That my friends, is the question of the day. This morning I helped my mother pack all of the clothes, books, and trinkets that she will be allowed to take with her when we move her to the care home tomorrow. Six pairs of pants, seven shirts, three night shirts, five pairs of socks, two hats, and three pairs of shoes.
Luckily, the care home has this genius thing they have a “memory” box set into the wall just outside the door to mom’s room. In there we can place photographs, and little mementos from her life. The box measures about two and half feet by one and half, with three shelves. Imagine a well-lit medicine cabinet with a glass door. Look around the room you are sitting in, look around your desk, look around your life. Could you fit all the things that are precious to you in a medicine cabinet?
I know that I can’t.
I was putting the books my mother chose to take with her, there are several books of poetry and about ten books that she used when she was a working filed botanist, mostly scientific books with lists of plant names, that she can barely even read any more. As I was packing them, I wondered, if the roles were reversed, which of the five book cases worth of books could I possibly boil down to one box? It makes me so sad to think about it.
No one wants to go to a care home, I have to give my mother a ton of credit for taking it as well as she has. A few days ago we went through the books and her jewelry. We chose her “moving” outfit and packed the shoes. We signed all the paperwork and as much as she was a trooper, I knew the other shoe would drop.
It did. The shoe dropped on New Year’s Eve. Per her request, my husband cooked a whole chicken on the grill, and I did wild rice and sautéed mushrooms. As we waited for my husband to carve the chicken, my mom looked at me and said. “I don’t want to go.”
Then she said, “I know I have to, but I don’t want to leave this place.” What could I say? Nothing. All of the arguments have been made, all the checks have been signed. There was nothing to do but hold her hand as we waited for my husband to join us at the table.
This morning we did some more packing, as tomorrow is the big day. There was one last piece of paper that I saved for this morning; it is the POLST or Physicians Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment. This is the one document you have to have, that if the ambulance is called, they have to obey what is on the paper. My mother agreed that if her heart fails, she does not want to be resuscitated. That she only wants limited interventions for pain and she does not want to be fed by a tube or to be intubated.
Are you ready to make those choices?
My mother is dying. As all of us are dying. It’s just that those of us who are younger think we have years and years to put off these decisions.
That brings me to goal setting. I just read Kristen Lamb’s wonderful post on setting goals. She has been a wonderful mentor during the We Are Not Alone class that I took from her last year. She is the fuel behind this post. I didn’t FEEL like writing about any of this, but I got off my butt and did it. As I read her post she said that baby steps are fine, and in most cases I agree. But the truth is, once my mother moves tomorrow, I will have my freedom back. I am lucky enough that she has been my full time job for the last year. Once she moves, I will be a full-time writer. My husband has graciously agreed to allow me to work full time at my writing, and I am truly blessed.
So here’s the thing. My old life will be over. The life filled with pushing wheelchairs, cleaning up dirty Depends, and cooking three meals a day. It would be so easy to just celebrate and be a lazy bum (okay, I’ve booked myself a day at the spa for Wednesday) But having helped my mother go through all of her possessions and asking all these tough questions about death and dying, I am being given a new life and I refuse to fritter it away.
So, I’m making big goals. I’m going to work out with my trainer two days a week and I’m going to work up to an hour of cardio three times a week. I will revise of “Deadly Hula Hands,” and plan on cranking out 8,000 words a day. Yes, you heard me, 8,000 new words every day. Once the new draft is complete, I’ll spend my time honing, shaping, and re-writing it until it sings. I’ll meet my writers group every two weeks, with new material at each meeting, and I will post material in this blog three times a week. And to top it off, I will be attending at least two big writers conferences this year, Thriller Fest in New York in July, and Bouchercon in September.
Now, with all that said, I’m expecting all of you to check in, and help me stay honest. You are a wonderful, wonderful audience, and I look forward to a New Year, that’s filled with life and love, with a hint of Death’s kiss that makes each waking moment richer and fuller. You guys are the best!