It's been a while since I've blogged. Eileen's mom passed away three weeks ago come Monday after spending a week in hospice-style "transitional care" at the Longmont, CO hospital. She had gone in a week and a half earlier to have a stent put in her esophagus where a nasty tumor was at; however, she was so weakened from not being able to eat or drink much that the added trauma pushed her over the edge.
She needed to be able to eat and drink to be able to recover, and that wasn't happening.
I've had family members die, but not this way, where you could see it coming. However, my grandparent's generation was dying off in the 80s and 90s before hospice became more common. Eileen's grandma managed to make it to 2005, but that's the exception to the rule on that front.
After a few days of pain and struggle and with the doctors not seeing a way to fix her digestive issues, Eileen's family was faced with the rough decision to move towards "palliative care", the five-dollar term for hospice-style pain-only treatment. You really don't want to "pull the plug" and give up hope of recovery, but there are points where, barring a miracle, recovery ain't happening.
People can transition out of palliative mode, but when you're not getting any water or nourishment, you don't last long. Folks who have some other type of terminal illness might regain strength enough to start tackling their issues in hospice mode, but not when your not eating or drinking. Thus, we were basically watching her mom die, with pain medication softening the blows for her, but dying nonetheless.
It was early in that process when I did a Facebook post saying cryptically that it wasn't a good day to ask me "how'ya doin?" The answer that I didn't post at the time was "Not too well. My mother-in-law is dying in the hospital."
It took a week for her to finally pass on. Eileen's dad was at her side when she passed, and Eileen and her sister were also overnighting at the hospital frequently. It was a long week.
I will give the Longmont hospital some props. Their Transitional Care Unit (a Horned Frog joke was required) treated the family members well, with a "nutrition room" with pop and healthy snacks along with a nice lounge area and comfy chairs in the rooms. Also, the pastor at Westview Pres (Eileen's sister's church) was very helpful; I can't vouch for his theology (probably a notch or two to my left), but he had the chaplain thing covered rather well, with a good bedside manner.
The week after her death wasn't any easier. Miracle Max wasn't quite on when he said that the only thing you can do with an all-dead person is search their clothes for loose change. You have to dispose of the body (cremation in her case), let a bunch of people know that she's passed (including a surreal call to Verizon to cancel her iPhone service just before her memorial service) and go through much, much more than her pockets.
I'm still processing the whole thing. It's the first time I've lost a family member of my parents' generation. Eileen's lost the person that she'd call when she needs a second listening ear. It moves the Grim Reaper a notch closer to your generation when the generation ahead of you starts dropping.