A Couple of Tough Years

We’re now at the end of 2019, at time to look back at the previous year. For us, the past couple of years have been tough on us.

It actually started in April of 2018. My Dad was seriously ill, and living in a nursing home. One day at the end of April, I was getting ready to head home after visiting him at Providence Manor. I told him I’d be back in a couple of days. By his reaction, I could tell he didn’t expect to be around then. Two days later, he passed away.

His illness started in January 2016. For all of that year, he was in and out of the hospital with serious bladder issues. My mother wanted to care for him at home, but her own physical condition made that impossible, and he moved into Providence Manor. By the Spring of 2018, the doctors finally found a cancer in his bladder, but it was too late.

Sylvana’s sister Anita was the next to leave us. She had been diagnosed with frontal-lobe dementia, and was living in the dementia ward of the Fairmount Home. For some time already, she was unable to speak or walk, and needed help feeding herself.  Unexpectedly, in June of 2018, the dementia reached a critical part of her brain, and she passed away.

Sylvana’s mother Maria was living at the Rosewood retirement home, but in 2019, her arthritis, dementia and diabetes worsened to the point where she too needed to go into a nursing home. A spot opened up just across the hall from Anita’s old room at Fairmount, and Maria moved there. She didn’t stay there long. By the end of May, she too left us.

Lastly, in the Winter of 2018, my mother was having trouble walking. She checked into the new Providence Care Hospital for three weeks of physical therapy. But her condition worsened, and she never left the hospital. She was eventually diagnosed with ALS, and was moved to a long-term care ward at he hospital. She was mentally alert, but she was unable to speak or walk.

She made it very clear that when her condition progressed to the point of being unable to swallow, she did not want any medical intervention. She got to that point at the end of June. That day, she was alert and talkative (using her various assistive devices). The next day, she was in bed, barely conscious. She held on for a little over a week. During that time, we expected the end to come at any time. But we still had to make a couple of day trips to Toronto, first for the celebration of life ceremony for Maria, and again a few days later for her interment.

My mother’s funeral was probably just the kind of service she would have wanted. But a funeral is also supposed to comfort the living, and we found little of that with her funeral. We know that she and the members of her church had strong beliefs about an after-life. But we were appalled at the minister’s sheer joy in describing how my mother was now at her eternal reward in heaven. It just seemed a bit too surreal.

Four deaths of close family members over 15 months. It was all starting to become too much for us. You want to stay strong, but grieving still takes its toll. Sometimes you don’t realize the effects of the grief. Sometimes it just hits in a wave of panic.

This Christmas hit us hard. All of our parents are now gone. Our immediate family now consists of Sylvana and I, our daughter and my sister. That’s it now.

So now we look forward to a new year, and a new decade. The grieving will continue, for at least a little while longer. But with a new year, it’s also time for a new beginning, to make resolutions, to take positive steps to recover and move on.

Hans

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