Sunday, January 10, 2016

My last post on this blog was March 11th of 2015 - two months before Billy died.  In that post I wrote about the movie, Still Alice, and I knew at that time that Billy was slipping away from us rapidly.  Even more imminent was my mom's death as she grew weaker, and her pain grew greater.  When I look back at that time period, some of my memories are vague, and a good bit of that time I do not remember. I felt like I was on death watch daily. We had gone through this with my dad in late September of the year before and in June of that year, we witnessed my Aunt Pat (mom's sister) die from the same cancer Mom suffered.  Mom slipped away from us on April 19th, a Sunday morning, and while I was so relieved that she was out of her pain and with our Savior, my heart ached badly.  I loved having her live with me.  Mom was so easy to care for because she was so appreciative of everything done for her, and I miss our talks and laughter. We looked forward to watching Downton Abbey, Shark Tank, and just about anything on HGTV. I am beyond blessed to have had Mom live with me for that time. 

Mom died on Sunday, and we had her funeral on Thursday. I returned to work the following Monday and received a phone call from the hospice nurse who cared for Billy.  She felt like Billy only had a few more weeks to be ravaged by Alzheimer's Disease. A few days later I asked his daytime nurse what she thought of the hospice nurse's estimate, and she felt like Billy had a few months left. I had such mixed feelings about either estimate. I hated that Billy hurt but couldn't tell us where the pain was, that he couldn't tell us he loved us or that he was thirsty or needed to pee or anything else because his brain was eaten up by this devious disease.  But the thought of him not being where I could talk to him and touch him pretty much made me weak and sick feeling. 

I got the call on Friday morning, May 8th. Billy was not responding or opening his eyes.  I left school immediately and spent the next 48 or so hours beside Billy.  The nursing home gave us a private room to spend our last days with him, and I am grateful for that.  Shelley and Andrew came, Billy's sisters, Cindy and Kathy came, my sister and brother in law, Leslie and Shawn came. We all had the opportunity to tell Billy how we felt about him, how much we loved him, and I told him again that he could go in peace. We would be okay. 

I will always be grateful that I was able to lie beside Billy the last two nights of his life listening to his labored breathing and caressing his arm and crying...a lot. For all the times I sucked it up and fought back my tears, I let them go. It seemed okay, and Billy never moved. It was as though his body was unaware of my presence, but I know our spirits connected. 

Today is January 10th, and I've been a widow (such a strange word) for eight months.  Much has happened in that time span, and my life is so different.  I no longer leave the school parking lot and head in the direction of the nursing home, so I can feed Billy his dinner. I had friends at the nursing home - many of the staff members and some of the residents. I have not returned, but I plan to go back at some point.  I bought a house (and I have awesome new neighbors), moved in just in time to go back to work, went to Las Vegas with Shelley, went on a cruise with my sister, and went to Branson with Karen and Martha (and we all went zip-lining!).  Shelley and I participated in the Grief Share program at Gateway Church, and it was helpful for both of us.  My grief process began years ago with Billy, so I felt like my experience was quite different from those who had lost their spouses suddenly or in a much shorter amount of time. Alzheimer's, like cancer and other horrific diseases, consumes the family of the victim, and it consumes them for years. 

A new part of my life has begun. I am no longer a caregiver. I am no longer married. After almost 34 years, that is an odd feeling. I am moving on, however, and I'm okay. I really am doing well.  I have moments that I miss Billy more than usual, and I still have tears at times. But, God never abandons me. He is the reason I can move on - knowing that Billy is whole again and no longer suffering.  He started his eternity ahead of me. I'm not certain what lies ahead, but God is in control of that for me. Thankfully.  Shelley feels it would be okay for me to date someday when I'm in my 70s...she's kind of funny like her daddy was! I don't know that I will have another relationship with a man or not.  It is not my central theme, but I'm open to the idea in the future. I love my family and friends, and I am quite happy with the life I have now.  I'm undecided on keeping this blog.  I enjoy writing, and I've waited too long to write this time. This blog originally started because I wanted to spread the word about Early Onset AD, and I wanted to keep friends and family updated on his condition.  He's doing beautifully now.