Monday, April 22, 2019

Saying Goodbye to Tammy's Mom

I was on a walk (yesterday) Easter morning when Tammy called me. She had just arrived at Trinity Care in Farmington where her mother is a resident. She was calling to tell me that she'd missed a call from the staff there and that her mother's condition had deteriorated considerably overnight. I hurried home then drove to be with her.

Alzheimer's it's said is "the long goodbye", and it is. It's been several months since Elaine has shown any recognition of me. Tammy has spent so much time with her that I think there was always an understanding between them that there was a connection. When I arrived at her bedside, it was clear that she was close to the end. Her respiration was near 40 breaths per minute, twice what is normal, and there was noticeable congestion in her lungs. She never opened her eyes while I was there. We prayed she wouldn't linger in this condition for long.

Tammy spent the night with her, reluctant to leave her side. The staff wheeled in a bed for her to sleep alongside her mother, holding her hand throughout the night—a restless night. She came home this morning to shower and change clothes before hurrying to her mother's side again but she was too late. Five minutes out from the nursing home she had an overwhelming feeling of sadness and she began to sob. Just before she arrived at Trinity Care she received a phone call to tell her that her mother had passed just minutes earlier. Her mother left this world at 9:05.

I felt so bad for her because I knew how much she wanted to be by her mother's side at that moment. I arrived 30 minutes later and gave her the biggest hug I'd ever given anyone. As much as she thought she was prepared for her mother's passing, she wasn't. Her mom had been such an integral part of her life for the past 4 years since she left Babbitt to come and live with us for one year. Tammy found so much purpose and love in being with her and tending to her needs. And now she's gone. We should all be so blessed to have someone like Tammy advocating for us and being by our side in our final years and days. I'm so proud of her.

Tammy had gotten to know most of the staff at Trinity Care since her mother arrived not quite three years ago. Having been an Alzheimer's nurse herself for years, she was comfortable tending to many of her mother's needs while spending time with her, and I'm certain the staff was always relieved to see her because of the help she would offer. Not only did they like Tammy, but they also loved her mother. So many of the staff would tell us that Elaine was their favorite and we'd always think how kind that was of them to say but surely they must tell others that as well. And maybe they did but from everything we could tell, they truly meant it. One of the kitchen staff was sitting with her when she died.

Elaine had been on hospice care for the past few weeks and a part of that care consists of routine visits by a chaplain and a hospice nurse. I met the chaplain and one of her nurses today. They are both such beautiful, kind people. The chaplain had some comforting words for Tammy as did Sarah, the hospice nurse. Tammy was allowed some time to spend with her mother before the undertaker arrived to remove her mother's body. She followed him out of the room and was greeted by a hallway full of teary-eyed staff waiting to pay their respects. It was very touching. One of the hallways is adorned with a mural of flowers, and nearly every time Elaine was wheeled past it she would comment on the beautiful flowers. Today, as they were taking her mother past it one last time with staff following behind, Tammy commented, "Look at the beautiful flowers". Everyone understood and many began to cry—Stacy commented, "Oh, Tammy". It was beautifully sad.

Elaine was born on December 5th, 1925. She was 93 years old and just six weeks younger than my father. She was a homemaker for most of her life but there was a time when she worked for the local newspaper, using her artistic talents to help with the layout of pages and ads in the newspaper. She was also very active in her church, creating many banners for use throughout the various seasons of the church year.

Tammy used to love to treat both her mother and her aunt Joyce to a trip to the casino when her mother would come to visit. They both loved to play the slot machines. She and Joyce always had so much fun together. Joyce passed away last December, leaving Elaine the last surviving family member of her era.

I will always remember her beautiful smile and the twinkle in her eyes, and her love of butterflies. Years ago when we made the stained glass windows for her church in Babbitt, one of the windows we made was of a butterfly to signify rebirth. We placed that window alongside the pew she always sat in.

Elaine/Mom/Grandma/Great Grandma was such a giving, caring person who was truly loved by everyone.  We should all be so lucky to leave this earth having that said about us.

Goodbye, Mom—until we meet again.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Kindness and the Truth Will Out

I've been watching a Netflix series called The Kindness Diaries. It's a documentary about Leon, a middle-aged man who did well as a broker before turning his back on his life of luxury to travel the world while depending on the kindness of strangers for food, fuel, and a place to stay at night. He has a crew of 3 who follow along (mostly out of sight) to record his encounters along the way. But Leon isn't only taking from others; he's also giving back in some large ways. I've been on the verge of tears several times while watching it. It's excellent!

We had a taste of some awesome spring weather earlier in the week. I was able to get out in the yard on Tuesday and take care of 4 hours of yard work, mostly bagging up piles of leaves that are always late to fall from our oak trees. But the mild weather was just a tease. Wednesday arrived and with it, a major storm that dumped about 8" (20 cm) of brown tinged heavy snow on what had previously been our snowless ground. The brown tinge was caused by dust from west Texas carried along by the upper winds. The airport in St. Paul recorded a wind gust of 66 mph (100+ kph) during the storm. Our backyard is littered with debris from our river birch trees. Note to self: no more river birch trees.

I finished a stained glass sun-catcher project a few days ago but I'm waiting until tomorrow for the sun to make an appearance before I can properly photograph it for my Instagram and Etsy sites. It's a new design. I enjoy challenging myself to come up with fresh ideas.

Disclaimer: Politics ahead. I write this blog for myself, to be able to look back on my thoughts and our world that was at some point years from now. I do it for me. You're welcome to follow along if you'd like.

This was a particularly concerning week in the world of politics as we watched Trump's* Attorney General William Barr opine during Congressional hearings that he felt the Trump* campaign had been spied on by some deep-state entity and that there may need to be an investigation, all the while admitting that he had no basis whatsoever for spewing such nonsense. But it was red meat for conservative media and their followers and that was his only intent. It's all just so head-shaking and disturbing. And this is the guy we're supposed to trust is going to be an impartial arbiter as to what should be made available from Mueller's report to Congress and the public.

I'm curious to see what's in Mueller's report. I think it's quite likely that there's plenty of evidence of Trump's* campaign conspiring with Russian operatives to attack the Clinton campaign but lacking the ability to subpoena those contacts, there's little to no chance a conviction could be achieved in court. An ethical prosecutor is forbidden from seeking an indictment unless they believe they can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Does it mean that Trump* and his campaign did nothing wrong? No, not at all. But will we ever be allowed to see the evidence and decide for ourselves? It's doubtful.

I worry that when we look back on this time in our history years from now, we won't have reached the proper judgments we should have because of a complicit Republican party that shows no interest in the truth. I see a president who is so thoroughly corrupt and is flouting both our norms and our laws to advance his warped agenda. It's beyond disturbing. I came across this tweet tonight that puts into words so much of what concerns me and should concern us all.

But life goes on and I have to trust that the truth will out.

From Tuesday nights ride with a fun group out of Northfield that I hope to ride more with this year.