Sunday, April 24, 2016

Bubbe's Last Hurrah

Bubbe has said many times that she doesn't want to turn 100 years old.  She says "I'll be a freak, like a dog who can ride a bicycle."

I don't see anything wrong with a dog who can ride a bicycle.

But Bubbe doesn't share my opinion.  So, after a bad fall earlier this week, and another episode of worsening breathlessness due to congestive heart failure, she decided to stop taking the medications that prolong her life, and take only those that will keep her comfortable.  It's two and a half weeks until her 100th birthday.  I believe she's hoping to be gone by then.

News of the crisis and indications of its seriousness accumulated slowly.  My father happened to be there when Bubbe started feeling that she couldn't get enough air.  What looked like another normal bump in the road turned into the beginning of the end.

E-mails were circulated.  Relatives got into airplanes and cars headed for Toronto.  By the time I arrived at Bubbe's apartment on Thursday evening, she already had a crowd at her bedside.  I climbed onto the bed with her to hold her hand.

Bubbe couldn't have been more pleased.  She was having the best pyjama party of her life.  Despite being on supplemental oxygen, she managed to find enough lung capacity to chat happily with us all. Short sentences, that trailed off sometimes.  But she was definitely still with us.  Her chin was blackened by a bruise from when she caught the edge of a table during her fall on Monday; her hearing aids kept falling out; she couldn't drink water from a cup or straw because she can't always swallow properly anymore; and she has become incontinent; but with all her loved ones surrounding her, none of that mattered.

We propped her up in bed and gave her water with a little sponge on a stick (a "Swabette", officially).  She kept saying "This is the best time I've ever had!"

A palliative care nurse arrived to hook her up to medication pumps that will deliver morphine and midazolam (a benzodiazepine, for the feelings of anxiety that result from being short of breath) whenever she needs them.  We all got very serious then.  You know that when the morphine line goes in, things are for real.

It was late by then, so almost everyone left to get some sleep.  We weren't sure if that was the last time we would see Bubbe alive, so we said our emotional goodbyes.  Despite her weakness, she summoned the strength to give me a hug worthy of a professional wrestler.  It was hard to leave.

After that, I'm told that Bubbe took one dose of each of her new meds and had a good night's sleep. She woke up bright eyed and bushy-tailed the next morning, demanding coffee and oatmeal for breakfast.  This is the photo my uncle sent:

She had such a good time at her "party" the night before that it totally "charged my batteries", as she often says.  I saw her later in the day, and she was swallowing just fine (note the mug).  She looks remarkably well and happy for someone at death's doorstep, don't you think?

Anyway, the reprieve can't last.  It's inevitable that without daily diuretics her lungs will accumulate water until she simply can't breathe anymore.  I understand her decision to let go.  Beside her other maladies, her hands are numb and she has almost no dexterity.  She can't even press the buttons on her medication pumps herself.  She has also gone a bit bonkers, what with the lack of oxygen to her brain.  She can't tell what's real anymore.  When I went back to see her again on Friday, she told me about a "wonderful dream" she had had.  "Everyone in the family was here, and I was in bed, and we were having a party!"  Then she thinks that stuff that didn't happen actually did, and it's all very confusing.

It's so hard to say goodbye to this lady, I can't tell you.  It's breaking my heart.  But what can you do? No one can live forever.


Vanessa T said...

Oh Spark! I am sitting here with tears thinking about Bubbe passing.

Her smile is big and wonderful and makes me happy to see, and I know I will miss it. I'm smitten with her, she's such an amazing lady. I understand the "being tired of fighting" thing, and just wanting to stop feeling poorly. But to leave so much love behind - what a testament to her ... we have a made up family word that I think fits Bubbe - ultrepicity. It's Ultra, Epic, and icity making them plural and therefore even more ultra and epic, which is ultrepic. Bubbe has ultrepicity. So much that even people like me who only know of her through your stories, love her.

Thank you for sharing her with us. Please give her my love. *hugs* <3

Jenny Woolf said...

It is so very sad. But she knows it is time to go too, and good that she decided to take control of what to do. I am so sorry, though. It is a heartbreaking time.

Jenski said...

What an emotional time for you all. It is amazing that Bubbe has been in a place to decide how she wants her end of life to be and that you all are there to spend time with her. I'll be sending loving thoughts your way! {hugs}

Abby said...

What a wonderful lady. She's ready to go, but it will be hard for those she leaves behind. My dad was very much the same way, always stating in a cheerful way how ready he was. And always punctuating it with "I've had such a good life". My throat is all lumpy now thinking about it from reading your post. When he finally went, my initial thought was that I was happy for him. But then I was still so sad for myself. I still am.

Thanks for including the sweet pic. Sorry you have to go through this.

Lynn said...

She sounds like a peach - I know you'll miss her when she is gone. I love that she had a fun party in her bed.

Snowbrush said...

I watched my father die of congestive heart failure, and it can be hard to sit with such a person through those last hours, but Bubbe is getting what she needs to be comfortable, so what pain there is won’t be hers but the pain of those who are with her. We had to wait until he was unconscious to call hospice for my father, so he most certainly didn’t have what he needed until he was in what looked like a coma.

Granny Annie said...

I love your Bubbe and you have made her a celebrity in blog world. My heart is breaking with you and all her loved ones.

DarcKnyt said...

You've done such a great job describing this lady and her life, I feel I know her. I know the sting of losing someone you know must, one day, depart us, but it's not easier for the knowing. I wasn't there when my grandmother passed and I'll probably regret that forever, but you won't have that.

Cherish this, and know that out in the wilderness somewhere, someone is praying for you both.

G. B. Miller said...

Woah. Sometimes the finality is so slow in coming that we rarely recognize it until it's too late. Fortunately you and your family were able to, and did something quite memorable and special.

Let's hope she makes to the wonderful age of 100. That will be the perfect topper on a gloriously large cake of life.

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