Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm OK

This is what I say when people ask me how I am doing. It is the truth, but it isn't the whole truth, is it? The absolute truth is that I am sad. I miss my mom. I miss talking to her every day. I miss her laugh. I miss her humor. I miss her. I am OK though.

This is probably going to be a very long post...just a warning.

Please bear with me as I back up a little. I want to get this down, so that I will remember. It started on Thursday, November 10, 2011. I got a call from my dad that Mom had been admitted to the ER due to her breathing. She had been having trouble with her breathing for weeks, but the days leading up to this were especially difficult. She had trouble talking on the phone because it took her breath. We all went up to the hospital to hear what the plan was from the doctors. She was admitted to the hospital and my Mimi stayed with her that night. I went to work for a couple of hours Friday morning, then I went to the hospital to stay with her for the day until my dad arrived to stay the night. She had to sit straight up because being reclined at all made the breathing too difficult.

They told us that they would try to drain the fluid again. She had this procedure performed multiple times over the past year, so we thought, "Good. We will be home in a couple of days and it will help her breathing." There was a problem though, they had started her on blood thinners two days earlier and therefore it made draining the fluid too dangerous to do until her INR levels came back down. They gave her plasma and it didn't work, so they gave her more plasma. It came down, but not enough, so they waited a couple of hours to see if it would come down more, but it went back up.

Her doctors were afraid that the cancer was rejecting the treatments. Her breathing worsened so they decided to put her on a bi-pap machine. This is basically a heavy duty oxygen machine that looks like a c-pap machine for those with sleep apnea, but it "vacuums" onto the face and helps with breathing. This helped a lot, but she was unable to stay on the regular floor because with a bi-pap you must be very closely monitored, so she was moved to ICU.

Eric and I were supposed to go to the pancreatic cancer fundraiser that morning (Saturday) to support his Mamaw that was diagnosed a couple of months ago. When I heard that Mom was moved to ICU, I met my brother, John, at Mimi's to go to the hospital. Eric went to the fundraiser to meet his parents, who had Lucas, give them more clothes, and then met us at the hospital. Before we arrived the plan was to possibly put her to sleep and then on an intubator while they tried to get her INR levels down with more plasma. They wanted to intubate since she was having such trouble breathing and she was EXHAUSTED!! She couldn't take a deep breath. She could only take quick shallow breaths. Try it. It is crazy how tiring it is to do. She wanted to try this, we all did.

When Mimi, John, and I arrived at the hospital, Dad was talking with Mom's doctors. They were so kind. They had so much respect for my mother. Her primary oncologist was in Houston on a business trip, so his partner spoke with us. Her surgeon was also there. He was not even on her case at this point in time because there was no surgery required. As he put it, he was there as a friend. Who does that? Surgeons are known for being standoffish. They have to be, but here this man loved my mother, had built a relationship with her, and cared enough to make sure that he was there to offer his support and expertise.

They said that even if they drained the fluid her lungs had suffered so much that they would not inflate. Meaning, her breathing would not change. They also said that there was a strong chance that she would not be able to come off of the intubator. It was also their feeling that by doing the procedure was delaying the inevitable. The cancer was winning.

We went and spoke with Momma. She understood. She knew that she did not want to be on a machine and that she was not going to get better. She was at peace. Thank You Lord for the peace you gave my mother. Thank You for the peace you gave my family. Do not misunderstand. This was so unbelievably difficulty and hard, but God had prepared our hearts for this day. You are never ready for that day to come, though.

I was able to tell my mother how much I loved her. I THANKED her for being my mom. I was able to make promises to her to take care of Daddy and John. I was able to tell her what I needed to tell her. I am so grateful that I was able to say goodbye to my mother. Others are not that blessed. She told me everything she needed to with her eyes. Talking was too difficult at this time. My mother had beautiful eyes.

We called the rest of the family and close friends. Thank goodness that there were not many other patients in the ICU because the Keyes/Holman clan is quite large and took up the entire waiting room. Mom was able to say goodbye to her family that she loved more than anything and to her best friend. She received Annoiting of the Sick and Last Rights from Fr. Henry McDade. I will be forever grateful to this man for the peace he helped provide to my mother throughout her battle and especially during these last days.

They don't usually let any family stay in the ICU overnight. It makes sense. These patients need to rest. I spoke with Mom's night shift nurse and she allowed my dad to stay with my mom. What a blessing she was to us! John, Mimi, Eric, and I stayed the night in the waiting room. Let's just say that if their goal is to keep people from staying long in those chairs they accomplished this goal. It was a terrible night's sleep. On Saturday, November 13th during shift change Daddy and John left to shower and change clothes. We didn't want her to be alone, so Mimi, Eric, and I stayed until they came back and then we did the same.

Since mom's breathing had been good over night (thanks to Adivan and Morphine to relax her) and she did not need the Bi-Pap they decided to move her to a room on a regular floor. Praise the Lord! This would allow us to be able to stay with her at all times. We moved to the Oncology floor and had wonderful nurses. Her doctors spoke with Daddy that morning and said that is was looking more like days rather than hours since her kidney and liver functions were still doing well (this is usually the first sign that the body is failing).

We called our family and some came up to the hospital and others were planning on coming up later that afternoon since we had been given "days". Dad, Mimi, and I stayed in the room most of that day and others came in and out. Eric's wonderful parents had Lucas. Since we were in a regular room now Lucas could see his GG. They brought him to the hospital and I went with Eric to meet them. Mom did not look exactly like herself (she did not have her hat on) so I took a picture with my phone and showed it to Lucas so he would not be too alarmed. I honestly did not know how this was going to go. I was nervous and praying with everything inside of me that it would go well.

Eric and I took Lucas to see Mom. John, Colleen (John's girlfriend), Mimi, and Dad were in the room. Lucas immediately went to Daddy (Pop) and had a big hug. Daddy took him to Momma's bedside and said GG's sleeping. Lucas said "Hi GG!" and "Love you GG" with our prompting. When Dad went to sit down in the chair Lucas became fussy, so he left to go down the hall to see him for a few minutes. I broke down at this point. It hurt my heart SO MUCH that my little boy will probably not remember his GG who love him SO MUCH! He will of course know her because we will tell him everything about her, but he won't KNOW her. This is so hard for me. I quickly pulled myself together because I didn't want Lucas to see me upset.
The nurses came in about this time and said they needed to turn mom so she would be more comfortable. The rest of us went to the waiting room too to see Lucas. He provided us with some much needed laughter. We were away from Mom for probably 5 minutes when Daddy and Mimi went back to the room. Not even a minute later her nurse ran into the waiting room and said "Come with me, it's time!"

John, Eric, Colleen, and I went to the room and Momma was already gone. I kissed her forehead and repeated "Thank You, God" over and over. Believe me, the selfish part of me was not OK that she was gone. I was thanking God that she was with Him and no longer having to deal with the pain of dealing with cancer. I was thanking Him for her life and that she was my mother. Dad's initial reaction was anger because she had been by herself. I started to apologize because I felt that it was because Lucas had been there that he wasn't with her when it happened. John then said, "She waited for Lucas!" We kind of laughed this off a little, but John was serious. She waited her her little man to come to "say goodbye".

I think this was part of it, but I also firmly believe that my mother prayed that God would take her in a way that would be the least hurtful for us, her family. Daddy believes this too. We talked a few days later about this, and we all realized that this was the ONLY time since she had been at the hospital that she was completely alone. Yes, there were times in the ICU when we were not in there, but she was hooked to the monitors which would have alerted the nurses to get us. She was not on any monitors at the time she left. We also said that when she left we were having a joyful time with Lucas. The only joyful time since we had been there. We were also supposed to have "days" remember! I think God knew exactly what He was doing and as always, His timing is PERFECT. Daddy later said that he is grateful that it happened that way, because he doesn't think that he could have handled seeing her leave us. We called our family members who had left to get lunch and others who were already on their way and told them the news.

I cannot fully put into words the level of peace that I had. John and I looked at each other and neither of us could stop smiling. How is this? Our mother who we loved so incredibly much had just passed away. How do you smile at a time like this?! I will tell you, you smile because of God's grace. He gives a peace that transcends all understanding.

Want to know something interesting? 35 years ago on November 13th, my mom and dad had their first date. 34 years later my mom left on November 13th. That morning when my dad went home to shower he saw the most beautiful sunrise. He immediately thought about it being the 13th. It made him smile. On my way home that night, I saw the most beautiful sunset. I think of my mother every time a see a sunset now.

There were over 400 people that attended the visitation for my mother. There was a line out the church to pay their respects. Wow! Think about all the lives that were touched by my mother. Not all the people there had even met my mother. They were there because of her family and they wanted to help us, but they had been touched by my mother and her story. We were completely overwhelmed, and continue to be, by the outpouring of love for our family. We have some of the most amazing people in our lives. God has blessed us.

Life continues to go on. I plan to update the blog with Thanksgiving and Christmas (it was hard, but still good) and with the rest of our lives because it does go on. With God's help there is also a lot of joy in our lives. I think about her every day and some days are harder than others. It is so funny what reminds me of her throughout my day.

Thank you dear friends for your love and support. I apologize again for how long this post was. God bless!


  1. Heather~ What a beautiful story of the strength of your mom. I remember your mom always having a smile on and being so helpful. I'm sure you will have your ups and downs, it's all part of mourning. I'm sure she is watching over all of you.

    Love in Christ~ Anna Nordness Branch

  2. I cannot put into words how this effects my life. You may not know it now but you are lucky, lucky to have this memory of the last moments with you precious mom. I read it over and over and wish those were my words talking about my mom. You will always have this to look back on to remember your mom.

    Lucas. Talk about your mom, show him countless pictures of you mom. I never go a day without telling Harrison a story about his "Mamma Ann". Our boys will know how much their grandmothers loved them because we will make sure of it.

    You are strong. You have the love of your family and friends to get through this time. When people ask you how you are doing, answer it honestly. I am sorry for not coming to the church to be there for you. I hope you understand. I love you Heather and even though our moms are not here physically, they will forever be in our hearts and our minds. It gives me great joy and security knowing they are together for eternity in Heaven.

    With all the love to fill a basket of apples,


  3. googling recipes and somehow it led me to your blog, While I live and work in Hong Kong, I'm from USA and lost my mama 4 yrs ago...early.
    I empathize with the peace grace brings while simotaneously experiencing a void in your life,

    Praying for you from afar today knowing that your Savior... the true comforter will guide you through.

    Peace and blessings