Twenty-seven years ago, my mother fell while riding her bicycle in La Jolla CA. From that time on, she has had difficulties standing and walking. It took ten years before her HMO would do an MRI of her back to discover that her complaints stemmed from sustaining a break in her spine during her bicycle accident. It took another five years of her HMO refusing to do anything for her injury before I could talk her into moving to Texas for better care. She moved here and within one year, Texas provided back surgery for her.
Unfortunately, fifteen years of improper care for a broken back delivers a shipload of health problems. When my mother arrived in Texas, she could not stand upright. She could not walk more than two steps at one time. Her breathing capacity was diminished. Her stamina was non-existent. She had no strength, and her heart was suffering as well. She had developed congestive heart failure. Her surgeon said that even with her back surgery, she would always have severe pain and continued health issues.
Her surgery did not bring relief. She did not see the return of her strength or endurance. She remained unable to stand upright, and eventually, it was discovered that the hardware placed in her back, needed to be removed. After suffering all of these horrendous consequences of falling from her bicycle, my seventy-seven-year-old mother, was now faced with another major back surgery. Her surgeon removed the hardware and we had high hopes for a painless recovery. Unfortunately, this dream was yet again elusive. My mother did not recover into a pain-free existence. She remains unable to walk without assistance and suffers an enormous level of pain. Her health continues to slip away from us.
We are now faced with tough decisions. My mother is unable to live on her own at this point. She has resided in a rehabilitation center since her second back surgery and will be discharged at the end of the week. Her discharge is not because she has recovered; it is because there is no recovery in sight for her. They have done all they can do to help her regain her mobility; it is just not possible for her body to overcome the trauma and absence of sound health care when she was younger.
We are placing my mother in an assisted living facility, and although a nursing home would probably suit her needs better, at this point, we believe it would break her spirit.
Yesterday, I missed church. I spent the day with my mother sifting through her clothes and belongings. We were weeding her life long possessions because she is going from a home filled with meaningful things to a small bedroom without room for more than her hospital bed and three drawers for clothing. As we worked together, she would pick up her belongings, family heirlooms and pictures of her children and hold them to her heart. I would see tears swell up in her eyes as her heart wept with the realization that yesterday was the last time she would have stewardship over these precious and meaningful treasures. She was strong and kept a stiff upper lip as she painfully gave up the items that represented her life.
As the day wore on, I saw my mother’s strength fade; I also saw the weight of grief fill her soul like water spilling into the dry rows of a garden. It filled every nook and cranny of her heart, every crevice of her soul. My mother began to grieve the loss of her home, her precious mementos, and her ability to be in control of her destiny. Until yesterday, my mother has always thought she would recover and one day, in the not so distant future, regain her abilities to walk, to tend to her own needs, and to tap dance. Yes, the one thing my mother would not part with yesterday was her pair of well-worn tap shoes. She still dreams in her heart that she will one day regain her ability to exercise and dance. In her mind, her tap shoes represent her independence, her ability to get up and take care of herself, and the return of her health, happiness, and well-being.
Yesterday we scanned all of my mother’s family pictures and placed them on a digital photo album. We will set it on her nightstand, in clear sight. At least my mother will have her photos to remember the life she is mourning. I hope seeing them rotate through on her nightstand will help her keep grounded with who she is, who she loves, and to those of us who have begun to mourn as she has, the loss of her life as we have known it.
I love my mother, and this task of weeding through her belongings is heartbreaking for me. For my mom - it is devastating. This Mother’s Day is going to be tough for us, my mother is sad, suffering excruciating pain, and grieving the loss of her independence. I think the pain of this Mother’s Day will only be surpassed by one other; the one where my mother will be absent.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am the owner and Managing Funeral Director at Queen City Funeral Home in Queen City Texas. I am an author, syndicated columnist, and co-founder of Heaven Sent, Corp. I write books and weekly bereavement articles related to understanding and coping with grief. I am the American Funeral Director of the Year Runner-Up and recipient of the BBB’s Integrity Award. I deliver powerful messages and motivate audiences toward positive recovery. It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.
For additional encouragement, read other articles or watch video “Grief Briefs,” please go to my website at www.MourningCoffee.com.