Sunday, August 17, 2014

My Mother-In-Law Passed Away

Last Saturday morning we had a call from Spencer's sister, letting us know that their mom, Ruth, had been taken to ER the previous night and was now in ICU.  She--Mom--was adamant that the family party planned for that afternoon NOT be cancelled.  Spencer went to the hospital while I did some things with my parents, who were in town.  Spencer called me around lunch time, and he said things with Ruth did not look good.

Ruth had gotten a stomach bug--CDIF--which was highly contagious and had caused her to have diarrhea for most of the week.  Friday she started passing blood, so Jenny and Heather had her go to the hospital.  Within a very short time, it was obvious that she was very ill.  They ran a million tests, and they found that in addition to CDIF she had colitis.

Saturday morning they decided that they needed to take Ruth in for surgery, and they removed over two feet of her colon.  Her blood pressure was dangerously low, so they had been pumping her full of fluids to try to get her BP up.

We had our party on Saturday afternoon, and when Dad and Heather arrived, Dad could do nothing but cry because Ruth was so ill.  She was intubated and ventilated, she had a colostomy bag, and she was heavily sedated.  We'd been home a VERY short time when Jenny called, and she said that the doctor had called and they did not expect Ruth to last through the night.

Many family members gathered at the hospital.  We had to be gloved if we were going to touch her because CDIF is highly contagious.  We all took turns at her bedside, holding her hand, speaking with her, etc.  Heather was absolutely stunningly beautiful in her role as a granddaughter nursing her grandmother.  Bert was so terribly sad and the words "beside himself" had new meaning as we watched him.  Ruth was not coherent, but was slightly responsive:  she was able to nod and shake her head.  Being so filled with fluids had left her unable to open her puffy eyes, and she was still intubated, so she could not speak.  But it was comforting to have some response from her.  This remained the case until it became clear that she was in pain, at which point they started give her pain meds which put her to sleep.

Ruth's siblings came and gave Ruth her love, as did the children and grandchildren who live in the area.  We basically kept vigil all night long.  Intermountain Heathcare's Alta View ICU staff was incredible, and we are very grateful to them.  Finally around 4:00 a.m. Sunday Dad couldn't last any longer.  Our Tay was reporting his mission to the high council at 7:00 a.m., and I knew that if I went to sleep there was no way I would awaken.  So I told everyone that I would gladly stay while they all went home to get some rest.  Each person reluctantly left, and just Landon and I were left at the hospital.  As the door closed behind the last person, I took Mom's hand and told her that everyone had gone home to get some rest, that Landon and I were there, and that we all sure loved her.  We settled onto a couple of chairs and sat quietly.

All night Ruth's blood pressure had dropped and her heart rate had soared.  But as soon as we sat down, her heart rate started dropping, and her BP continued its descent.  After just 20 minutes or so, one of the nurses came in to check her.  He looked at me and said, "You know this is going to end soon, don't you?"  I assured him that I did.  Just a moment later the other nurse said, "When her heart rate drops to 95 bpm we should call the family."  Within another 10 or 15 minutes, her heart rate was down to 115.  Landon went to the restroom, and when he returned--probably 2 minutes later--her heart rate was at 95.  Things started moving quickly.  From 115 bpm to zero probably took less than 5 minutes.  I took her hand, and Landon stood beside me as we watched our mom and grandma give up the ghost.  In a way it was surreal because she was being ventilated, so she was still breathing.  But we knew her heart had stopped and that she was gone and at peace.  There was no physical battle or gasping or anything.  It was quiet and peaceful and lovely.

I was so sad to have to call Jenny and Spencer and tell them she was gone.  Landon and I left the room so the nurses could remove the ventilator and all of the IV's.  They were just finishing that when we heard Bert come running down the hall.  Can I just tell you that listening to running footsteps and knowing it is your 84-year-old father-in-law is absolutely heartbreaking?  He ran to her bedside, begging her to stop kidding and open her eyes.  Everyone came and said their goodbyes, and that was that.

Spencer and I got home at 6:45 a.m.  We changed clothes and went to the high council meeting with Taylor.  We slept for about 3 hours, then I went to Primary.  After I got home we headed straight to the mortuary, and the week began.  There were trips to the distribution center, the mortuary, the cemetery, the doctor, the monument company, etc.  Spencer stayed incredibly busy with his dad, who was so sad it was absolutely heartbreaking.

Sunday night we gathered Bert and his children to discuss the program for the funeral.  We asked Ruth's sister to do a life sketch/overview; Heather represented the grandchildren as a speaker; Taylor and his friends sang; and Spencer spoke.  I wrote the obituary, cleared the program with Bert's bishop, and spoke to the Relief Society president about the dinner.  It felt strange to take on that role for Spencer's family.  Of course, they did SO much, especially Jenny, and I tried to be helpful without overstepping my bounds.  The mortician offered to allow us to come dress Ruth in her ceremonial temple clothing.  I left that with Jenny and Heather, and they said it was lovely.

The viewing was on Wednesday night, and the funeral was on Friday.  I don't think it could have gone more smoothly, and we were incredibly blessed by the many, many people who offered help, condolences, and love.  In a way it is a very surreal to have Ruth gone.  The fact that she was so healthy and robust until just before her death makes it very difficult in some ways, and an amazing blessing in other ways.  Taylor had the blessing and opportunity to give his dad a priesthood blessing.  Spencer was a rock for HIS dad.

As the casket was closed, the mortician looked to me to place Ruth's temple veil.  I looked for Jenny and Heather, but they were each in other corners being comforted, so I placed and tied her veil, then covered her face.  Bodies don't do much for me.  I'm not creeped out about them, but it is very clear to me that it is just a shell, not the person.  However, placing Ruth's veil over her mortal face felt sweet, like a service, and I was grateful for the opportunity.  I took her hand for a brief moment and shared my love for her, spirit to spirit.

Ruth was a strange lady in so many ways.  She had many quirky things that were easy to laugh at.  But she was stalwart, faithful, and valiant.  And she pulled a family together in a way that I believe she was reserved to do.


Jacqueline said...

I feel like I knew what happened but reading your words REALLY helped me to understand exactly what happened. Thank you for sharing, my dear Aunt. I love you. Thank you for your support with our family. We love and adore you!