This is the account of what happened on July 8, 2015, the day my mother died. In this stream of consciousness post, there is graphic talk of death. If that is a trigger for you, please do not read any further.
July 8, 2015
I got up earlier than normal as I had an appointment with the pain specialist. Roger was really tired when he got home and though I usually liked him to take me to my appointments, I could not ask him to do so when he was so tired. He could barely open his eyes when I tried to rouse him. I did not like going alone. Not just due to my anxiety, but as my teeth degenerate and my smile becomes more disgusting and shameful, I feel better when he is near me. He can protect me from people who might want to make fun of me. That may seem illogical or childish, but that is my reasoning. My husband is wonderful and will always be there to help me. The visit at the doctor went quicker than normal. I was so pleased to be able to share that we had gone hiking up on the Mountain Loop on the Fourth of July. He was always encouraging me to get out and exercise, move around, do not just sit around. Get stronger! So, I tell him this, so excited to hear praise and he lectures me about the dangers of being out in the heat we have been having lately. Really? I was irritated. I got my prescriptions and left. I went to Safeway in Marysville and turned in my prescriptions and got myself a coffee as I prepared to wait the thirty minutes for the medicine to be ready. I am about ninety percent certain I saw my father as I approached the Starbucks kiosk. I saw him out of the corner of my eye, but did not bother to turn my head the full way to give him my attention. I then heard keys jangling. It was so odd, but that certain sound was so familiar to me, I had heard it so many times as I grew up that I knew it was him. I did not care to make any kind of contact with him so I ignored him and got my coffee. I went out to the car and sat with the radio and air conditioning on as I read on my Kindle and waited. The half hour flew by and I went back in to get my meds. Standing in line always makes my back hurt and I was tired by the time I got home. By one or two that afternoon, I had convinced Roger to finally go lay down in bed instead of sleeping in his chair. Meanwhile, I changed into a tank top and my super comfy capris and settled in to read for a while.
Bub called me around three thirty that afternoon. He told me that he had bad news and that mom had passed away. I, of course, said What? He repeated that mom had passed away and that he was so sorry. I remember feeling a pit open in my stomach and I let out a couple of sobs. I asked what had happened. Bub had been trying to call her. Wednesday is grocery day. He was trying to call and see if she needed anything specific that she didn’t normally get. She did not answer his calls. After several attempts, he went to check on her. It had been since Sunday that he had spoken to her. I had not spoken to her since Friday. He walked into the house and heard the water running. He assumed she had gone on to the bathroom while the water ran.
She always had to have ice cold water with her. She seemed almost paranoid about drinking water that was dirty or rusty. It reminds me of the little girl in the movie “Signs” that always complained about water being contaminated. The habit irritated me most of my life when I had to deal with it. The water had to run at least fifteen minutes, if not a half hour. That apparently cleared the water out enough for it to be clean. Then you would fill her big insulated black cup with ice – after rinsing the cup thoroughly first – all the way to the top. The ice had been made with water that had been through the ‘cleaning’ process. Once the cup was filled to overflowing with the ice, it had to be rinsed. Yes, that is right. The ice cubes had to be rinsed. Three times. Fill the cup all the way to the top with water, hold your clean hand over the top to hold the ice in and dump the water out. Fill it up, dump it out. Three times. If you did not do it three times she would know and you would be accused of trying to make her sick. And it was not termed as ‘getting’ her a glass of water. It was ‘making’ her water. “Kelly, go make me some water,” she would say. It was an insane habit, but one that never, ever changed.
Bub walked toward the bathroom, calling out to her so she would not get scared. When she did not answer once again, he wondered if she had fallen asleep while waiting. She tended to fall asleep at the drop of a hat those days. She always kept her bedroom dark so he had not seen her as he walked toward the bathroom. He turned back as you had to pass her room to go to the bathroom. He turned on the light and that was when he discovered her body.
She lay there, limbs twisted awkwardly, eyes closed, and body tinged blue. He knew that she was gone, but still rushed forward to check for a pulse that did not exist. My small niece and nephew were there and saw their grandma laying there on the ground. He hurried them out and called for help. The paramedic took one look at her and pronounced her dead, no need to even check for vital signs. This was when he called me. He kept apologizing to me and comforting me. Then he had to go as the police were there and would tell him what he needed to do next. The cops that showed up declared that there was no need for a medical examiner as there was no sign of foul play, so it was up to him/us to get her body moved.
While on the phone with him, I saw Darik had been standing off to the side and I told him to go get Dad for me. Bub asked me to find prices for cremations and it was the last thing I ever wanted to do. How do you search for some company to ruin your mother’s body? To make it disappear so it is no longer her?
Roger arrived as I hung up the phone and comforted me as I cried quietly. I had expected it, to a degree, we all had. Her health has been so bad for so long, death seemed inevitable for her. She had just gotten out of the hospital last Friday from another bout of Congestive Heart Failure and had seemed to be doing pretty well. Now, it ran through my mind how I had not spent enough time with her. I had not seen her for nearly two years. The stress of caring for her and being around her had taken its toll and I had stepped back from being her prime caretaker. Luckily, thank god for Roger, he had pushed me to go with him to pick her up from the hospital on Friday and I finally agreed to go. I got to spend some time with her and see her smile when she saw me. After her heart attacks and other subsequent health problems, she sometimes seemed to have the mind of a child. She would get so excited to see people or talk to them on the phone. A single kind word would brighten her entire day. I am ashamed to say I did not give her many of those words. Bub and Roger were there for her in ways I had stopped. I am ashamed of that now, but I do not know if that knowledge would have pushed me into it before. Maybe I would have spent more time on the phone with her at least.
I cried to Roger questioning how the hell I was supposed to find a cremation service for my mother who just died. There was no time to take it in, it had to happen now. I got very lucky and as soon as I googled ‘Everett’ and ‘cremation’, the website for Washington Cremation Services popped up as the first choice. The price was very reasonable, $595 and I gave them a call. They were answering questions for me when I got a text from Bub saying that we needed to find a place that day. So I asked the people and they helped me arrange for their transport to go and pick her up. It was very easily done and for that I am very grateful.
I printed out the paperwork I needed for the cremation service and Roger quickly got ready and in no time we were on our way to Mom’s house. We got there and I hugged Bubba and he led me in to Mom’s room. I had no doubt that I wanted to see her. I had seen Jeff when he died and I was glad to have that chance. It solidified the knowledge that he was gone. You know of course, but after seeing a body, you knew. I walked into her room and was shocked that nobody had either straightened her body out nor put her on her bed. She was still there, splayed out, her limbs appearing as if at least one or two were broken. It was obvious she had been dead for some time as her blood had pooled, making her seem blue on the skin closest to the floor. I remember having that explained to me when I saw Jeff’s body. I think Bub did not move her because he was a little more upset by seeing her body than I was. He tried to escort me out, but I was fine, maybe numb? I do not know. But I was fine enough to gather a blanket to cover her. Roger had grabbed a sheet, but it was filthy, so I grabbed a lavender blanket she liked and draped it over her body. I remember it being kind of difficult since her limbs were splayed oddly. Later, when I went in there alone, I touched her wrist. The skin was so very cold and though she was not as stiff as I thought she would be, as Jeff had been, her limb was still very rigid. I had to wipe my fingers on my pants, it did not feel right touching her. Her skin had always been so very soft. Whether she was skinny from being sick or plump, her skin was always very fine and very soft. I liked that. When I was little, I liked to rub my fingers on her arm.
We had two hours to wait for the cremation transporters to get there. We spent a lot of time talking about the different things we needed to do, things to take care of, dealing with bills and her belongings. It was odd because several times we would get side tracked and talk about silly things and even laugh. It did not feel wrong or rude to do so, either. It was natural that if Bub, Roger, and I were together, we would find something to laugh about. We began looking through her bills and her purse, looking for various medical cards and on the lookout for her social security number. She refused to tell anyone what it was and had lost her social security card long ago. We needed it for several different things, including her death certificate.
We had discussed money and Mom had had enough cash on her to cover the cremation, thank God. There wouldn’t be much left over to cover any extra bills, though, so now we have to rely on the honor of the Father, which leaves me in doubt. Mom had very, very unwisely, not cashed many of the checks he had given her for alimony, leaving us all under the impression that she was very close to being broke. Bub had found a pile of alimony checks that she had not cashed. Once I searched her purse, I found eight more checks which equaled well over five thousand dollars. We have no way to cash those checks now and Bub is hoping that the Father will be honorable enough to take the checks, redeem them, and then have that money available for any needs we have as we deal with Mom’s final expenses. (All of this, by the way, has made me more conscious of Roger’s and my own needs for life insurance and having all important information readily available.) We all doubt that he would show that much kindness, but we have to hope. It is not like any of us have any sort of extra money to deal with this kind of thing.
I was searching her desk where her record player was sitting and had the idea to play her a song. I was thinking of something by Elvis, but Bub chose an upbeat song about Rock ‘n’ Roll that she had loved. The title of which has left my mind right now. “Rock This Town” by the Stray Cats. There I remembered it. “We’re gonna rock this town, rock it inside out. We’re gonna rock this town, make it scream and shout…” It was nice to play her a song to escort her out of this life and into the next one that I dearly hope is there.
We discussed the splitting of her belongings, with Bub and I having first go at some of them. Brother II would only be interested in what he could sell, so we have no problem taking what we want first. We tend to look at the sentimental value where he only looks at the monetary value.
Brother II was already pissed at me because I was the one to tell my niece that her grandma was dead. I can see now how it was not my place as I would be upset if it had been my child. At the time, I had wanted to know if she had already heard the news and I was upset and I could not just hang up and tell her to wait until she heard from her parents. It was handled badly and Brother II lectured me in a text message. I wrote back and apologized. Bub had already explained that I had not been trying to do anything negative but Brother II had it stuck in his mind that I had some sort of negative intent and there was nothing either of us could do to change his opinion. Not that I care that much.
I found some of Brother II and Bub’s baby stuff and set them aside for them. It still upsets me that my parents did not create or keep any keepsakes from my infancy. Both of my brothers have baby books and blankets. I have neither.
I took some groceries, a couple blankets, some paper products, tablets, pens, a mini clipboard, that kind of thing. Mom and I both loved writing supplies. I took a couple of blankets, a teddy bear, and stuffed pig I had given her from the Pig ‘N Pancake restaurant in Oregon.
Most of all, I wanted her jewelry box. I have loved that box since I was a kid. It about ten inches tall, dark wood. It has two doors made of an almost mesh like material that open to show four small drawers. There is a larger drawer underneath the doors. There is a knob on the back of the jewelry box that winds up. When you open the large bottom drawer, it plays a song. I was so pleased to find several pieces of familiar jewelry inside that reminded me of her. Including several pieces of costume jewelry that I had played with and worn when I was a girl and some of my own earrings. I’d had my ears pierced a couple of times growing up until we gave up, realizing I was just too allergic to the metal to keep the earrings in. What I was overjoyed to find was her wedding set and her mother’s ring. The mother’s ring has a jewel representing each of us kids’ birthstones; an emerald, a ruby, and a garnet. The wonderful part is that both rings fit me. I won’t be able to wear them often, but I will love knowing I get to wear a piece of jewelry that she loved so much.
By a little after seven that evening, the cremation transporters arrived. They were very kind and very fast. They took the paperwork and had me sign more. Then they brought in a gurney, telling us that they had to put her in a body bag because it was the law. One odd thing that I noted was that they were both dressed very well and were handsome. Darker, more somber colors, but one wore a handsome vest and the other a lovely purple dress shirt. They closed the door to her bedroom as they loaded her into the bag and onto the gurney. When they came out, I was pleased to note a tasteful, discreet burgundy blanket had been placed on top of the body bag. I was tearful again, as had happened on and off throughout those hours, and asked them to please take care of her. It shocked me, in that moment that a life, vibrant life, had transformed into something that could be zipped in a bag and rolled out the door.
Bub left soon after. The day had taken its toll on him. He had made the important phone calls telling all the main relatives, including Mom’s sister, Linda. He needed to rest and think of something else. Oh and we finally found her social security number. I had been thinking I would ask Carolyn, my doctor, as we have a good relationship and Mom used to be her patient. Then I remembered tax returns, you have to list your social security number on those. Bub was so proud of me and knew exactly where her most recent tax return papers were and we found the number.
After Bub left, Roger got me some rubber gloves and I stripped the bed. It just seemed morbid to leave it all made up. I think she had been sitting and died like that. The way her body was positioned looked like she had had no control over her body. She hadn’t fallen and then laid there and died. She’s fallen before and been able to at least put her body in the right positioning. I think her heart just stopped. Her phone had not been touched, nothing else was out of order. Her television was on. Everything was as it should have been. She just died.
I gathered up some more keepsakes, including some of her personal writing projects. I have never read anything she wrote other than poetry she felt like sharing, so I am looking forward to seeing what kind of writer she was. I also grabbed her old, very old, suitcase so I could read through the contents. The suitcase has many of her oldest memories. Letters to her brother, her diploma, a doll, blanket, and things like that. I fully intend on bringing it back to be shared with my siblings, I just wanted to read them in my own home, not there.
We came home after stopping to deposit the money for the cremation into the bank and getting some fast food for the kids. After arriving and unloading the car, we watched the movie “Evolution” that I had bought for Roger. It was nice to laugh with the kids. I did not tell them details like seeing her body or the way she was laying. I only told them some humorous things. Oh and I finally told Bub that Mom had been suspicious of Constance. That she had overheard Constance commenting that Mom ‘would never die’ and was then worried that Constance had nefarious plans for her. Bub thought it was funny.
Anyway, I took a little nap during Evolution, then ended up staying awake most of the night. When I finally fell asleep, I slept most of the day and woke up with only twenty minutes to spare to pay for the cremation services. That would have ended badly. I explained things to Bub and he was not upset, thank God. Bub and Brother II decided Mom was too private to post any RIP’s on Facebook which really upsets me. Writing is how I communicate. How am I supposed to ask for comfort or share my grief if I’m barred from doing so? Oh well.
So that is how I spent the day of Wednesday, July, 8, 2015.