Sunday, April 1, 2012

.thankful for those who understand and help.

Yesterday we buried my aunt.  My mom's last living sibling.  6 months ago we buried her other sister.  Yes, they were elderly; yes they were sick.  But that doesn't change the pain nor ease the sorrow.  My mom is 85 and not in good health.  This "double whammy" has knocked her for a loop.  So much falls on to my shoulders.  Not that I would have it any other way.  I have half brothers and sisters who are here and there and sweep down when something happens and try to help out.  But they weren't raised with mom and really don't understand her needs.  And she has what she considers to be embarrassing physical problems herself that she's uncomfortable around most people.  I know they mean well; I know they probably feel I close ranks and won't let them in; but I know her and my goal during these times is to keep her safe and comfortable and remove as much as the burden from her that I can. 

So I pull up my boot straps; keep my pain medication close at hand and forge ahead to be the rock that she needs to get through.  My husband always at my side to do whatever I ask of him; and now that they have become adults, my 2 children there to help carry the load.  I swear to goodness she loves those grandchildren more than she loves me!  But it brings me such comfort to see them step in to help me, help her. 

And then the "day after" arrives.  All is said and done; my aunt has been buried; the families have all returned home.  And real life kicks in with a fierce and ferocious vengeance.

As most who deal with auto immune disease know, it's not just the illness itself that will take it's toll on your body; stress, as it does with most people, plays a ten fold part in how I feel.  So this week I've felt the loss of my aunt; watched my mother in her very frail state try to deal with the loss; take her to her medical appointments; keep medical appointments of my own; worrying about being out of work, again; ensure that my mom does all she needs to do to be at peace with saying goodbye to her sister and then, finally, the funeral.

Friday night I have 3 of my half-brothers and a sister-in-law at my house; my children and my son-in-law.  So I'm busy trying to keep everybody happy.  It's my role in life; it's what I do.  Make sure there's food; does everyone have a drink; keep the conversation flowing.  I will say this.  It was one of the nicest visits I've ever had with these 3 guys.  Our relationship is a whole other blog in itself; but our time together Friday night will be cherished.

Saturday morning dawns rainy and dreary and my thoughts immediately fall to my mom.  At 85 she has a swallowing disorder and weighs 84 lbs.  She can't swallow solid foods and has a difficult time even with liquids.  She's very weak on a good day.  It's been a very difficult week for her and I knew Saturday would be the pinnacle.  So I was extremely worried about her yesterday.  A 2 hour visitation, the funeral service and then the burial, uphill at our church's cemetery.  I was constantly on the go.  Making sure she was getting sips of Boost to keep her strength up; making sure she was sitting down to avoid exhaustion and helping her outside to have a cigarette.  Up and down; in and out; constantly on the move.  But not without help.  My half-brothers try to step in and take turns with mom but she's so stubborn and I know she hurts their feelings but she's used to me; my husband knows my looks and when he sees it, he comes to see what he can do.  My daughter pinch hits with me in sitting with my mom.  A dear friend from church who has a 4 wheel drive offers to drive me and mom up to the grave site.  Vehicles aren't allowed but they know mom could never make the journey up.  Then when the service is over, my son and son-in-law step in on either side of my mom (they're big burly guys) and darn near carry her down to the car.  I'm not sure her feet ever touched the ground.  My husband has rushed to get the car and my daughter and half brother are on either side of me to make sure I make it down the hill safely.  How blessed am I?? 

By 5:00 it was over and most of the family headed out to the church for dinner.  I headed home to be with mom.  To make sure she got some food in her; to make sure she took her medicine; to make sure she wasn't going to collapse from exhaustion.  By 6:00 I am finally home.

Now it's my turn.  The pain throughout my entire body is off the charts.  I'm afraid of how much pain medication I've taken and though the thought of a steaming bath sounds comforting, I can't begin to imagine getting in and out of the tub.  So without even changing I grab the heating pad, curl up on the bed and fall asleep.  Somewhere in the next few hours my family comes and goes but they're careful not to disturb me.  They know how hard this day has been on me both physically and emotionally.  And as I have been there for my mother, they have been there for me.  I couldn't have made it without them and my prayer is that I let them know how very much I appreciate all that they did.

Today I wake up stiff; sore and in pain.  But knowing that I'll be able to get that hot bath in and that will be a welcome relief.  Knowing that I'll not be so busy that I'll be able to track my medications and ensure I get just what I need.  Most of all, I'll be able to take the time to reflect on my aunt who is now skipping through the streets of gold with her other siblings; happy, healthy and strong.  I'll be able to take the time to remember the good times and smile when I think of how thrilled she is to be in Heaven.

Sometimes real life is tough.  For all of us.  Often it's tougher for those of us who have an invisible illness and who suffer chronic pain that can never be explained to someone who doesn't have it.  But today will be a day of rest and reflection.  Above all, it will be a day of gratitude for those in my life who make this invisible illness of mine just a little bit more bearable because of their kindness.

Rest In Peace, Aunt Josie.  You are finally Home.

.my mom; aunt josie; aunt libby.

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