Thursday, April 19, 2018

How Are You Doing?

I thought I would write a post about how I am doing. Several friends (bless you) have checked in on me and I just don't answer my phone. It might seem rude but I just can't answer knowing what the conversation will be about. I despise talking on the phone and am much better in person or via text/email/instagram DM/facebook message/snapchat/Marco get the idea. It is much easier to hide behind my laptop and pour my heart out here than when I can get follow-up questions.

I'm okay. 

But I've been sick since I came back to Charlotte after the funeral. Apparently this is pretty normal after a stressful event (article HERE). I honestly think I was running on adrenaline from the moment Mom died. I won't go into details but the type of sick that you can't get out there and exercise, eat normally, feel good, feel happy. I'm no stranger to weird sicknesses (kidney stone that shut down kidneys at age 8, two bouts of Sepsis that put me in ICU with organ failure) but this is just a pain. On top of it I had a sinus infection that wiped me out the 2nd week and this other issue just won't quit. I'm on some PSYCHO antibiotics that I would rather not be taking but I trust my doctor and we are just trying to wipe out whatever it is. But when you feel like sh*t it is hard to be happy.

Also, to add insult to injury I can't drink on these meds for 10 days. TEN DAYS. So I begged my doctor for some xanax. Yep, I'm Karen from Will and Grace.

Aside from the stupid medical crap, I'm hanging in there. The first week was awful. I cried a lot. But then had to rally and host Easter. We typically go to Asheville but after all the back and forth I just wanted to be home. Easter was wonderful (even sick) and then Monday after I was sick all over again. So the second week was awful but a little less. The third week was awful, but okay, and here we are in the fourth week.

I think after the funeral is the hardest. There is a perfectly written article about this HERE called "The Grieving Need You the Most After the Funeral". This is so so so so true and important. From this article:
Just as the shock begins to wear off and the haze is lifted and you start to feel the full gravity of the loss; just as you get a clear look at the massive crater in your heart—you find yourself alone.
For me, the flowers have died, the cards have stopped coming (snail mail is incredibly appreciated in the time of social media) and everyone has gone about their lives. (As everyone should! This is not a guilt trip, more of an information session) This was compounded by the fact that Easter and then Spring Break came immediately after so I just felt alone. Grief is lonely. Losing a parent at the age of 38 is the worst. Unfortunately I have several friends in this club and more that are soon to be members. It just plain sucks. 

I feel that some expected me to be okay after my 24 hour getaway to Ballantyne and come home healed and ready to move on. (I desperately wanted to run away to a beach and be like Diane Keaton in "Something's Gotta Give" writing and crying in a drop dead gorgeous home). I mean I had been grieving for 7 years, I hadn't really had a "Mom" in forever. But to be motherless, the finality of it, hurt beyond my expectations.

It felt like, Now what? People have stopped reading these posts. I completely understand that the readership increased to find out Mom's status but it has dropped off drastically. How do I still advocate and fundraise for Alzheimer's without our mascot?  I don't have any new stories. I don't have any new pictures. I don't have HER. So much of my life has revolved around being a champion for her cause and now I don't have her. 

So I'm okay. I'm working and trying to be the best Mom to my kiddos that have needed me back in their lives. I feel like I haven't been home all of 2018 but living in a permanent limbo of Asheville to Charlotte to Asheville mindset. 

I want to thank my girlfriends for regularly checking on me. Food, wine, random drop offs of strawberries, casseroles, starbucks, flowers. Showing up and sitting here until midnight while I cried my eyes out. Texting to check on me. Texting me about lipgloss knowing that that was a covert secret operation to really see how I was doing, and knowing that shopping on the internet can take anyone's mind off life. 

I still want to write about planning the funeral, and the funeral itself. But I thought I should touch base about me in general. Say a small prayer that we get through her birthday (May 3rd) and Mother's Day this year without too many tears. The Mother's Day stuff is everywhere it seems.

I love all of you. And I promise this wasn't a SOS for wine and cards. Just know that if you have a friend grieving and it has been days, months, or even years...that they still are grieving. Send a text. Check in on them. BB was best at this type of thing. The little things matter.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

I Love You-My Mother's Eulogy

I had long wondered if I would be able to get up and speak at my Mom's funeral. I think the fact that her death was so well prepared for (physically not mentally) and that I had been grieving for so long both allowed me to not break down in Church. Todd and I had a sign and I would give a thumbs up if I was able and a thumbs down if I couldn't do it. 

I wrote this in my head multiple times and it could definitely be improved upon, but I typed it, sent it to a few close confidants to proof and went with it. I think with writing if you wait and tinker too long it will never get published.

"I Love You"

We say it at the end of phone conversations, we say it before kissing our kids and putting them in bed. We
sometimes even whisper it to our favorite Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese or our bottle of Wacammaw Cab.

I Love you.

BB Loved all of you. She loved everyone.

The disease that stole her from us took everything. But it couldn’t take her ability to love. In her final days it
was the only phrase she could say. It had lost its emphatic tone, and some of its syllables. But she said it. Upon seeing my face or my father’s or brother’s. She would muster up the ability from the depths of her heart and tell you….. I love you.

Her love knew no boundaries. She loved with her WHOLE heart. You knew this when she looked you straight in the eyes and told you. It was the type of love a daughter could keep in her pocket and use to shield her from so many awful events that mark the horrid years of middle school and sorority rush. I was invincible with that shield. That mother’s love.

She just didn’t love her family. She loved her friends with a ferocity that enveloped them like family. I
remember as a child my parents always had friends over. She loved their presence and loved having them in her home.

She also loved strangers. Waiters, Bellhops, Gas Station attendants, most recently her CNA’s and helpers at
Aston. If you made eye contact with her she told you. And she meant it. Her massuse, person doing her
pedicure, Starbucks Barista, she loved you. In her words, "love you mean it". 

Her Animals were some of the most loved. First Momus and Roux and then Dewars and Gumbo. Mom and
Roux were the best of friends. On her last road trip, a trip to the Keys, manatees and pelicans were loved by BB too. Almost so much so that a pelican was almost the new recipient of her gold bead necklace.

I went to one of her last Jazzercise classes with her and afterwards tried to thank them all profusely for what
they had done for our family. For befriending our BB in the state she was in. They had confused looks on their faces and one of them approached me and said I don’t think you understand. BB was sent to us. She was our Angel. She told each and every one of us we were beautiful. We were loved. That we were awesome. And sometimes after a long day when you hadn’t heard those words in a while, seeing BB at Jazzercise with her bright eyes and huge smile was exactly what we all needed. She didn’t need us, we needed her.

In this world, especially now in 2018, we need more hearts and souls like BB’s. She loved. Her love touched us all. She made you feel happy, secure, warm and welcome. I hope to love the way BB loved. To my family, to my friends, and to anyone that needs to feel that love.

I Love You.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Monday March 19, 2018

Around 6am I rolled over in bed (for the 20th time) and unplugged my phone and did the morning scroll. I heard Dad come down the steps from his room upstairs with Gumbo the Boykin bounding behind him. The garage door opened and the two set off for their daily morning walk around the mountain.

Shortly after I heard the kitchen door slam open and my Dad's panicked voice yell out to my brother and I, his voice echoing off the post and beam built cathedral ceilings.

Beau! Katharine!
She's gone, 
She's gone! 

He opened my bedroom door still with his headlamp shining his dark morning red light. "They just called, she's gone! Let's go!" We didn't cry or hug but all raced to get dressed as fast as we could. Dad ran upstairs and I washed all my zit cream off, Beau still putting on his pressed chinos while he was running to the car. 

I don't remember what we said in the car that morning. We probably should have called for a police escort at the speed we were going. I know Dad said "I should have been there" and we quickly stopped that thought. I told Dad there is no way she would have died if his beating heart was in the same room as hers. The nurse that had called Dad said that "BB has taken her last breath while I was in here checking on her, she is at peace and now fully healed".

Hospice will tell you again and again that this is normal. We could have stayed in there with her forever and at the first meal break or coffee run she would go. Sometimes people like to leave on their own. 

I wasn't sure I wanted to go into her room. I have never seen a deceased person, and wasn't sure it was an image I was emotionally prepared for. Especially not the person that had brought me into this earth with her own body. My mother, whose blood runs through my veins.

We opened the door and she lay still and quiet. The nurses had moved her on her back and prettied up her hair. Her eyes were forced closed but her mouth was open (something you can't prevent). Her hands were clasping each other and resting on her stomach with her rosary and two flowers in them. 

It was a beautiful and peaceful sight. And one that I will never ever be able to get out of my mind. My last glimpse of my mother. My beautiful loving mother. Holding flowers as if she was going to walk down a church aisle for a wedding.

I did what any Boylan would do and slowly removed the carnations out of her hands and replaced them with purple tulips from my birthday flowers. Dad smiled and said that's a good daughter.

Her head was still warm and I kissed her goodbye. We all sat and stood there for quite some time. 

The amazing Todd (that I have mentioned frequently in these last posts) arrived shortly after, called by Alice Myer to let him know what had happened. We prayed over BB and sat in the quiet, making decisions and started calling people once 8am rolled around. 

Dad stayed busy calling while Beau and I messaged friends. If I had any advice I would make a list of most important people to call. I thought I had everything covered but of course we forgot a few. Friends had already started posting pictures and Beau and Dad agreed on a facebook post to let the rest of the world know. I probably posted it too quickly but I didn't want people to see the comments that were rolling in. I know people have a love/hate with social media but it truly is the best way to get information out in the fastest way possible.

We packed up her things, her bear, her pillows and her picture frames we had brought and loaded up the car. We kissed her goodbye and made arrangements with the Crematorium and we left Elizabeth House.

We would never visit my mother again. Never hold those hands, never kiss her forehead, stroke her hair, whisper that we loved her. We wished for her to be made whole again in heaven, but had no idea how much we would miss those moments here on Earth.

The rest of the day and week we went into planning mode. I will begin that on a separate post. 

I didn't cry that much that morning, I teared up but the adrenaline of preparing for 200 of our closest friends and family coming to town took over. And that adrenaline would carry me until her funeral, and immediately wear off afterwards. 

But after we went out to lunch and stopped into Gardener's Cottage our friend Libby came running through the door with tears streaming down her face and the floodgates opened. Mom was like a second mother to Libby and Gardener's Cottage was probably one of her most favorite places in Asheville. I walked the store and every single thing in there speaks to me. It is like a part of Mom is still in the store, straightening books, smelling candles, deadheading plants, tiptoeing through the tulips.

It will now always be a place I can connect with my Mother. And it is a beautiful place for such a thing.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Top 10 Things Take Them A Meal Should Also Deliver

**Top 10 Things Take Them A Meal should also deliver:
(Huge thank you to my friends that set up and signed up for this. Max is working late to make up for days off and I don't cook.) Here's the link Dad!

1. A Babysitter
I love my kids and these extra moments I'm getting to spend with them because I am no longer back and forth to Asheville is amazing. But Amelie is also a three year old that yells at me if she doesn't get to open the car door (which she cannot open).

2. Ritalin
Listen, Mom used to give me a few extra here and there because I fall asleep driving. Yep, I'm not a narcoleptic but I must just relax so much in the car I totally zone out. Monster, windows down, Girl Talk playlist can't keep me awake. And the last time I was able to indulge in the lovely "mother's little helper" I finally put all the laundry away. That was 2016. 

3. Wine
I'm out of my "allowed to drink Monday-Friday under $10" stash that Max has ruled the only thing I can drink during the week. Where are these drones that deliver things and why aren't they dropping wine off yet? (Huge thanks to WineStore for sending me two bottles of Lafage for Easter!)

4. A full size bathtub
(Like my sister in law's)
Our Master bathroom is the size of that unnamed gas station with a gravel parking lot somewhere near Bethune on the way to Pawleys via backroads. I would love to take a bath in a tub that doesn't have moldy ducks or rode hard and put up wet barbies.

5. Personal Trainer
Because Margaret Tomlinson's ice cream is redonk and Max still hasn't bought me a Peleton. And we still haven't built that addition or purchased the new hose for said Peleton.

6. Personal Stylist
I really should stop wearing workout clothes and glasses and maybe take a shower

7. Hugs
Thank you MT for those big time hugs last night. I need more hugs. Do you hear that Max? 

8. Doctor
I've been sick since I came home from Asheville. First what I thought was the stomach bug and now a "cold" that turned into a sinus infection. I'm not good at leaving the house AKA safe little happy messy nest so I wish we had a person like I do for my kids that will show up and magically diagnose something that meds can fix. Finally found that e-visit option and I'm on the good stuff. (Alas, not ritalin).

9. Valium
Thanks to an unnamed family member I also was gifted maybe one or two valium for the week to end all week's. I was mid meltdown over her slideshow and one of these fabulous pills slipped their way down my throat. What slideshow? I also accredit this magic medicine to how I was able to speak at Mom's service. 90 day supply please.

10. Love
It's mainly my fault but I miss seeing people. I HATE HATE HATE the phone. I just can't do it. I wish I could teleport friends from all over into my office and just chat. I'm still in awe at how many of you came to Asheville and I will be eternally grateful for that forever. Starting thank you notes stat.

**If you found this post tacky as hell it was hopefully meant to make you laugh. And to make me laugh. It's a hard job to be the funniest person in your household WHILE grieving.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

March 13th-Moving to Elizabeth House

These posts obviously aren't in order but they all tell a part of our story and I felt they were each important to still write.

Thanks to Mom's adorable hallmate with tourettes and the sensitivity of stopping forcefeeding (a very important post on this will come soon) it was suggested that we move to Hospice's private home, Elizabeth House. While Mom was on a no more food/liquid by  mouth diet she still was receiving meds with applesauce and some shakes for other meds and they "no feeding" was a very gray and tricky area to try to discuss with staff. Moving her to the private home would be much easier to navigate with orders like this.

I headed up to Asheville on March 11th to spend time with Mom and see how her status was. I came back to Charlotte Tuesday b/c Max wanted to take me out for my birthday (Wednesday). Tuesday dad called asking about moving Mom. The idea of moving her from a place she had known for two years first made me panic. She had only ever left Aston Park for a seizure and head injury, and then for breaking her ankle/foot. And also once for a hair appointment that I brought her to (but ended up being a horrible idea). What I would give to take her out for ice cream now.

My only real concern would be if she would be okay with the move. Would she panic? Would it cause her to decline even faster? The hospice nurses assured us this would be okay and they would sedate her for the move. 

The last time I saw Mom in Aston Park she was wide eyed and alert. She didn't smile much on that Monday or talk but we prayed over her and did a modification of last rites (as people in this state can supposedly still hear us, but I wonder if she could understand us). This would be the last time she looked at me. 

Dad called Tuesday and sent pictures of Elizabeth House. Her move went smoothly and she was resting comfortably in her new room. It is a beautiful facility in Hendersonville near Flat Rock, a 30 minute drive from his house but such a more serene place for BB. 
We had a private room with adjoining bathroom. There is a common area between our room and the next that leads out to a patio with chairs. We didn't have a neighbor after our first two days there so had this whole area to ourselves. 
I cannot tell you what a blessing being at Elizabeth House was. I drove back Friday morning and brought Mom the birthday flowers a sweet friend had dropped off at my house. (Katie they got so many compliments!) Her room was huge, with a big window and bird feeders outside. I wish I had gone earlier. I wish I had climbed in bed and napped with her. 

Dad and I went out to lunch in Hendersonville at West First and then stopped in McFarlan's bakery (the best in NC) and I promptly broke into tears. I always went to Hendersonville with Mom to the Curb Market and then to McFarlan's. This was our thing. She couldn't stay away from the bear claws and I'm a sucker for the dinosaur cookies. We headed back to sit with Mom the rest of the day. Mom had strong vitals even though she was mostly unresponsive so they told Dad to get a good night's sleep at home.
Saturday we were back early in the morning and our best friends Tommy and Alice who sat with us the entire time. I held Mom's hand, told her I loved her and that it was okay to go. We went out to lunch and shared some laughs and praise God my brother hopped on a flight and arrived by 4pm. Tommy and Alice you will never know what your friendship has meant to us throughout this illness. And Beau, I know your March was a sh*tshow but you coming up Saturday made your little sister very very happy. 
Mom was re-positioned every 4 hours and given pain meds through a port in her leg. She was sleeping peacefully the entire six days at Elizabeth House. We monitored her vitals hoping for a sign. We had no idea how long this would last. Doctors and nurses met with us regularly trying to decipher her stats and where we were on this final approach. So many friends had told us that oxygen below x means y, or that pulse means this or that blood pressure means that. None of it really makes sense. Mom was a healthy young woman with the exception of this horrible f*cking disease. There was no telling how her body would slowly shut down.

Saturday her status wasn't good, and her breathing had started the "death rattle" what my friend Scott has nicely renamed the "travel rattle" so Dad spent the night. Usually they might be able to tell you when you have hours left but there is no perfect science to this. Beau and I drove home and came right back early in the morning.

Sunday was a long day. Her stats dropped all morning and we all felt we were close. Our dear friends the Elmores brought us lunch and the MVP Gaines Myer snuck in Zing Zang and vodka. I almost drove to Ingles for some cheap wine because Sunday was torture. Alcohol is prohibited at Elizabeth House but promise they could have copper bird feeders in the hundreds if they had a bar. Thank you to the friends that continually texted me through that. Even though the place was quiet and beautiful and attentive it was absolutely draining. The doctor came to talk to us around 3 and said Mom still had a strong pulse and that we could possibly even have hours to days left. Looking back now I should have been thrilled. But we were exhausted and emotionally spent. Dad decided to come home with me and Beau. Before we left I gave her a rosary I found in her dresser. I'm assuming it was hers or her mother's. She was raised Catholic and I thought maybe this was something she needed to pass through to the next world.

That was the last time I would see my mother alive.