My mother Ruth Burdick Williams Stanton gave up her long struggle with pancreatic cancer this morning at 4:40am. She was in her daughter Margaret’s arms and died with a smile on her face. She had endured so much for so many long months and refused pain medication to the end. She would rather hurt than sleep, the pain a reminder she was still alive.
From that point on her wonderful son-in-law, the guy I was smart enough to marry and hang on to patiently drove and waited in the waiting room through countless trips to the doctor, Urgent Care, and Emergency Rooms.
A stroke on Dec 26th everything in her world changed. She was given a week to ten days to live. After ten days in hospice she had improved. I was her security blanket translating her hand gestures and guttural sounds for everyone.
Six weeks of therapy later she was beginning to talk, was walking and dressing herself, had a great sense of humor and with a shiny new red walker her son-in-law drove her home to resume life.
A broken hip, surgery, more therapy, three more falls, two concussions, three compression fractures to her back, stitches in her head and a broken wrist ensued. Through it all she remained lucid, pleasant, refused pain meds because they made her groggy and she found lots to laugh about.
Everyone everywhere she went loved her, and commented on her sense of humor, her sweet disposition, her lack of complaints, and her willingness to work so hard to get well.
Her speech was always the first to go with every episode and each time it was harder and harder for her to make any sounds at all. The last 6 months she could only communicate mainly with a nod or shake of her head. She wore a cell phone around her neck that all she had to do was push one button and it would automatically dialed me. We would play 20 questions until I could figure out what she needed and could get help to her while I waited.
It must have been miserable when she understood everything going on and could not express herself. She would try and try and finally give up, a few times tears flooded her eyes. The paralysis having a hold on her vocal chords and her tongue, both are needed to form words. Our very verbose and chatty mom was silenced.
One day she turned bright yellow. Tests revealed she had pancreatic cancer and there was nothing that could be done for her. They gave her two to three weeks to live. She survived for ten weeks and one day. All but the last week were good ones and we were very thankful for each good day.
When I kissed my mom goodbye last night I felt it might be the last goodnight kiss I would ever give her. I was glad my sister was still there when she had an event that prompted my sister to stay. Mom did get her wish to not be alone when the time came. I wish I had stayed also; as it was I went to bed at midnight and sleep did not come as I waited for the phone to ring. My husband also tossed and turned waiting for the dreaded call. It came at 4:50.
So many people have asked me how I am doing. A funny question, I am doing fine, alternating between sadness, missing her already, and relief that she is free from suffering and pain for the first time in nearly a year.
My wish for her is that she is dancing in heaven today, enjoying lots of laughs and the ability to communicate freely once again. I miss you already. You almost made it to your 90th birthday. Bye, Mom, I love you.
G’ Day, I wish you a wonderful day. Don’t forget to hug and tell the important people in you life you love them. You never know if you will have tomorrow.