It's been 6 years now.
Sunday, September 8, 2013 is a day I'll never forget. Mom had been in hospice care for a little over a week, having battled bladder cancer with metastasis for 2 years. Yesterday marks the 6th anniversary of her passing into Glory in Heaven. Sad for all of us left behind, but a glorious day of complete healing for her, and meeting her Savior Jesus Christ face to face.
When mom was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2011, I was newly pregnant with Blake. Still in my first trimester and super nauseated, I trekked to the hospital to be there when she had surgery to remove her bladder.
I remember her telling me at some point after her surgery that when she talked with the surgeon about treatment options and her prognosis (keep in mind her cancer hadn't been staged yet), she asked the doctor if she would be able to see her newest grand baby be born if she proceeded with the surgery. The doctor had every reason to think that she would, and shared that with her.
So, with hope of being able to see grandbaby #3 come into this world, she went forward with the bladder removal surgery which also included a urostomy, learning stoma care, and undergoing chemo with all of its unpleasant side effects.
She did well with her treatment and was thankfully able to stop chemo a month or so before Blake was born, and felt well enough to make the 2 hour car ride to West Des Moines the day of my c-section.
She stayed in remission for a short time, and although she was still fatigued from undergoing cancer treatment she enjoyed being Grandma to a new little one again. Not knowing what her future would hold medically, I made sure to get as many photos as I could of her with Blake. I mean, I would do that anyway, but if her time here on earth would be cut short, I wanted Blake to have plenty of pictures with him and Grandma.
I'm so glad I did.
I forget if it was summer or early fall of 2012, but her cancer returned, and this time with a vengeance. So, chemo resumed once again. Her body responded well to it the first time, so she agreed to try it again.
And then, I was expecting Nicholas. I'll never forget sharing the news with our families over Thanksgiving, and wondering in the back of my mind if Mom would get to meet her next grandchild.
As time grew closer to Nicholas' birth, mom's condition deteriorated quickly. She couldn't keep anything down, and just when you thought she couldn't possibly lose any more weight she did. It's hard to see someone you love literally waste away.
When it came time for Nicholas to be born, she was too sick to make the trip this time, and of course my dad couldn't leave her as she depended on him to care for her. So, we planned to travel to see my parents as soon as possible after I recovered from my c-section.
I wasn't expecting to be readmitted to the hospital myself. At 13 days post partum, I was diagnosed with blood clots in both of my lungs, requiring hospitalization for 9 days and close monitoring while having blood thinner medications adjusted to therapeutic levels. This of course delayed us in visiting my mom and introducing her to her newest grandson.
I was on the phone with my mom one night while I was still in the hospital. After asking me how I was doing medically with my recovery, she told me that she tired of continuing treatment and was ready to stop. My heart sank, even though I knew it was the best decision she could make. As a former nurse myself, I've had plenty of end-of-life discussions with patients and families over the years, but boy oh boy it's a lot tougher with your own family. She hadn't talked to her doctor about it yet but had an appointment in just a couple of days. I encouraged her to share her wishes with her doctor, and that we love her and support her decision.
Nicholas was 4 weeks old before we were able to get to my parents to visit. Mom held him for the first time, and even though she was sicker than sick, incredibly weak and nauseated, she smiled when she held him. She was so weak that I needed to help her support him, but it was the first time in a long time I had seen her smile. She just soaked it up and told him how much she loved him.
Oh how I wanted to get a few photos of mom holding Nicholas, but I knew she didn’t want the boys to remember Grandma that way. So, out of respect for her wishes, I left my camera at home.
If I remember right, she was admitted to the hospital just 2 days later, and then on to the hospice house a couple of days after that. The hospice staff was incredible, tending to mom's every need, making sure she was comfortable, and checking in on my dad to make sure he was taken care of too.
Being 2 hours away with a newborn (plus an 18 month old) and recovering from a c-section and blood clots was hard. I wasn't able to be with my mom and dad near as much as I wanted to. I hated being so far away. Thankfully we were able to visit Mom at the hospice house while she was still lucid. She held Nicholas again and had Blake sitting next to her on her bed. She made cooing noises at Nicholas, held him close to her face (with help) and gave him kisses. It was a moment I'll never forget.
Later that evening, she lost consciousness, never to wake up again this side of Heaven. I'm so glad we had that time with her.
Mom passed away and crossed over into Glory on September 8, 2013. The outpouring of love and support from family and friends was truly overwhelming. Our family is grateful for each and every one of you.
You hear me talk all the time about the importance of preserving memories photographically. This is why. Our boys were 18 months and 2 months when my mom passed away. Photos and stories are the only way they remember Grandma.
If you’re local to Council Bluff you may recognize this tree. These photos were taken after mom’s funeral at Hoy-Kilnoski Funeral Home.
My husband and I will celebrate our 12th anniversary on September 15th. Now that our boys are older they have more of an appreciation of looking through our wedding photos, and seeing their older cousins as babies and preschoolers! I love it when they point to my mom and say "there's Grandma Rosemary!"
Wedding images courtesy of Jeremy Wieczorek.
As much as we miss my mom, we have great hope and assurance that she is in Heaven with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and look forward to seeing her again someday, fully healed.
Here are a few more favorite photos of my mom.