Loss, Renewal, and Opportunity

A lot has happened in the past couple of months, some of it sad, some of it good. It was a time of grievous loss, yet there was also renewal and opportunity.

In late April, Mom’s quality of life was rapidly deteriorating. It had been deteriorating for a long time but now it was going at a faster pace. She had an infection in her heel that wasn’t healing and was beginning to go deeper. Circulation in her legs was very poor. A specialist looked at it and the doctors told Dad that he essentially had two choices. One was to have the foot amputated, which would make it nearly impossible for him to care for her at home and force him to place her in a nursing home. I think one of her greatest fears was that she might spend her last days in a home and die there alone.

The second choice was to take her off dialysis and let nature take its course. In that scenario she would be under the care of a hospice and would be able to stay at home until the end. The plan was to wait until June after the grandchildren were out of school and we could plan for time off in order to be with her.

When I was told, I found it difficult to come to terms with it. I knew it was the best course of action and the most humane way for her to go but, at the same time, I had trouble accepting it. We were essentially planning her death and preparing for a death watch. It seemed kind of morbid. I’d known for years that it was coming and, on occasion, been surprised that it hadn’t happened already considering all that she’d been through and survived. But now a date was being set.

But there was a turn of events on May 5th. She didn’t tolerate dialysis that day and it set everything into motion. Dad made the decision to end it. I’m sure it was the most difficult and painful decision of his life. The next day Laura and Ruth called me at work and said I was needed at home. I was up there the next day as was Ruth. Then Joan arrived from Florida a day or two later. I think it was the first time all six of us had been in that house at the same time.

I had expected that after the dialysis had stopped it would only be a few days, maybe a week before she passed on. But she surprised everyone with her tenacity. She fought until the very end. I stayed for the first ten days and every day was heart-wrenching. The first few days were the roughest for me. The girls had taken on most of the tasks in taking care of her and I felt like I was on the sidelines. Once I got more involved in caring for her, it was easier to deal with. It was difficult to find a few moments of private time with her so I could talk to her and say my good-byes.

After ten days, I found it necessary to go back to Dayton to take care of my obligations there. It wasn’t easy to leave and I put it off for as long as I could. The hardest part was saying good-bye, knowing it would be the very last time I’d see her alive. The drive back to Dayton was a very lonely drive and it was difficult to remain focused but I managed.

I was at work when I got the call that she had passed away. I sometimes feel bad that I wasn’t there but I’m sure she understood that I had to take care of my obligations to my own family. Family was very important to her. Tina and I drove back up for the preparations and the funeral. Rob and Adam came up a day later.

Despite the sadness and the loss there was renewal. I was able to meet nieces and nephews I’d either never seen or hadn’t seen since they were very young. I renewed family ties and renewed contacts with relatives I hadn’t seen in ages. I had lost touch with so many over the years and hope to do a better job at maintaining family ties.

Finally, out of all of it there has come opportunity. Aside from the opportunity to renew family ties and heal old wounds, there also arose a personal opportunity to change my life and avoid the same fate as Mom. I had my annual checkup in mid-April and my doctor recommended that I take some classes in diabetes management. I made the first appointment but I had to cancel because of the situation with Mom.

Afterwards, I called and scheduled the first class which was an eye-opener. I learned a lot about the physiological aspects of how the body uses sugar and how diabetes can affect the body. I also learned the importance of controlling my intake of carbohydrates. Soon after, I attended the glucose monitoring class and have been regularly monitoring my blood glucose levels.

I’ve still got a couple more classes to attend and I still have to do more to change my lifestyle for the better but I’ve taken the first steps in the right direction. I’ve gotten my wakeup call and I’ve been given the chance to turn my life around. I’d be a fool to ignore it. I have genetics workng against me and by taking care of my health, I’m honoring her memory.

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One Response

  1. Just a little update on the lifestyle changes her death precipitated. I completed all of the Diabetes Awareness classes and learned much from each of them. I’ve been pretty good about watching my carbs with only a few lapses and I’ve been monitoring my blood glucose levels. I had another hemoglobin A1C test done in September and my overall blood glucose was down a bit. I’m due for another one in a few weeks.

    I’ve also shed about 20 pounds since then, largely due to changes in my diet. I’m still struggling with incorporating regular exercise into my routine. I understand its importance to my overall health but some lifestyle changes are harder to make than others.

    I may not be able to avoid diabetes but I’m convinced that I can do much to minimize its effects and avoid the complications.

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