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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thankful Thursday - My Mom

FYI - This is a long post about my mom's journey through Alzheimer's Disease. It has been 3 years since she passed away. Here is some of what I can remember. Thank you for taking the time to read some, if not all of it.

I am Thankful for my Mom. She was an amazing woman who loved the Lord with all her heart. She stood up for what she believed and taught her children well. She taught us to love nature and animals. She passed on her love of birds, gardening, reading and craftiness among many other things. We all used to love to go camping as a family (well, except my brother, he was too old by then, already in college). I even recently discovered that she was kind of a FlyBaby (FlyLady.net) as she used an index card, daily, weekly, monthly cleaning schedule like in the book Sidetracked Home Executives (which I found in my bookcase a couple months ago!). She is the sole reason I wanted to be a stay at home mom, she was the best example of one I have ever seen! =)

She even went so far as to protest the teaching of sex-ed to mixed classes (boys & girls) when I was in 4th & 5th grade. Yep, that's when they started teaching us, but I was actually sick that whole week in 4th grade, she didn't even know about it until afterward! She managed to get separated classes, at least for a while. I remember in 5th grade having only girls in my class. Though once we got to middle school (6, 7 & 8th grade) they were mixed classes again so she pulled me out of them. By the time I got to 8th grade, I was homeschooled and we were moving to the "country."

Mom homeschooled my sister and I when I was in 8th & 9th grade (sis was in 5th & 6th). Then right before my sister & I were to start school in our new rural school district, the fall of 1997, my mom had a grand-mal seizure. The doctors wrote it off as epilepsy, but she was never the same after that. She went downhill. She started forgetting things and losing weight. She was no longer fit to drive.

By the time I graduated HS in 2000, mom was needing help getting dressed and I helped her color her hair.

A sidenote: I didn't get my driver's license until the fall/winter after I graduated HS. Since my mom couldn't drive and my dad worked 2 jobs, I didn't have anyone to teach me. Enter Jim (now hubby) my senior year of HS. He taught me to drive the summer after we graduated. I had to get rides to college for the first semester, but I was driving our big old conversion van to school in January! Thanks hubby for teaching me =).

When I was in my second year of college my sister went to Peru as an exchange student and mom kept forgetting where she was. Then my sister came back for her senior year in 2002-2003 and had to come home at lunch to check on my mom because she had started wandering out of the house and was forgetting to eat. I was still living at home but was working as I had just graduated from a 2 year college.

At some point my dad realized just how bad mom was when my neighbors mentioned seeing her down the street looking confused. I remember coming home from work one day after I had gotten Duke, when he was just about 8-10 weeks old, and my neighbor came over and warned me that my mom had said my dog was dead. He wasn't trying to scare me, just prepare me in case. I was scared to look, but went inside and Duke was fine. We came to the conclusion that my mom had been talking about her dog KC, a cute little West Highland White Terrier. He had passed away a couple months before I got Duke so she must have been flashing back or something. I also remember one day walking into the living room & she was holding Duke UPSIDE DOWN! I got so upset, I thought she would drop him on his head! So Dad decided that she needed constant supervision. My grandparents started helping out. On my way to work I took mom to her parents' house a day or 2 a week, my dad's parent's came over to watch her 2 days a week and then dad had his home office day on Fridays. We did this for a while. At some point we started taking her to an adult day care once of twice a week when it got to be too much for my grandparents. My poor Opa (mom's dad) had a very hard time watching his little girl deteriorate before his eyes. He passed away Thanksgiving morning of 2005 from a heart attack. We all think it was in part because he couldn't take seeing my mom the way she was.

Mom went to live in a nursing home right before Christmas that year, where she deteriorated faster than ever. I hated it. I wanted to be able to quit working and stay home with her but dad wouldn't have it. I had even started being a Mary Kay consultant the year before to try to be able to earn enough money to quit my job and stay home. But that didn't pan out.... I am just not a people person, I tried really hard for a while but just gave up. I tried to get over to visit my mom at least once a week. It was hard because at that time I was working a TON of overtime, sometimes until 7 at night. I really wish I could have visited her more. I felt so bad for her being there, she was just so confused and out of it. Everytime I left I wished I could just bring her home. She was in the Dementia/Alzheimer's ward at that point. The doctors had decided a while prior that what she had was some sort of global Dementia, but definitely NOT Alzheimer's. Well, mom had a rough time in the dementia ward, she got weaker and weaker and stopped eating well so they ended up moving her out to the "regular" part of the nursing home. She had a bad fall at one point and hit her head pretty good. She had horrible bruises on her face and I still think it had to do with neglect. But we never looked into that. I became friends with one of the nurses assistants and she started keeping an eye on mom. Because mom wasn't eating so well, Mom was put on an IV and no solids at one point. Her mouth was very dry and you could tell she really wanted something to eat. With my RNA's help, we snuck her some sherbet. Mom gobbled it up! I forget what all happened, but after that Mom was put back on "regular" food. She did well for a while, but then something happened, I think another fall, this time really bad (no breaks or anything, but hit her head). The details are so blurry! I think that was when she was put in hospice for some therapy and one-on-one help. With the intention that she would go back to the nursing home when she was better.

Well, she never got better from that last incident. I don't know all the right terminology (my sis would, she is a nurse!) but mom fell into an unresponsive state. Not really a coma because she would make noises and move her eyes. But she could not move. We had discussed a feeding tube and decided against it after much research and seeing others with them. No, we did not want to drag it out. Mom was clearly not going to get better and at the end we were just praying that God would take her home! And that He did.

Mom was 55 years young and passed away after a 9 year battle with early onset Alzheimer's. Like I mentioned before, the doctors had told us it was a form of dementia but was definitely NOT Alzheimer's. Well, after mom passed they determined that she had 3 times the "normal" level of plaque build up, which determines it IS Alzheimer's, in her brain. For more information about Alzheimer's Disease, please visit the Alzheimer's Association website. One other little tidbit that I find very interesting about all this is that when I was in third grade, we had to do reports on diseases. I think we randomly chose them. I had to do mine on, you guessed it, Alzheimer's. Kind of ironic, you think??

I was 24 when Mom passed away. It was a rough time, but I am so very Thankful for my faith in God. It is probably the only thing that got me through. I have heard of so many people losing loved ones and really changing for the worse. But I never felt that. I always had comfort knowing that my mom was going to go home to Heaven and God was going to take care of everything. I know some of you reading this, if you made it this far, do not believe in God and think I am silly. But I know Him and have personally experienced His love for me firsthand. All Christians have because of their belief that Jesus died to cleanse them of their sins so they may enter Heaven. I am really bad at putting this stuff into words, I know how I feel in my heart though. I just have this peace, always have since even before Mom passed, and it can only come from God. Mom passing away only strengthened my faith and I am so thankful for that. The book of Job in the bible was a huge influence on me. Job lost his entire family and everything he had, but never once turned his back on God. It really helped me to see that there are others way worse off than me. And the fact that my mom loved the Lord so very much helped me know that she would be in Heaven waiting to be reunited with her earthly family one day.

I love you Mom and miss you so very much! Thank you for all that you did and for raising us the wonderful way you did. I am sorry if I gave you a hard time during those rough "tween" years. Luckily I had to grow up and never was a selfish (though I had my moments) teenager. Because of you I didn't have time, nor the interest, to get into too much trouble. =)


Katie W said...

It was very difficult for me to read this. I met you, and your family, just before your mother got sick. I remember the happy little McNutt family. Well, you guys were mostly happy...I'm pretty sure you and your sis were going through some sibling rivalry at the time, haha. Anyway, I loved talking to you parents at church, and they quickly welcomed me into the family. When your mom got sick, I saw how hard it was on your family. You and your sister were so young (early teens) and really needed and longed for a mother. It broke my heart to watch you slowly lose you mother. You had to grow up so fast, but you were so strong through everything. Your family really came together in the hard times. You have been such an inspiration to me, in the past 13 years. I am so thankful that you are in my life.

I love you!

Katie Craig Wean

Randi Troxell said...

you brought tears to my eyes... but i promise, in a good way. i respect you so very much for your lovely inspiring attitude! and even though it's been 2 yrs since my grandmother passed of ovarian cancer... i still mourn and miss her... but- like you say, she is in a much much better and happier place! bless you!

frugalmegan said...

Thank you for posting this Ali! Its funny you know- I remember so many years of praying and praying for Mom to be healed. And I remember all the times people said "just have faith! Just have faith!". That was a hard thing to work through at such a young age, thinking it was up to me to have enough faith to heal my Mom. I'm glad now that God didnt. He had a lot to teach me about Himself, namely that His will was much greater than mine. While that meant the earthly loss of my Mother, i think it meant a much richer existance on this earth for us. As you said, we had to grow up, and didnt have much time for folly! We grew closer to God and have made wiser choices in life as a result. Praise Jesus! And THANK YOU Mom, for giving yourself for the sake of your children, though Im sure you didnt know it. What words of thanks are there? I hope you have a wonderful day of reflection sis :-)

Kritter Keeper said...

ali, that was a moving and very touching post. i am so sorry you had to experience such saddness in your young life. but you are correct, your mom is in a better place and you will see her one day. time up there is different than time here on earth. i am so sure she is proud of you and looks down from heaven at you and your sis all the time. she is with you in spirit. God bless!!!

Kelly said...

Thank you for sharing this touching story. My grandmother died from alzheimers, it broke my heart seeing her disappear like that. Big hugs!

Sarah J. said...

beautiful post Ali. and what a sweet, awesome comment from Megan. I hope you find some time today to spend in quiet reflection about the wonderful life your Mom had. She obviously was a wonderful Mom and she was always so sweet to me. ((HUGS))

Lexie Loo & Dylan Too said...

That was a beautiful post. Lots of love to you!

Paint Girl said...

What a wonderful post about your mom! I am sorry you had to go through that at such a young age. Sounds like your mom was a wonderful woman and mother. I also had tears in my eyes reading this!

Old Centennial Farmhouse said...

Beautiful, bittersweet post, Ali. We just found out that a neighbor of ours has been diagnosed with this. I was touched by your tribute to your mother and I know she would be so, so proud of the woman you have become.

angelina said...

wow Ali- You are so awesome to post such an emotional tribute to your mom....you are an amazing daughter! And a total influence on me and my mom..thanks my friend!

jrosey said...

What a wonderful tribute to your mom. This must have been so hard to write. But I think it was probably good for you, as well. It is absolutely crushing to lose a parent, especially at such a young age. I was 19 when my dad passed away at 42. It seemed so unfair, but like you I have strong faith in God and I knew He would get me through it. I try to remember only positive memories and to be thankful for the good times that I had with him as I was growing up. It has definitely taught me to always be thankful for the time I get with my loved ones. I'm sure your mom can hear you when you talk to her...okay, I better go now before I start bawling!

JAN'S PLACE said...

Ali.. I know this was a hard post for you, and thank you for doing it in such a beautiful way.

Your mom sounded wonderful, and is now free from that horrid condition.

When you see her next she will be the Mom you knew as a child. She is now blessed as God has given her a mansion of her own, as she was a good and faithful servant for him.

Thank you for this tribute to your wonderful Mom..

Gena said...

Thanks so much for sharing your story. It is hard to watch someone we love go through so much.


~*Jessica*~ said...

Very lovely post. Now I see how you are such a strong wife, and mother. Your mom seemed like a great woman. Thanks for sharing.

Ali said...

Thank you all for your beautiful, wonderful, thoughtful comments, I truly appreciate you all! I am so blessed to know you, whether it be in "real" life or here in blog-land, you are all so special to me!

sarah pyle cafaro said...

Thank you for journaling these details. I had not seen your mom for maybe 15 years, so now being able to know what happened is helpful. I am so sorry cause that must of been heart wrenching to experience. Your mom was so noticeably kind and joyful and I will ALWAYS remember her as the Godly inspiration she was to me. She was always a bright spot in your day. Thank you for sharing and we will continue to keep your family in our prayers. I'm sure your mom is so pleased and tickled with how her family has grown and blossomed.=)

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