Friday, October 22, 2010


Mom died today at 3:25. I am absolutely heartsick over it. The last few days have been an awful blur. She had a stroke Sunday night, and 5 days later she's gone.

At the moment she died, a couple of strange things happened. For one, the music I'd had playing quietly in the room stopped. It had been playing continuously all day...and it simply stopped. The second thing is that about a minute after she died, a family friend walked in...he's a minister of a church, and he said he'd been sitting down writing the sermon for this weekend, and suddenly felt like he needed to come see mom. He visited 2 days the hospital...and hadn't made any specific plans to come back. But something made him stop in the middle of writing this sermon to come down immediately. And that was just as mom had passed.

We've had some visitors at the hospice over the last 2 days...and in the process we've laughed while remembering some of the great things about my mom. Today, her former boss came to see her. Mom was a legal secretary for Roger for many years (maybe 13??) and anyone that knows her will know how organized and methodical she was. And I suppose that these are very good qualities to have if you are a secretary...especially a legal secretary! Roger was telling us about how whenever he'd write letters or papers of any kind, he'd then hand it to my mom (Janet) to be "janetized". So funny to hear that made up word, it's just so perfect.

And we talked about how enthusiastic she was about so many things. I will always say that she was my biggest fan. She was always so supportive and loving. She'd be there for me for any reason, was always so generous with her time. If you ever ate anything she made and said you liked it, you'd probably be handed half of it to take home with you AND the recipe printed out and in a nice plastic protector. She always said that she "just wanted me to be happy"...which means a lot, especially when some of my life choices haven't been quite the norm.

I am a coordinator for the stART on the Street festival, and just a month ago, she helped us out by bringing her garden cart and using it to haul trash up and down the street, collecting it all. She was happy as a clam doing it! Couldn't wait to help out at next year's festival. When the T&G published a photo that happened to include her in the background (hauling trash) she was so excited she sent the link to everyone. So funny. :)

I am mentally and physically exhausted from the events of the last 4 days. When I found out about mom via email, it was already a half day later, and I was in India. It was already late at night there, and I was helpless to do anything. The next morning, I got an email from my uncle saying that my DAD was also in the hospital...heart problems. I think I am going to stay quiet for awhile. I'm going to stay in Princeton for awhile, with dad. We're gonna keep each other company...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

This is so hard...

Dad and I seem to be unofficially taking turns sitting by moms side and holding her hand, so I brought my laptop to write a bit when dad is with her.

Yesterday we were at UMass hospital with her until 4, and then she got transferred to a hospice. The day was a blur…figuratively and literally. I cry an awful lot, no surprise there, and it’s also just been such a whirlwind of events.

Transit from India to home took 30 hours, and involved 4 separate flights, with the longest one being a 15 hour stretch from Delhi to Newark. As I sat there, on this massive plane barreling towards America, I couldn’t help but cry, thinking about mom and hoping I would get there in time. And on this huge plane, where we are all packed in like sardines, not a single person spoke to me or even noticed that I was crying. NOT that I would have wanted to talk at length about what was happening, but it made me feel isolated and alone.

Of course, I did make it home in time, and mom opened her eyes and recognizes us all. She can move her left hand somewhat, and so will grip our hand in hers with strength I didn’t expect her to have. She drifts in and out, in part because of the stroke, and also the pain medication.

Last night, dad and I went home (to Princeton) to sleep. They have given us the option of sleeping at the hospice, and I was tempted to do so…but was also certain that I needed to stay with dad. I hadn’t slept in 3 days, and I was exhausted. It was so terrible to be leaving mom at the end of the night. I worried that she would die without either of us by her side, and somehow that just seemed awful. However…we are here with her now, and she is the same as yesterday, so my fears were unfounded.

At the house, dad and I walk in to what used to be “the norm”. Notes, to-do lists, journals, newspaper clipping all over the kitchen table…all collected or written by mom. These formerly innocuous things now have the power of a freight train hitting you. You see her everywhere. Her handwriting, her labeled things (she labels everything…pens, light switches, books, mail, leftovers…you name it, it’s got a date and instructions on it), her general sense of organization and enthusiasm. The fridge is covered with family photos, and dad and I stood there quietly looking at them all together.

This morning, he took his daily medications out of a container that mom had put together…you know, the ones with the day of the week and then separate compartments for Am, Noon, PM. And he got choked up as he took his pills out, saying that mom had put everything in there for him, so that he’d know what to take and when.

Breakfast included some pumpkin bread that mom had made last week. It was incredible. She had pre cut all of the slices, and then divided them up and put 2 slices each into small sandwich bags…to keep each serving fresh, I guess.

There’s a whole box full of information she had either amassed or created about my trip…a section for my mail, my bank deposits (that she was making), my trip itinerary, details on a calendar about what I had done each day (according to my emails and blog posts), and an assortment of scribbled notes on pieces of paper with things she wanted to tell me about in her next email.

So I walk around the house, quietly weeping. Eventually, dad and I will need to go thru things and sort stuff out. He has already mentioned that in the last few weeks, mom had begun to put things aside for the salvation army. For some reason, the energy that she was putting into it surprised him, and looking back at those weeks, he wonders if perhaps she had a premonition about what was going to happen. She had updated important papers, sent people things, made a detailed list of what needed to be done around the house and yard, and was suddenly keeping a new journal- writing about what she’d done, the weather, information to relay to others about this or that, and anecdotes about the cat.

At some point, I will need to go to the Oakham house to get some clothes (half of what I am wearing right now belongs to Tina, as I was dressed for 100 degrees and it is quite clearly NOT 100 degrees here), hug the dogs, and come back. Nothing really matters right now except being with mom.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My mom

So…this is serious. My worst nightmare has come true. I am sitting in India, halfway around the world from home, and my mother is in the hospital, in Massachusetts. She has had a stroke, and it’s in a part of her brain that cannot be accessed to stop the bleeding.

A few months ago, I hesitated to set travel plans to go away for 2 whole months, as I kept thinking about my parents. Neither one is doing very well, and now my mother has had a stroke and probably will not recover. I found this out tonight, when I logged on to check email, she had already been in the hospital for a half day or more.

And I am here.

And my dad is sitting by her side, probably all by himself except for nurses that come and go.

Under the best of circumstances, I can get home in the next few days. I have no idea what this will entail for details, all I know is that as of RIGHT NOW (11pm in India) I have no internet access, and can’t make any calls…at least not until tomorrow morning. So here I sit, in my room, all alone, with my laptop and a Word document. Can I feel any more helpless than I do right now?

Mmmmmm, not likely.

She has suffered so much in the last few years, and it has been so hard to watch her decline and feel badly for so long. She retired a few years ago. Dad had already been home for awhile, having retired several years before mom. They always talked about travelling when both of them were retired, and then within a month of mom’s retirement, she started to have very serious and complicated health issues. It just got worse from there.

I have always been a bit of a traveler, but seeing what happened to mom and dad sort of made me realize that the time to do things is NOW, and if you wait, it may not happen. And so here I am, at least a 3 days journey away from my family and friends, and my mother is dying. She is basically unconscious, and probably won’t wake up. And all I can think about is how my dad is there, in the hospital, with all its beeps and alarms, and changes of shifts. Alone.

I need to be there. I simply cannot fathom continuing on this trip now that this has happened. I will be making arrangements tomorrow morning, and posting this. I feel like SHIT for being here when something so profound has happened.

I am glad that my parents were the ones to drive me to the airport 2 short weeks ago, and that I hugged mom and told her I loved her. While I have been away, her emails have been a light in this (sometimes) lonely place. She is always talkative and bubbly, and her emails are no different.

People used to meet me, and often would comment on how similar my mom and I are, in mannerisms, speech, and physical features. Sometimes I’d be a little embarrassed, as I thought that mom was kinda silly, or too talkative sometimes. But really, it made me smile. Everyone loved her, she would always smile and see the best in things, she was radiant all the time. Well, her pain did affect her…being…but, overall, she was always smiling.

I wonder now, if I will get to see her smile again.

(Added 12 hours later) My dad has also been hospitalized for observation, regarding his heart. I am making arrangements to fly home immediately.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Animal Aid Monday Oct 17

Sometimes we drive thru gigantic herds of goats or sheep. Today was sheep. It's amazing HOW GOOD they all are about moving to the side just enough to escape any injuries.
We picked up 2 cows today. Loading and unloading cattle is quite a challenge, as some of them cannot move by themselves due to injury, and they are sometimes really big. (Most cows here seem to be rather small, but some are simply colossal!)

Turning the cow that has the broken front leg. She is SO frustrated at her situation, she is agitated all the time. And she's one of the BIG ones. In the morning, before it got busy, I wandered down to the cattle paddock. I watched as she struggled for awhile, and then gave up and simply urinated where she lay. By the time she was done, it was enough to fill a small pond. And she had been holding it in. I started to cry. I had to walk away.
At the vegetable market today, they gave us so many bags of food that we needed to shift everything around and put most of it on top of the truck. What wouldn't fit up top got wedged between the dog in a kennel and the 2 cows we had already picked up. They were all held in by the food bags...kinda like sandbags. Maybe it was good padding! :)
Picking up the second cow. She needed to be put on a "stretcher" of sorts, and then we gathered some guys form the neighborhood to help.
This cow had an injured left rear leg, but she could still leap. Fear will do that, I guess.

I donated 50 new bowls to Animal Aid. They are so shiny...ooooh!
This is the donkey from the other day that had maggots in her nose. A couple of days of healing, and she is much better, has some energy, and is eating. The day we brought her in. she was acting like she'd rather die.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Animal Aid Saturday Oct 16

One of the calls today was about a cow having difficulty calving. By the time we got there, the calf had been born and was a wet heap on the ground. While we waited, the mother licked it dry, and then we showed it where to get regular meals. It caught on eventually. :)

A puppy that was brought to Animal Aid. Rachael and Neil have been taking it back and forth with them every day, so it can be fed in the middle of the night. It's SO cute.
This VERY large cow cannot get up, as her left front leg is broken is ways you don't even want to imagine. She is fed and given water by hand every day. The poor thing is in awful shape, but as per law in India cows cannot be put down for any reason. This is quite distressing to me. Holy Cows. Grrrrr.
I don't know quite what to make of this, but it put a quirky smile on my face.
And this? Is this subliminal advertising? I see this poster everywhere around town. I have not worked up the nerve to ask anyone what the rest of it says. But you can see the word SEX from a mile away.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Animal Aid Thursday Oct 14

Everyone at Animal was group portrait day. Even the people that had the day off came in for it!
Erika, Jim, and Claire.

Today we picked up a donkey, it's nose was badly injured, and it has an eye issue, also. (No, we don't know why. It's not talking.) The whole way back to Animal Aid, it was snorting maggots and other lovely things all over us.

One of the dogs to be rescued today had been locked up in the mens room...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Animal Aid Tuesday Oct 12

Some of the cows can't get up. It's hard to see them this way.
The cows like to be scratched and petted, for the most part.

A puppy in the mange kennel area.
One of the things I brought is Nutrrical...for sick dogs, or puppies. It's like concentrated calories and vitamins. This guy decided he liked it. :)
Rachel with a puppy in the mange kennel.