I went to bed late on the night of January 16th because I was having so much fun making final preparations for the full week ahead of presentations and LEGO events. Unfortunately, I wasn’t actually IN the bed for very long! I had been very worried about Mom’s decline since I had last seen her on December 30th before the second group home lockdown caused by the pandemic. That worry turned into a very bad dream on the night of the 16th. I dreamed that my Wonder Woman Mom was dying and I was trying to get to the group home a few miles from me before she died. In my dream I was running and my neighbors were running after me to determine what was wrong. The next thing I knew I was on the floor of my bedroom along with almost everything that had been on my nightstand. I had actually fallen out of my bed for the first time in my entire life. I tried to blame it on someone else being in the room with me and pushing me out of the bed, but there was no burglar or anyone else in the room BUT ME! I immediately felt intense pain in my left side and even in the dark I could see and feel that I was laying on top of my air purifier. I was relieved that I wasn’t bleeding but the pain scared me. Trying not to panic I grabbed my headphones and quickly turned on the spa station to calm myself down before even trying to get up. It was 1:30am so I definitely didn’t want to call anyone if I didn’t need to. I could breathe, though a deep breath hurt like crazy but I was pretty sure my ribs weren’t broken. I listened to a few songs before getting up and deciding what to do next. I got back in bed and slept off and on for a couple of hours before finally getting up.
Later that morning on January 17th I got a call from the group home confirming what I was already worried about and had resulted in my bad dream. Mom was declining and having greater difficulty swallowing even the Ensure that she loves. That same afternoon because I was still in a lot of pain from my fall I went to Patient First to confirm what I suspected, that my ribs were bruised but not broken. Even now, more than a week later I’m still in a lot of pain from the ribs every day, but at least I can sleep thanks to my adjustable Sleep Number Bed! The last week has been a blur with my presentations and LEGO events, phone calls with Mom’s caregiver Janet and my visits with Mom, which are an absolute BLESSING! One of the most difficult parts of this week was being in the room on Monday while the hospice nurse examined Mom. We are keeping her comfy and ensuring that she’s not in any pain. That said, there is still so much JOY in Wonder Woman… I still get the “HELLO” when I come in, and the “Bye Bye” when I leave. I fill her room with laughter and Joy while I’m there and Janet is giving Mom all of the love and attention she needs when I’m not there! The most amazing part of all this for me is that even though she’s getting much weaker and can no longer pull her LEGO bricks apart or put them together, she can still wrap her fingers around them and push them around her blanket, and she even smiles while doing it.
We all know how this will end, but as I look back on the amazing journey during this 16 years since her dementia diagnosis, there are so many incredible moments of joy that I will NEVER forget. I’m writing this post because so many of you have been on this journey with us and have inspired us with your comments, love and support. When that day comes when my Wonder Woman Mom is no longer with us, because of all the lessons I’ve learned from her about “carrying on no matter what” I will be very bruised but not broken. I know you all will be right there with me! Much love to you all and to my Wonder Woman!
After a 2021 filled with many pivots caused by COVID I was so looking forward to 2022… until it actually came!! I know how hard the holidays can be for some people so thanks to my awesome friend Gayle Fisher Stewart I facilitated a Blue Christmas event using LEGO Serious Play at an Episcopal Church in D.C. We built hopeful strategies to help with grief with sadness during the holidays. With Omicron just starting to spread rapidly we had a small but very committed and interactive group and had an incredible time of learning and sharing. It’s an event I’d love to do each year!
Spending Christmas morning with the kids and the afternoon with Mom was great!! I am so amazed that Mom is still here, so I gave her more Wonder Woman gifts in celebration, a stocking, coffee mug and socks! She was really alert on Christmas day and I made the most of every moment we were together!
Then I headed out to see several Holiday light shows in DC, MD and VA and all of them were simply spectacular!! All of that was a fabulous way to wind down a really crazy year! I was also dreading December 29th which was the last day I was going to be able to see Mom due to another lockdown of her facility due to Omicron.
It was right before Christmas that the deaths started, with four current and former pillars from my church leaving us between Dec 20 and New Years Eve. Each one of them hit me hard, especially the one on New Years Eve which was just shocking. Then on Jan 2nd a very sweet friend I met through RVing Women died and because I had thought she was recovering from her illness I was so distraught reading of her death that I fell off my treadmill. Thankfully I wasn’t hurt but learned the valuable lesson of not reading Facebook while on the treadmill. Mix into all that the deaths of Desmond Tutu, Betty White and most recently Sidney Poitier and it had just become too much!
January 3rd was my birthday but I knew my planned birthday dinner wasn’t going to occur due to the snow forecast for that day and we ended up getting 11 inches where I live. The entire day was a blur though as the most devastating death of one of my extended family members occurred on that day, though we learned the death was imminent the day before. I spent most of that day in tears and wasn’t really sure how to move forward. Using my snow blower for the first time ever to rid my walkway, sidewalk and driveway of the heavy and icy snow was restorative for me and showed me how to blaze a new path through a heavy obstacle.
It took a couple of hours to get all the snow removed and my tenant even pitched in quite a bit. I felt very accomplished after it was all done and cried about that too! I ended up having peanut butter and jelly for dinner as I couldn’t muster the energy to fix anything else.
All of the birthday dinners and lunches I had scheduled for the week were postponed or held on Zoom due to the original snowstorm and another on Friday. It was just as well and I wasn’t really up to celebrating… BUT as I was finishing up some new additions to my Refreshment for the Caregiver’s Spirit presentation I’m giving this week for Insight Memory Care Center’s Monthly Care Partner Training I looked inside my JOY box, a place I put cards and other memorabilia to lift me up on tough days! After reading or holding a few of the items in the box, right away I began to feel lighter, and I smiled that authentic Loretta smile for the first time in days. I even added a photo of the virtual visit I had with Mom yesterday to the JOY box to look at on the days I am sad because I can’t be with her in person! I’m thankful I opened my JOY Box – it’s such a beautiful and restorative place to go when the JOY is hard to find! I’m grateful for all of my friends and family wish us all many JOYFUL days in 2022!