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Dec 312008

We got to the church early, but Mom’s oldest sister had already beat us there. I asked the service director to take photos of the flowers but could not bring myself to take them or to have him take any of Mom. (I know this is odd coming from someone, whose family, Dad’s side, does this and who also collects these photos. I just could not think about looking at those photos ever again. Besides I have a great photo of Mom and Dad together from two weeks before that I will also keep near by.)

The church was still decorated for Christmas but she loved Christmas all her life so it was fitting. The flowers were beautiful. The small church filled up quickly. I apologize to everyone that came I was a bit numb. We do appreciate your coming and all of your kind words. I just can’t seem to remember them all. The one that sticks out the most is my cousins little boy (he’s five) giving her a Doc Hudson car, they had a little joke between them where my Mom said she was Lightning McQueen and he said he was and she was Doc Hudson (cause she was an old guy). Mom continued to laugh about that for the past few years since he said it. He also said the other day when he was told Kaffy died, that “she was and angel now and that’s the best.” So true.

So many people came to celebrate Mom’s life and to share their sympathy with us. At one point I glanced out the window and saw people lined up outside the church in the cold to come in and see us. So many people from Dad’s work came, Mom’s lifetime of friends and people she had touched had come. My best friends came and all the people in my office. I was overwhelmed by it all.

The service was very touching. Her granddaughters both took part. The oldest read a poem about grandmothers that was so fitting and the youngest played one of Mom’s favorite hymns. The pastors both knew my parents and knew what to say. That fact alone made the service more meaningful than having someone just repeating what we told them in an interview the night before. It was so touching to have the minister get choked up during the service because he truly cared for the person he was there to speak about.

The graveside service was brief as it was so cold and windy. We had a bagpipe player playing while we came to the grave and she played Amazing Grace as we left.

This has been one of the hardest and saddest days of my life and I made it through it, mostly.

Dec 302008

I woke up feeling worse and with white spots in the back of my throat so I called the doctor and made an appointment, even though my preferred physician was not available. They did a culture and I was told I did not have strep throat. Good not contagious. But I did have to go have blood drawn. So I headed back into town to have blood tests. Mom would not have liked me letting myself get sicker.

Boy, today was hard. I kept wanting to pick up the phone and call Mom (I guess I will never stop feeling like that). We headed over to Dad in the afternoon. We went through pictures to make collages of Mom for people to remember her during the service tomorrow. We made two (could have made a bunch more).

In doing this I decided I am going to finally sit down and scan all our family photos into the computer. That way I have copies and can look at them anytime and my nieces can one day get the originals. Scans are fine with me. I told Dad I will come over and do them there. No need to drag it all off to my house, besides we can sit down together and go through the memories together.

After we got our posters done, mostly, we headed out to the funeral home for a private viewing with Mom. The viewing and service will be together tomorrow. She looked really good (one of the advantages of having people who knew her work with her at the end). Her hairdresser came and did her hair for us. The flowers were very nice.

I got through this far. I might be able to get through tomorrow. But what about the next day or the day after that?

Dec 292008

We met with the funeral home today, Labs Funeral Home.

The folks who are running the funeral home go to our church and know mom and dad well. This was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do only hours after watching my mother die. I am glad we were there for Dad. It has to be hard for him to do this after loosing his wife and best friend of 45 years. He just seemed lost as we all were.

I came home and asked Beth if thought her brother could step up when the time comes for her to bury her mother as I know she will not be able to do it.

This experience tells me a couple of things. Plan your funeral out from beginning to end what casket, what vault, service, everything. Don’t necessarily pre-pay just pre-plan. As some small funeral homes like this one simply go out of business before you die and you and your family are out the money paid for a service that cannot be done. So set up a funeral trust with your bank and/or get at the very least 10 to 15 thousand dollars of life insurance to pay for your final disposition.

Other than buying a new car or home paying for a funeral will be one of the most expensive things we’ll ever have to buy in our life times. And for the most part those of us that have to go through with it will be numb and unable to make cost effective decisions. We were asked over and over again what Mom would have wanted. We had some idea and we had each other to bounce our thoughts off of otherwise we would have been lost. I don’t want anyone to have to go through that for me. So sometime this year I will be pre-planning and setting up a trust to pay for it.

Dec 282008

Like the night before I fell asleep on the sofa, but I had a little help from the vicodin I took to ward off the headache I had for the past two days of crying. Although, just like the night before I got very little sleep.

I awakened with a sore throat and joked at the hospital that my Yugoslavia (uvula) was swollen (it was).

The doctor was repeating the test today to see if there was any improvement. Giving false hope to our family that any improvement would be a good thing. She could not have come back from this stroke. If she did she would have been on a ventilator and she did not want that. We had come to terms with what we were going to have to do at some point that day. Now we just had to let the rest of the family know so they could say their goodbyes.

The doctors came out to confirm what we had already known. She was not getting any blood to her brain. They then asked that my Dad, my sister and myself meet with them to discuss what would happen next.

When we went with them we were presented with a representative from the Gift of Life program asking if we would consider donating Mom’s liver to help save the lives of others. Mom being a recipient of a kidney (from her nephew — a living donor) she was always an advocate for organ donation. We did not have to think too long before all agreeing that mom would have wanted to help someone else and the only reason her DNR contradicted her driver’s license was because she most likely thought none of her parts would be good enough for anyone to use. We agreed to allow the liver donation. We did not know that this gift would prolong her agony and ours. We were promised it would be over by midnight they just had to confirm death and find a recipient. It drug on and on (and would have been longer and worse if we would have allowed them to take all the tissue they wanted — the gift of life is an amazing thing but allowing this to happen to your own loved one is another thing).

Mom was officially pronounced brain dead at 11:04pm, but they had to keep her on the ventilator until they found a recipient. By 3am we finally had to make them stop we just could not prolong the inevitable any longer. Nor could my sister and I stand to see our dad go through anymore of this emotional torture. We asked that they stop looking and remove the ventilator. Mom was finally at peace at 3:40am surrounded by those who loved her; my sister, my dad, our pastor and me.

We were at peace as well. Knowing her suffering was over then we could have closure. Not knowing when or where they would take her liver was too much to bear.

Dr. Chon stopped by tell us that organ donation was a very good thing to do and also try to explain to us why Mom died. He thinks it started as a very bad sinus infection, which would have caused the headache and vomiting. Being immunosurpressed it spread quickly. The stress of the infection then caused her blood pressure to rise therefore causing the stroke. Although we will never know a definitive answer this wraps up the last 72+ hours somewhat.

Dec 272008

Dad and I went in to see Mom and the infectious doctor (I know that sounds like the doctor is infectious, she was a doctor of infectious diseases) came in and told us she had bacteria in her blood (pneumococcus) and the treatment would be the antibiotics she was on even if was meningitis so she was getting the right course of treatment for now. She also looked at Mom’s eyes. (I did not know this until later but Mom’s pupils were fixed and dilated since the day before. My sister knew that there were no reflexes and she had fixed pupils, but I was unaware. Dad and I still had some hope, being a nurse she was already preparing herself and her kids for the inevitable.)

The doctor finally came out sometime that evening to tell us all the test results (Mom’s brothers and sisters had all come back by then). It was not good news. Mom was not getting blood to her brain stem at all. He would not call her brain dead just yet said he had to repeat the test the next day. But the situation was dire. We told him she would insist on a DNR order should anything happen over night. My sister and I stepped out to see the test results for ourselves. It was scary to see only two small blood vessels supplying blood to a small portion of her brain and none at all to her brain stem.

So our prayers turned from “please help her through this” to “please give her peace”.

Once again we left to go home to sleep and take care of ourselves. I am so thankful Beth was there by my side every minute.

Dec 262008

Today (26th) is when it all goes horribly, horribly wrong. I got up after sleeping in to go run a few errands and then off for another leg ultrasound to see how or if my veins working. Before I head out I got a call from Pastor Charles telling me that Dad had Mom at the hospital emergency room. That she had gone in with a really bad headache and they were testing her for a stroke and/or something else (I cannot recall what he said, just that it did not seem urgent at the time I spoke to him – mind you Mom has been through an awful lot including mild strokes, heart attack, increased inner cranial pressure, and numerous infections and has always bounced back).

It was not until I called my sister and then actually talked to my Dad that I knew something was horribly wrong. Dad told me to go on to my test, but I could tell by his voice that I should not. So I rescheduled and headed right to the hospital and I am glad I did as I would never have forgiven myself if I had continued with my normal day.

By the time I had gotten to the hospital Mom had already been taken to a room in the ICU and was placed on a ventilator to protect her airway. They said it was because her breathing had slowed in the ER after she was given pain medication. I don’t know if my sister got there while she was still coherent enough to talk to her or not. Seems she went down hill pretty fast once she had gotten to the emergency room.

The doctors had no real idea what was going on. They said it could be meningitis, a stroke or the return of the inner cranial pressure. They would not know until she had an MRI as the cat scans weren’t showing any signs of a stroke, especially if it was indeed a brain stem stroke.

She apparently coded once she was down in the MRI room as the rushed her back and called a code a code blue (did not know they still used that term) in CC (critical care). Upon hearing that I broke down. My cousin was hugging me telling me “we don’t know it is her” over and over, but I knew. I just knew it was Mom.

All mom’s brothers and sisters had gotten to the hospital by now so we had the waiting room full and the hallway. Crying nervous people all around.

A doctor came out and told us all that she did have an MI before they could do the MRI that they got her back quickly and did not think that it would cause any brain damage (at least not any more than she already had by that time). They still needed to do the MRI and scheduled it for the next day (Saturday). There was no change; they were starting IV antibiotics in case it was meningitis or another infection. They could not do a lumbar puncture since she was on blood thinners (Plavix, I won’t even get started on Plavix yet), as she could bleed into her brain and make things worse. So they could not actually test for the inner cranial pressure or meningitis for a few weeks.

We went home after being reassured they would call if there was any change.

Dec 252008

Christmas day we had a feast waiting for us prepared by Mom and Dad. We had both ham and turkey with stuffing and all the fixings. As usual everything was delicious. My mom knows how to cook (and how to tell my dad what to do to make her delicious meals — he has been her go to guy ever since she has been pretty much wheelchair bound).

After lunch we played a game of Yatzee before Beth and I had to head out to her Mom’s. I am not one for sharing the holidays I always want to stick around and spend time with my family (even if it is only sitting around in front of the TV and falling asleep), but I cannot be selfish.

We had a great time. Mom was all smiles and laughs. She seemed not only in good spirits but also good health; she was feeling good.

We had good time at Beth’s Mom’s with snacks (boy I wish I could still eat shrimp). We exchanged our gifts then headed home around 7 or 8 (sorry I don’t honestly remember when we left, but we stayed and had a good time with them before heading home to the kitties).

Dec 242008

We had a good Christmas together. Christmas eve the Haas side (Mom’s side) of the family (my Dad’s family are almost all in Virginia) get together for dinner and gift exchange. We have done this for as long as I can remember. We had a great time seeing all the aunts, uncles and cousins (there are about 50 of us if you were to sit down and count us all). Both Santa and the Belschnickel come to hand out our gifts. We always pull names at Thanksgiving, but this year I was a little sneaky. I saw my cousins family wasn’t putting their names in the hat so I swapped names with her little boy (God knows I have more than enough boy toys in this house to supply him with presents for the next few years then I can move on to his younger second cousin. (Sorry girls.)

I gave out my homemade snowmen (I should have made more everyone loved them). They also enjoyed my tres leches cake (but what self respecting PA Dutch Haas doesn’t enjoy cake covered in milk?)

After the whole family gathering we always head back to my parent’s house for our immediate family to exchange gifts. I think this little tradition started sometime after my sister and I grew up, maybe after she had kids and moved back to PA. But we started it so we could enjoy Christmas day as a family and not be thinking of gifts etc instead of the real meaning of the holiday. (We never attended church services unless Christmas landed on a Sunday. For us the holiday meant family time.)

Mom seemed upbeat enjoying what she got as much as what she gave. We all hugged and said goodnight, as we’d see each other for lunch.

Dec 242008

I talked about my Lego trains in my post yesterday, but I did not share them with you. While I was setting up the tree and trains I had a little help as you’ll see by this photo. Remember the scene in Harry Potter where Hogwarts was attacked by the giant dragon? Me either but that’s the game we were playing. 🙂

Boris train conductor

As you can see Boris decided to sit his little butt down right in the middle of the tracks and proclaim himself official Lego conductor. We both agree the 9v electric trains are sooooo much better than their new remote control trains.

When he was done playing with the trains (while they were running he was outside the tracks carefully watching as they went by him), he helped with the tree.

Boris helping get the tree out. How do we put this together again?

Okay, so maybe helped is not the right word to use. In any case we had fun getting the tree up. What more could one ask for?

Dec 242008

Just like in Star Trek, a great big happy family on planet earth. I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, Happy Kwanzaa, Joyous Noel, Happy Winter Solstice, Happy Saturnalia and so forth and so on.

To celebrate the holidays I have once again put up my Trekmas Tree. Here are a few pictures. It is all trek ornaments and toys nothing else except lights and my Lego trains underneath.

Trekmas Tree Trekmas Tree Star Trek Xmas Ornament

Trekmas Tree Red Shirts

Dec 232008
I Wasn't Gonna Eat It

Like Pooh Bear said, “I was only gonna taste it.” I don’t think this bad boy was only gonna taste it. He is known for chewing on wires. I had to pull up those PS2 cables before he got a chance to rip into them. Boris thinks anything and everything is a cat toy!

Dec 222008
Warm the Dogs

A while back offered up cool camo dog coats for only $1.99 plus shipping/handling (with tax it came to around $8 a coat —  not bad at all). I did not realize how cool a deal this was until I actually got my coats (got three altogether for my nephew and niece doggies). Theses […]