Category: Death and Dying

It Seems Like Forever

It seems like forever since my last post about winning a nice award for Abidance: A Memoir of Love and Inevitability. It was such an exciting time for Les and me.

And it has been eighteen months. It was August of 2019. We have all been through a lot since then. We can barely recognize our world. Oh, for the carefree days of Fall 2019, right?

As I have been  rereading my diary of those days, I keep thinking, “I am glad I did not know what lay ahead for all of us, and for me.”

Les fell and broke his hip on December 6, 2019. An ambulance took him to Porter Hospital to have it pinned. Since I always stayed with him, we were there until the day before Christmas. I missed the three Christmas trees we had at home, but we strung some lights in our hospital window. It was okay. And we loved getting home for Christmas Eve.

There was lots of physical therapy at home during January and February. Les was coming along well; we were encouraged. Then about the time that the COVID pandemic became obvious,  the middle of March, he began having pain and soon he couldn’t lift his leg to walk. I began transferring him to walker to wheelchair, to walker to commode, to walker to chair, etc., helping him lft and pivot each time. We went into hospice so I would have medications in the house to help him  in case his health went south during COVID, but we were afraid to allow any helpers into the house.

The pain increased; the morphine increased. Some confusion ensued. Toward the end of May,  we finally convinced hospice to send a mobile x-ray unit . Les’ hip was broken again. In fact, his femoral head had disintegrated entirely.

Now we were between a rock and a hard place. We could go on as we were, which was quickly becoming untenable. Although there were risks to surgery, there was also a finite chance to mitigate the pain and to walk again.

We chose surgery and spent sixteen days back in the hospital. (Fortunately, they had just lifted the COVID restrictions temporarily,  so I could stay with him.) We came home; the pain was gone; he could walk a little. But his 98-year-old body had gone as far as it could go. He became too weak to even stand. He just could not go any further.

Les died at 11:52 p.m. on June 25, 2020.

We had an online memorial service for him on July 25 . Our children from out of town could not come, of course. His ashes were interred at Ft. Logan National Cemetery three days later with only ten attendees, all masked and distanced.

Here are the links to his service and obituary:

Memorial service:       https://youtu.be/hAHluoUN7OU
Obituary: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vzVdx7bnf6fzCQGM4OVvvTelEXhfJxWN/view?usp=sharing

Bulletin: https://files.constantcontact.com/1fe2f3ef001/692c301f-f670-4455-a187-7922953638de.pdf

I am heartbroken.

SPECIAL

Special

I’m still excited about my new book, Abidance: A Memoir of Love and Inevitability. Lots of  amazing responses. Actually, I continue to be excited by my old books, so I have a great offer:

Any one book – $15.00

Any two books – $25.00

Any three books – $35.00

All four – $45           THESE OFFERS ONLY APPLY ON ORDERS EMAILED DIRECTLY TO LOIS

And only $3.00 shipping on any size package!!  (You send your check when you get your package, IF YOU LIKE YOUR BOOKS.)

Email TODAY. lois.hjelmstad@gmail.com

***

“This beautifully written love story inspires couples to renew their commitment to living fuller lives together. Whether you’ve been married for one year or seventy, this wonderful story will bring tears, laughter, and inspiration to your lives. A must for aging readers, which includes everyone.”

– Connie Shoemaker, author of The Good Daughter: Secrets, Life Stories, and Healing

“I truly adore Abidance. Lois has written a page-turner about two soul mates whose marriage has endured much struggle and yet have been blessed with boundless love and good times. In this day of social media and everything digital, this is a tale about something we often forget: The deep and abiding love two people can have for each other, and the life’s journey they share.”

-Fred Silverman, New York Producer

***

Again, email TODAY. lois.hjelmstad@gmail.com

You can also pick up your full price copy here:

https://www.amazon.com/Abidance-Inevitability-Lois-Tschetter-Hjelmstad/dp/0963713906

 

Love you all, Lois

Thinking of Your Mom?

As you and I wait for the FREE Kindle book download for The Last Violet: Mourning My Mother, Moving Beyond Regret, on May 7 and 8, I'd like to share two other excerpts from that book:

http://www.loishjelmstad.com/can-you-visit-your-childhood-home

http://www.loishjelmstad.com/you-can-run-but-can-you-hide

I wrote the first part of The Last Violet while my mother lay dying in home-hospice. It was a very confusing, frustrating, haunting time. After Mother died on Mother's Day 1995, I continued to explore our relationship and my grief in an effort to better understand her – and myself. 

I would like for The Last Violet to become a way for you to explore your relationship with your mother – living or dead.   

All my love, Lois

Mother’s Day Sadness

For the past eighteen years, I have felt especially sad on Mother's Day. 

Don't get me wrong – my husband and family were wonderful, provided beautiful flowers, poignant cards, a book of exquisite poems by Ted Kooser, a precious little stuffed animal, and took me out to dinner. I loved it.

All of the love and fun, however, did not assuage the sadness I felt on Sunday. My beloved mother died eighteen years ago today and in 1995, May 14 was Mother's Day. 

I am thinking of the day of her death and want to share an excerpt from The Last Violet: Mourning My Mother, Moving Beyond Regret:

 

May 14—I am grateful I have the presence of mind to get up early and pack everything I’ll need for the Big Spring Piano Recital and Graduation Recital this afternoon. I am thankful that I decide at the last minute to go help Jan [my sister]bathe Mother before Les and I go to the church.

 

We set everything up; the first program goes beautifully. During the reception between the two concerts, Renée [my sister-in-law]comes to tell us that Mother’s condition is deteriorating rapidly. Her respirations are only three per minute. Although I have to desert the five precious girls who are giving their last recital, my only thought is to get to Mom in time.

 

Joy [our hospice nurse] had told us Friday that we were to keep her comfortable, giving her morphine as often as we noticed retraction. It would, as promised, relieve her sensation of suffocation and the struggling respiration. It is very efficient to give it in tiny amounts at short intervals. Karen [my daughter] prepares the medication; Nick [my physician brother] watches for retraction; I administer the doses. The rest of the family keeps vigil.

 

It is hard to continue giving morphine, knowing that it might hasten her death, but we have pledged that she will not suffer. Sometimes her teeth are clenched shut and I agonize that I am forcing her.

 

From 4:00 in the afternoon until 11:58, my eyes never leave her face and I am taking her pulse as it gradually fades, then stops. Her eyes are open, but she isn’t looking at us— her gaze focuses beyond us, and it is clear that she sees that which we cannot.

 

And so, on this Mother’s Day, my beloved mother dies. I gently close her mouth and hold her chin in place until it stays. I tuck the covers around her. She looks more peaceful than she has for eleven weeks—maybe more peaceful than she ever has.

 

We wait in silent good-bye, hearts breaking, until 2:35 a.m. when two men from the crematory come to take her body. They wrap her in a white sheet, twist the ends shut, and carry her out.

 

Dear God, I have no mother.

 

 

Death of a Friend

Almost two weeks ago, I had a distinct nudging to visit a friend of ours. 

Les and I have belonged to a small support group through our church since 1969. Of the original nine couples and one single, seven of the men and three women had died. Floyd, the one remaining man beside Les, had been having a rough spring and we had wanted to visit him and his lovely Lynette in Loveland, Colorado.

Since Les' November brush with mortality, his subsequent pacemaker, and various ups and downs, our doctor had asked us to stay close to medical care in the Denver metropolitan area. Then in early April, with things somewhat stable, he gave us permission to drive to Loveland. We kept trying to make the trip. Denver had four snowstorms in April; Les had bad days. Things just weren’t working out.

Thursday, April 25, I woke with this strong urge. The weather was good; Les was okay. So we went. Floyd and Lynette seemed grateful that we had come. Floyd had entered hospice care the evening before, but he was up walking around, sitting in a chair, talkative, peaceful. The four of us and son Galen shared deeply. Les and I felt the visit was meant to be. Whether or not Floyd and Lynn needed us, we needed them.

On April 30 Floyd died. I want to share with you, my dear readers, the poem I read at his service:

 For Floyd

We can’t believe you’re gone –
hospice, yes, but only six days?
You were just here – alert, alive, aligned
ready to go, most surely, but still participating

You were such a good man –

Working hard and faithfully over the years   
an expert with your hands
building beautiful things
gracing this space with mailboxes,
coffee mug shelves, the reusable casket

Loyal to your church, your friends, your family
generous, giving, always game for another adventure
another trip, another house, another state

You were such a good man –

steadfast in faith
confident in convictions, vocal in opinions
You weren’t always right, but you were resolute

You battled through cancer and heart attacks
and surgeries with more grace and courage
than most of us could manage

You were such a good man –

We honor you in your unwavering love for Lynette –
with gratitude for how you cared for her, protected her,
and lent her your staunch warmth and unshakable strength

Happy trails, dear friend, our love and tears go with you –   
pile into the motor home of immortality
bluegrass blasting, the fishing streams of Paradise forever filled

May you discover heaven to be lovelier than the hills of Arkansas
and may you find the most amazing adventures ad infinitum

amen

Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad
May 4, 2013