Call Me When You Get Home

We didn’t make the four hour trip to visit my mother-in-law in North-East Ohio often, but when we did two things were certain – we would be greeted with smiles and great big hugs when we arrived, and as we said good-bye Mom would instruct us to call her when we got home. I was quite familiar with this practice. When I was growing up, and even as an adult, my parents would often ask that we call when we got to our destination so they would know we had arrived safely. We’ve done the same with our kids.

Despite many invitations through the years Mom never did come to visit us. She was content in her little corner of the world. Even after poor eyesight caused her to stop driving, our offer for her to come live with us was met with resistance and excuses. “I’ll think about it” or “I have to go through my stuff and get rid of things” were common replies. Like many people in their 80’s Mom was very set in her ways and had no desire to leave her comfort zone.

We kept in close contact by phone; my husband striving to make sure her needs were met. Phone conversations always included my husband asking “do you need anything, Mom?” or saying “let us know if you need anything. ” Over the years there were times that Mom did call asking for help and we always obliged.

In February of 2015 Mom became ill and ended up in the hospital. She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure which the doctor determined was best managed with medications. After about a week in the hospital she was discharged to a rehabilitation facility to regain her strength. That is when she told my husband “I will need to come live with you.”

Over the next several weeks, while Mom was in rehab, my husband and I prepared for her coming to stay. He made several trips to Ohio to pack her belongings, move things that would come with her, and find other homes for things that would not. He also visited her while he was there. I stayed home and prepared things here. I cleaned out the spare room, making it ready for mom, acquired special equipment she would need (toilet railings and shower chair), checked the spare cell phone to see how many minutes it had ( this would be mom’s to use to keep in touch with her friends), made sure we had foods that Mom liked.

I also made her an appointment with a doctor and spoke with a home care agency who said they would need a doctors order before they could send out a visiting nurse or begin in-home therapy. They also suggested that a visiting doctor might better meet mom’s needs and said they would make a referral and I would be contacted by the doctor within 24 hours to get services started. This was the day before we were to bring Mom home.

It was the last week of March when we were finally able to bring Mom to our Michigan home. On Wednesday night our youngest daughter stayed home to take care of the dogs and chickens while my husband and I drove to Ohio. Along the way we had to pick up a lipstick for mom. Mom had an early morning appointment with the cardiologist on Thursday and she insisted she could not go out without wearing lipstick. We stayed Wednesday night at a motel near the rehab facility so we were well rested for the next day’s events.

Mom’s appointment with the cardiologist went well, and we gave him the phone number for our local pharmacy so he could call in her medication orders. We would be able to pick them up when we got home. We returned to the rehab for mom’s official discharge, and she said her goodbye’s to some special caregivers who had grown to love her. We then grabbed some lunch before getting on the highway for the four hour trip.

It was a relief to be bringing Mom home and I was looking forward to introducing her to my daughters and sisters. Easter was just a few weeks off and I thought how nice it was going to be for Mom to spend the holiday with family. We were also looking forward to showing her our farm.

I wish I could say that the trip home was uneventful. The first half was. Mom settled into to the back seat of her little Dodge neon with a blanket and a pillow and was able to sleep for a couple of hours. After Mom woke and we chatted a bit. It was brought up that she needed to use the restroom so my husband decided to stop at the next rest area. At the rest area my husband parked as close to the door as possible, but we still had quite a hike to the building. My husband and I both walked with Mom providing the assistance she needed to make it into the ladies room. He then went his way as Mom and I continued in to take care of our needs.

I could hear Mom’s frustration as she apologized for being a burden. I attempted to assure her that I was happy to be able to help her. Next she confided in me “I’m ready to go.” She wasn’t talking about leaving the restroom and I knew what she was referring to. “It’s up to God to decide when it’s time for you to go,” I told her. I then told her that we would be home soon and Lindell, my youngest daughter, would be there waiting to meet her.

My husband met us outside the ladies room and as we walked back toward the car Mom became very weak. She didn’t have the strength to walk any farther. There was no place for her to sit nearby so my husband picked her up (she weighed around 100 lbs.) and carried her back to the car. She was coherent and breathing ok when we got her back in the car so we decided to continue on home.

It was going on dinner time by the time we got home and I had still not received the call from the visiting physician. That was concerning. Mom and Lindell spent some time getting acquainted, while I prepared some dinner and my husband went to pick up mom’s medications. When Mom needed to use the restroom I offered walking assistance but she preferred not to lean on me. As she slowly made her way through the rooms she would gain support by putting her hand on a chair or a counter but she made the walk without my help.

Her first night was a restless one. My husband decided to sleep on the floor in mom’s room so she would not keep waking me or Lindell. I’m not sure how much sleep any of us got that night. The following day was Friday. I was growing quite concerned when by noon I still had not heard from the visiting physician. I attempted to call the nurse who said she would make the referral but I was only able to reach her voicemail.

Through the early part of Friday mom continued to refuse my offers to assist her in walking. I stayed nearby as she used furniture to help her maintain her balance while walking from place to place. When it was time for her to shower I was also present but only assisted her with the things she was unable to do on her own. During this time she again apologized for being a burden and I reiterated that I was happy to be able to help her. I really was. She also told me again “I’m ready to go” and I repeated what I told her the day before – “that’s up to God to decide.”

I still hadn’t received a call back from either the nurse or the visiting doctor later that day when Mom had another weak spell. She was coming out of the bathroom when she suddenly felt weak. My husband was nearby and managed to get her to her bed. We then decided she needed to be seen by a doctor. He called 9-1-1 and the ambulance came to take her to the hospital to be checked out.

After being examined by an emergency room doctor they decided she would be admitted for further testing. Saturday morning when my husband spoke to Mom on the phone and told her he would be coming by to visit later she asked him to bring her comb and lipstick. She needed to look good because she had a handsome doctor. He obliged.

On Monday, when we visited, the doctor felt that Mom was doing well. They hadn’t found any specific reason for the weak spells. We discussed the possibility of more therapy and the doctor agreed that she could probably benefit from that. He thought that he would discharge her on Tuesday. We talked to a discharge planner about our preferred rehab facility and arranged an appointment to visit the facility and do the admission paperwork Tuesday morning.

Tuesday after leaving the rehab facility we went to the hospital. We expected that she would be discharged and we would be taking her to the rehab facility. After vising with Mom for a while we learned that the doctor was not there yet and had not written discharge orders. We decided to go get some lunch while we waited for the doctor. When we arrived back at the hospital the doctor told us that he decided to keep Mom one more day. We visited Mom for awhile longer and told her we would pick her up on Wednesday to take her to rehab.

I was preparing dinner when I heard my husband talking to Mom on the phone. After he hung up he told me “I’m going to walk the dogs then going to the hospital”. He took the dogs to the farm for their afternoon walk then came home to shower before leaving for the hospital. As he was getting out of the shower his phone rang. It was Mom’s nurse calling to tell him that Mom had passed away. I got ready to go with him to the hospital. He contacted the funeral home to arrange for her body to be picked up.

At the hospital we were met by the nurse who offered condolences and ushered us into Mom’s room. We spoke briefly and let her know that the funeral home attendant would be there shortly. Then we were left to say our final goodbyes. As my tears fell I found mom’s lipstick and put some on her. My husband and I stayed until the funeral attendant arrived to pick up Mom’s body. The man that arrived was someone my husband had worked with years ago when he worked at that same funeral home. He offered condolences and they chatted awhile before taking Mom’s body to the hearse.

We collected Mom’s things and thanked the hospital staff before heading home. Shortly after we arrived home my husband received a call from the doctor who had been treating Mom. He said he was surprised at learning of her passing and he too offered his sincere condolences.

It was after 11:00 P.M. when we got into bed, ready to try to get some sleep. Not long after we turned off the light we heard an unusual noise. It was a beeping coming from some type of electronic device – just three short beeps. “What was that?” my husband asked. I didn’t know but was certain it wasn’t the smoke detector so I didn’t really find it important enough to get out of bed. A few minutes later when we heard it again we both got out of bed. I went to ask Lindell if it was something in her room. Lindell didn’t know what it was either. As the three of us walked around trying to find the source of the noise it sounded again. This time my husband was standing in the vicinity where the noise came from. He reached over to my desk and picked up the spare cell phone that I had designated for Mom’s use. When it beeped one last time, although the screen read low battery, my husband and I looked at each other “she’s home” we agreed.

We Love You Mom.

22 thoughts on “Call Me When You Get Home

  1. What a touching and beautiful story Ruth. I was misting up as I read it … I know my mom’s last few days and sudden death in the hospital after just a half-day’s stay mirrored your heartache. Thank you for sharing this story with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Anne. It’s reassuring when someone tells you they are ready. I have never thought of the timing of the phone beeping as just coincidence. It too was a comfort in our time of grief.

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