Coping With a Difficult June

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted, and sadly this one isn’t writing-related. Those who’ve been reading my blog know that my mother suffered from dementia and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer one year ago. By March the cancer had spread to her liver and our family doctor estimated that she had only two or three months left. My mom’s dementia made her oblivious to her dire situation. Even when told the truth, her emotional response seemed dim, and within minutes the diagnosis was forgotten.

My mother passed away in hospice care on June 23rd . Neither my sister nor I were there. I’d seen her the day before and had been out all day at an event that Sunday. My sister had planned to visit, but her significant other suffered a heart attack on June 12th and she was exhausted from the worry and daily commutes to the hospital. (It was touch-and-go for a while, but it looks like he’ll be okay. A medical procedure is required but rehab is underway).

It sounds strange to write this, but we were stunned by the call from the hospice nurse. We truly believed we’d have a little more time with her. We’d met with the doctor on Wed., the 19th, who thought she was doing well under the circumstances, and might have four to six weeks left. We understood that this was a guess, and our family doctor cautioned me that pancreatic cancer is wildly unpredictable. She was in hospice three weeks and two days before she passed.

I should have picked up on the signs that the end was near. When I took my son and daughter to visit her on the 16th, she’d been unusually alert and conversational She blew us kisses the last time my sister and I saw her—something she’s never done in her life. She apparently had the nurse help her call her sister in Toronto that Sunday afternoon. For weeks she’d not felt well enough to talk on the phone at all, let alone make a phone call.

Also on June 23rd, my daughter’s good friend, and matron of honor at her upcoming wedding, lost her grandmother that same day.

Flowers for MimoFive days earlier on the 18th, I had to have our twenty-year-old cat Mimo euthanized, as he became too ill to go on. The beautiful flowers in the photo were sent by our vet’s staff who’d been overseeing his care since we brought him in for his first shots back in August 1999. Also on the 18th , my future son-in-law’s family lost their beloved dog to cancer.

I took time off from the day job to reflect, to rest—or try to—but I’m now back at work, which is fine. I like the routine, to focus on other things for part of the day.

Memories swim through my head. I have a room full of her furniture and some belongings that I’d moved out her assisted living apartment two days before her death. There are things to sort through, legal things to take care of.

But there are also things to look forward to, such as my daughter’s September wedding, quickly followed by a move into their new home. My son also began an exciting new career the last week of June. I’m getting back to writing. My lovely coworkers are giving me a rose bush to plant in Mom’s memory. It’s perfect. She wouldn’t want any fuss and mourning or feeling sorry for ourselves.

I’ve learned a lot this past year about life and death, and many things. I’ve said goodbye far more than I wanted to last month, but I’ll cope and move one step and one day at a time. And I’ll remember.

 

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Author: debrapurdykong

I'm a Canadian author from British Columbia, who's been writing for over 30 years. My volunteer experiences, criminology diploma, and various jobs, inspired me to write mysteries set in BC’s Lower Mainland. Employment as a campus security patrol and communications officer provide the background for my Evan Dunstan mystery novellas, as well as my Casey Holland transit security novels. I'm also a part-time facilitator in Creative Writing Workshops through Port Moody's Recreation program. Feel free to contact me at debra_kong@telus.net

33 thoughts on “Coping With a Difficult June”

  1. Debra – for some reason this beautiful blog reminded me of the time your mother painted the living room Gold. Do you remember? What triggered this memory I dont know but it made me smile. I hope more smiles and happy memories pass your way. Love Patt

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  2. My goodness. So much change in June and so much stress in the months building up to it. I think it’s always a surprise when we realize that our loved ones have moved on from the physical. I’m sure your mom and your cat are still sending you love. It’s good, perhaps, that your mom’s dementia gentled things. I think our spirit always knows what’s happening on a deeper level and isn’t it wonderful that she was able to blow you kisses and leave you with such beautiful memories?

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    1. Thanks, Wendy. Yes, it is. I think her spirit was busy arranging things and that she departed on her own terms. I didn’t mention in the blog, but she passed somewhere between 6:55 pm and 7:10 pm. There was a shift change, so the day nurses had checked on her just before 7 and the night shift nurses had made their rounds and found her at about 7:10. Something tells me she planned it that way.

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  3. So sorry to hear your sad news on so many fronts, Debra. I lost my mother some years ago now and a half after her passing I lost my husband to pancreatic cancer. It’s a long hard road with that type of cancer. Devastating, to say the least. However, it’s a blessing for your mother and for your family that she’s at rest and at peace. I know that sounds trite, but the future is so bleak otherwise. It was the same with my mother who was 98 and blind and going deaf. So some things are meant to be, I think. Of course, going through it is the impossible part because you only do that once with your mother and it’s so hard. As you said, rest reflect and take care of yourself and celebrate the happy things as your mother would’ve wanted you to do. You’re in my thoughts.

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    1. Thank you, Darlene. I didn’t know that your husband had passed from pancreatic cancer. It’s a tough one, isn’t it, but I imagine any cancer is. I’m still processing all that’s happened, but I’m starting to do things to take care of myself, like returning to gym workouts after a long absence. Hope to see you at some event in the fall 🙂

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  4. I am so sorry to hear this. To have so much sadness in one month is hard on anyone. I admire you for concentrating on the positive, which is what our loved ones would want us to do. May your dear mother rest in peace. And may Mimo be happy wherever faithful pets go. Sending huge hugs your way.

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  5. Oh my goodness and bless your heart! This was a huge amount of loss to deal with… I am so sorry for you and your family. My unsolicited advice: take care of each other. This year will pass quickly and be earmarked by things that spark sad memories as anniversaries pass…but you MUST take care of yourselves. All of you make doctor appointments and go together to be SURE you do them. It is so easy to want a vacation from the trial you just went through, but the year after even one death can be perilous for those who suffered the stresses and regrets involved, and you and your family endured even more. After my mother passed from breast cancer that had metastasized to the liver, I can say that yes, it is true the dying have a weird week of near normalcy right before… but don’t blame yourselves for not “seeing” it for what it was. I am sure your mother did not blame you and even now does not. I have learned that the dying often seem to know when letting go is best — either waiting for certain people to be present, or knowing it is best if they are not. One more time trust your mother… And let yourselves mourn. All year. Because that is normal. That is okay. I still cry over my mom’s passing 22 years later… We never get over missing the ones we loved… cats included. Just take care of yourselves while you’re doing it.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, KC. Yes, I told my family that I need to devote these next 20 years to my physical and emotional well-being in hopes of avoiding my mom’s sad situation. I’ll be seeing my doctor for my annual checkup soon.

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    1. Thank you, and I’m sorry for your loss as well. From your blog I know that your year has also had its challenges. I plan to stay positive as much as possible and focus on the things I can look forward to.

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  6. You have faced a challenging June, so much to handle, yet here you are still pushing forward. Thank you for sharing your story. It is inspiring to know that we really can make it through tough times. I related to when you described your mom being alert when she hadn’t been for some time. My grandmother who had dementia, was nearing death and she was out of it. I was by her bedside talking to her even though her eyes were closed much of the time. Then suddenly, she opened her eyes. They were bright, filled with light, and she looked directly in my eyes and smiled. She passed early the next morning, but that last gift she gave to me will never be forgotten. I am so happy that your mom was able to give you that gift of those kisses floating through the air. I am sorry you have experienced so much loss in the past month and hope the coming months will bring you joy.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Kelly, and for sharing your experience with your grandmother. Other people I know have had similar experiences where their loved on suddenly perks up just before the end. I think I just didn’t want to accept that sign with the kisses.

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      1. Thank you Debra nice connecting with you! Hope that you like my Art I am a watercolor artist and illustrator I will follow your Blog and if you follow me, we can stay connected! Wish everything to get better soon for you!

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