposed to be. I couldn’t love my mom anymore if I tried. And in the end I was able to prove just how much I loved her. And just how deep it was. But my mom made me who I am…..very strong, very loyal and taking care of family always no matter what.
I had a tough night last night, I think reality is starting to settle in. We haven’t gotten everything done yet, but almost. Life isn’t back to normal just yet, but it is close.
So I share this with the world, as I don’t know how else to help myself feel better. For some reason, this is what helps.
Now you all know a glimpse of the last 6 months of both my life and my moms. There is a ton more that went on during this time, but it is the last 11 days of her life that I cherish the most. That and all of the fun times we managed to have in between with family that visited, and my little office.
She had her own little spot on a little couch I bought for her, and she just loved it. I am not sure why, but she did. She swears I decorated the wall just for her…..so I let her believe that. How it made her feel was all that mattered. Anything to help her through this journey was all that I wanted. Other than a miracle and her to beat cancer of course.
Hug your family, be kind, and never forget that we are not promised tomorrow, any of us!
Be Kind♥ Love always♥ The rest will take care of itself!
Priscilla, daughter of Mara Neal♥ ~ I love you mama♥