This blog post is written by Joanna Murray, a happily married stay-at-home Mom with three beautiful children living in sunny California.
When I was 16, I had a brain tumor but have been cancer-free for 24 years. I thought I knew it all when it really came to being sick, but was I wrong. In 2003, my Mom was diagnosed with COPD. She already had acute bronchitis, asthma and emphysema for years triggered by being in a fire in her forties.
In 2005 when my Mom first moved to California to live near my sister and me, she was very careful not to explain her illness in detail to either one of us. She ended up living with my sister full-time but she was able to take care of herself, pay her own rent, take care of her own bills and was very secretive at times about her health, only telling us what she wanted us to know. She eventually confided that she had COPD, but she did not make a big deal about it, telling us it was nothing to worry about.
At the time, I had three young children so I believed her. I didn’t have the time to really look into it. She was an adult and could make her own decisions. Over the years, she had several episodes of hospitalization; she would overdo it and would end up with pneumonia. Sometimes she would be hospitalized four or five times in one year.
Everything came to a complete halt in early June of this year. She had been hospitalized and the doctors said she had end stage COPD. I was shocked when my mom explained that the Prednisone she had been on for years was no longer working for her. She was in the hospital for three weeks and when she got out, my sister and I would try to help her. She would not stop, however. She would do what she wanted. She told the doctors all she wanted were oxygen tanks and Vicodin and she was good to go.
Well, she went as far as two weeks and was hospitalized again. I was in Massachusetts at the time visiting family. When I returned home, she moved in with my family and was placed on hospice. She had people come in and help, but after a while I became the sole caregiver.
It was overwhelming. I had to learn about all the medications, when and how much and how many times a day. In between all that, I had mom—a very self-sufficient over-bearing dramatic woman constantly trying to be in control.
At this point, my mom still smoked. “I can smoke any time I want,” she would say. I put my foot down on that one. As the days persisted so did the medicine. Every day the morphine amount increased and it was coming apparent that I was drowning.
As the weeks passed, my mom’s health deteriorated so unbelievably quick. On August 30th, things took a turn for the worse, when I walked into her room in the morning to start our daily routine she told me she was going to die that day. She burst into tears and told me she was not going to heaven because she was a bad person and a bad mom. I told her to ask God for forgiveness, so that day I called a priest and my mom repented, was forgiven and blessed. She let God into her life and she told Him it was His will and not hers now.
A week later she collapsed at my house, and had no recollection of it the next day. It was scary and overwhelming for me.
I am not sure why but I went to my kids Back to School BBQ where I told a few close friends that I felt my mom was going to pass that night at some point. I got home a few hours later, and my husband was already home. We all ate dinner, and then I put the kids to bed. I laid down with my youngest daughter, and fell asleep.
Like clockwork, I woke at 1:45 am. I went to sit with my Mom. My brother and sister were on the couches asleep. I sat and talked to her for 15 minutes and told her I loved her, that she was a great Mom, and it was okay for her to go now.
At 2 a.m., I was staring at her crying and I said, “You are done now aren’t you?” Her breathing started to slow almost to the point it was normal. I woke my sister and brother and told them she was going, all three of us stood beside her, all of us told her to go to the kingdom of heaven. She did not need to fight anymore. She stopped breathing for 45 seconds caught her breath and in one quick second, stopped completely. My mom was 63 years old when she passed away on Sept 11th, 2010.
Mom lived with me for just over a month. In that time we shared laughs, we shed tears, we talked, we argued but we were blessed to get to know each other all over again. It was probably one of the most difficult things I have had to deal with in my life, but if I had to do it all over again, I would.