“I’d do anything to go back to those precious hospice days. To hold her hand. To talk to her, even though she wasn’t aware anymore. To know she was safe and cared for in my 24/7 presence.
My name is Quinn. I’m married to my husband of almost seven years with three kids who keep me on my toes. I’m an only child. I’m 34 years old, and miss my parents dearly. My dad was diagnosed with cancer when I was in high school. He went into remission, but the cancer returned not long after. He went to work on a Thursday and passed away that Friday night, a month after I turned nineteen.
Life was strange without dad and it took some time to feel normal in our new family dynamic. Mom and I became very close with it being just me and her now. We slowly grew from a mother/daughter relationship to being best friends. We either saw each other regularly or spoke multiple times per day either through texting, phone calls, or social media. She loved using emojis! She was a young 67-year-old who loved life. In her last year, she moved back home from the Jersey Shore to right around the corner from me in Philadelphia. I loved having her nearby.
She started noticing some health issues during the stressful process of selling her beach home and moving back home to Philadelphia. She called me one February night to give me a medical update. Her doctors had found a tumor on her pancreas. It was called a neuroendocrine tumor, or NET. She described it as being ‘malignant.’ My response was, ‘So, it’s non-cancerous right?’ She calmly told me no. I cried silently on the phone with her. I wanted to be strong for her just as I had been for her while my dad was sick. I was also four months pregnant with baby number three at this time.
She tried to remain calm during this whole process, as she didn’t want to upset me. She knew how stressed I could get at times. How amazing of a woman to care so deeply about my feelings when faced with her own mortality. Over the next few months, I kept an eye on my mom. I was scared. We had been through this before. I knew what was to eventually come. I went to as many doctor appointments with her as I could. Plus my own OB appointments, which were quite often, considering I had some minor complications with this pregnancy. Add my part-time job, caring for two kids, three dogs, and house. Life was crazy. Good thing I was on prednisone, because it kept me going.
The baby arrived on my husband’s birthday. I had the summer off with mom. We spent a lot of time together. THANK GOD. At the end of the summer, she and I started noticing changes in her. The treatment wasn’t working as well as it once had. She was tired all the time. Couldn’t eat. Nausea with vomiting. Her abdomen was distended. The one symptom that made me rush her to the emergency room was confusion. I arrived at her house one late morning to find her completely confused and disheveled. Something was very wrong. I called her oncologist crying.
We rushed over to the ER. Mom was admitted. I spent almost every day or every other day by her side, fighting for her every step of the way. Funny how the relationship roles reversed. Those hospital weeks were exhausting, to say the least. We slowly learned the cancer had progressed, irreversibly affecting her organs. There was no coming back from this. To offer any more treatment would just prolong the inevitable. Two weeks into the hospital stay, mom finally said it. ‘I’m done.’ She was done fighting. She was tired of everything. This was no way to live. She was bedridden, didn’t want to eat, was constantly in a state of mild confusion. The woman I knew was no longer.
Her clarity never returned fully, so I had to ask her multiple times in different ways if she understood what she meant by saying she was done. I needed to know it was what she truly wanted. She discussed it with such peace and ease. Perhaps because she knew what would be waiting on the other side: my dad. I brought her home on hospice, and my family of five moved into her tiny home to care for her. I set the living room up for her and tried to make it as cozy as possible. Hospice staff came in to assist me in caring for her. I took a leave of absence from work. The days were long, but I was grateful to have her at home. No more rushing around to and from the hospital. I had spent so much time away from my kids, since they weren’t allowed at the hospital.
Life settled down for the next week and half. The night before she passed, my sister-in-law had taken the two oldest kids for a sleepover. My husband went fishing. It was just me, my 3-month-old, and mom. I played 1950’s music I thought she’d enjoy. The baby and I sang and danced for mom. She was no longer responsive, but perhaps she could feel our energy and fun. She seemed stable. The baby and I got a hot bath, administered mom’s meds, tucked her in her warms blankets, said goodnight, and went to bed.
The morning of October 14th, I noticed her breathing was very irregular. I called the on-call hospice nurse to ask for advice. The sweet voice on the other end of the phone told me her time was mostly likely nearing. I cried. I took her hand and kneeled beside her. I told her everything was okay. Her breathing slowed and her breaths became farther and farther apart. I waited for her chest to rise again until it no longer did. She was gone. It was 9:50 a.m. My vision was so blurry from the puddles in my eyes. I finally blinked and the tears fell down my cheeks.
And just like that, the woman who raised me and shaped me into the woman and mother I am today, the last person on this earth to love me unconditionally, was gone. Poof. Just like that. I held her lifeless hand as I climbed into bed with her to lie down with her one last time. I told her I loved her over and over. I was devastated, yet relieved she was no longer sick, and more importantly reunited with the love of her life. After my dad passed, I had this overwhelming feeling of not understanding how the world continued on after such a devastating loss. Mom’s passing was no different. But life goes on.
I think of her everyday. When I rise with the early sun until the dark night when I look for her in the stars. I am no longer afraid to die, for I know what will be waiting for me on the other side. I love you, momma bear.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Quinn Garretson. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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