This is Aunt Carole holding our grandaugher Norah at Christmas Time
These photos were taken in December 2015. My Great Aunt Carole was helping make blankets and pillows for all 7 of my granddaughters. We made them wooden cradles out of solid cherry , so she and my Mom sat in their home and made the blankets and sheets and matching pillows.
***************************************************************** I write this morning from the bed side of my great Aunt Carole. She is 79. She moved here in December from Florida in hopes of building a small apartment on our farm and finish out her life here. She was very excited at the prospect of Spring arriving as she wanted to sit on the deck and watch the farm animals, ply with my 12 grandchildren and she thought she would be able to cook meals while I was in the field putting in crops.
She talked very candid with me these last few months about her life . The mistakes she made she couldn’t go back and fix, about the loved ones that had written her off, and about two of her sons passing. When you are dying I believe especially then, that YOUR STORIES MATTER, YOU MATTER, and MOST THE TIME people want to talk about their past, and they need a listening ear…. not a judge.
She spoke of the Son she gave up to her sister to raise. How she was on the sidelines of that young boys life as his “Aunt Carole” for 36 years. Upon her older sisters death , the man ask Carole to explain the circumstances that caused her to relinquish him to her sister. She said with a big smile. “We spent all of one day talking and talking and at the end of the day, He covered my hand with his and said “Its ok Mom, I understand why you did what you did. I forgive you”. And just like that the two were inseparable until his death years later. Everyone deserves forgiveness. And I am thankful she received that gift from him and that finally she had a son “outloud” and He called her mom.
In February, she was diagnosed with lung cancer, after she was coughing up blood. And so plans have changed. For the last 2 weeks I have been her 24 hour hospice care team. We have a n RN that comes in once a week to be sure that Aunt Carole is out of pain and checks her over all condition. There is another darling little gal that comes in mid week and offers a bath if Aunt Carole wants one.
My Grandchildren come to visit with her daily and Aunt Carole loves it. Emmalynn plays tic- tac- toe with her when Aunt Carole can’t push down hard enough to make her mark on the electronic tablet Emma just smiles up at her and pushes it for her . At lunch time Emma was eating her macaroni and cheese and suddenly she asks me if she can help Aunt Carole eat , and she fed Aunt Carole as if she were feeding her doll. It was too precious not to get a photo of.
And in the last two weeks Aunt Carole wanted a puppy. I understand completely why, she wanted something fuzzy and live to hold and pet. She hated that she wasn’t able to get up and go see all the new farm babies. Pigs, cows, sheep. One morning she ask if I would bring one of the new sheep into the house and show her. Of course we did. And our miniature poodle Moxie became our mascot. She loved the coloring of the little sheep and so every afternoon I would wonder out into the pen and steal away another baby for Aunt Carole to see and hold.
Also, typical of Aunt Carole if you knew her, one afternoon she wanted a margarita. Since I have never been a drinker I wasn’t sure of exactly what she wanted. Still, it was her wish and we made it happen, we bought her a pre made margarita. She took only 2 drinks of it but kept saying how good it tasted to her.
Aunt Carole is my 6th loved one that I have provided hospice care for. It is NOT my career choice, or my calling. I would say it is something that I FALL INTO . My Daughters and girlfriend Cheryl would tell you that I was chosen each time. I only do this for someone that I love, that I am close to, or they ask me themselves to do this for them.
It is a very hard job, and its leveling to me for weeks afterwards. I watch my loved ones from the side of the bed as DEATH like a speeding train comes racing at them . We see it coming, we feel its rumble, , We hear it off in the distance and we KNOW its coming …closer and closer and its going to HIT our loved one and there is no DETOUR. No rescuing them. We sit and watch helplessly.
We both sit for hours, talking about movies, and shows, memories, in between the deafening sound of the oxygen machine, and her labored breathing. We shared many sweet “end of a life” conversations. I watched her daily as she depleted quicker than the human eye or heart could believe. Speaking for her became labored but she insisted on talking and would never just finish the sentence where she lost her breath, in her true PERSERVERING spirit she would start over. Again and Again. She wanted to say the full thought all at once.
Aunt Carole is a fighter from way back. Never intentionally mean. Yet, her life had some pretty high hurdles and it didn’t make her bitter and nasty towards others but it gave her an “edginess” that could be taken as mean or crusty. When she ask me if I thought she was a difficult person to be around, or to get along with. She patted my arm and said to be honest. I told her, she wasn’t mean or hurtful , but I thought that perhaps her FILTER was plugged sometimes cause she would say things in a way that could offend people unless they really knew her. And then again sometimes….it offended you even when you did know her. lol She was that much like her momma Aena . She spoke straight from the hip.
Four day into our ” hospice care” on a Wednesday afternoon , Aunt Carole removed a gold necklace and a gold dome ring that had originally belonged to my grandmother (her sister) and she put them on me. I watched as she removed the ring from her middle finger and slid it onto my middle finger. She said she wanted me to have them . I thanked her through tears and told her that I loved her, that her life mattered and that I would miss her when she wasn’t here.
It was the last time she was able to raise both her arms and put them around my neck . She hugged me and said “You know I love you, I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t taken me in. I didn’t want to die in a nursing home.” We both cried .
Now We talk, we cry, she sleeps. When she wakes in pain, I try to get her medicine down her using applesauce. Its about all she will eat not and just a few bites. One for the pills, and one for a “chaser” she called it. I feel her pain and hurt clear down to the bottom of my feet and I hold her hand until it subsides. She doesn’t want to be alone anymore. So each night I push HER hospice lift chair next to her bed, and I crawl into it and I sleep holding onto her forearm that is now lots of loose skin. Each time she wakes, she pats my arm. Neither of us is getting much sleep.
Oddly, before this Aunt Carole wore hearing aids. Yet now her hearing is so acute. And as a care giver the ONE area that I constantly fall short in is in regards to my hands. I have had cold hands and feet due to Reynaud’s Disease and I always forget that, so every single time I touched her ..her eyes would widen and she would say “Oh those cold hands of yours”. And we would laugh as I apologized for the hundredth time.
I would hold her hand at night and say prayers together just like I did with my children when they were small. She doesn’t want to watch much television now, though before any kind of a detective movie was her pick. Now we visit, she sleeps, and she stares at the ceiling. Yesterday afternoon a girlfriend of Aunt Caroles and mine was visiting and we took photos of her parents, her siblings, the love of her life, and photos of her son and ran upstairs to my office. We used my HP printer and blew up their faces into 8 x 10’s. Then we tacked them in a collage above her bed while she was sleeping.
When she awoke she gasped and tears fell down the side of her face. I ask her why she was crying and she pointed to the ceiling and said “I love it”. Cheryl and I told her everyone of those people were waiting for her and she was fine to go on to meet with them anytime she was ready. On this day she also wanted to play a game of yatzee with Cheryl and I…so we did. She had a hard time focusing and sometimes rolling the dice….but she was determined.
We are nearing her final hours. I can tell by that “far away glaze” in her eyes. She can no longer use her hands to hold anything , it has become impossible for her to swallow without choking badly. I hate to put her through that every 12 hours with medication prescribed by the hospice Dr, so I have called in and requested something different. A rubbing compound for her wrist will be put in the over night mail. The hospice team have been so great. They come and talk with Carole and check on her. When the RN would talk with her and how happy she was to be here in this little bungalow with me the tears would run down her face and Cindy would say “carol why are your crying hon”…and she would whisper “Im so happy to be here. I just kept waiting for it to get done so I could be here.
A few days earlier she told the aid Rachel
“You know its just normal for all kids to get into trouble. We have all done it. But not her kids….(she pointed to me) she hasn’t had any trouble with her kids, they are all very nice people,, and all her grand children are just like her children. Most kids run away from sick old people. But her grandchildren just come up to me and hug me ….” then she was wore out from that conversation. I remember hurrying to my journal to write it down as I never wanted to forget it.
All the sadness and hurts from this human life will soon be gone for Aunt Carole. I know that only one of us will be crawling out of this BLACK DEATH HOLE and trying to re adjust to normal life again. You wouldn’t think that is hard to do. When HER journey is complete you would thing I could just spring back and move forward. Alas, it is not that easy when your heart is connected. I CHOSE to climb down here with my Aunt. I promised her when she got bad I would take care of her and not allow her to die alone, OR in the purple room at the home she was staying at, and I promised NOT to put her into a hospice home or nursing home. I listen tonight to the sounds of eminent death, the rattle in her chest, the heavy breathing, the sound of the oxygen machine and my heart is hurting. I wipe my tears EVERY TIME she stirs and I stand by her bedside and talk with her. She tells me over and over “stop fussing so much” and then she winks.
Wednesday April 20, She was between pain medications, the old pill and the new rubbing compound and she was very aggressive. I understand many people go through this stage just a day or so before they pass. Hopsice team says its completely normal. She was angry, yelling and I can attest that the old lady still has a good right hook. Felt it twice. I cried big tears as I tried to calm her, and when hospice returned my call and told me to go to the SURVIVAL KIT they left in the refrigerator I gave her a dose of meds to calm her.
Thursday April 21…we talked very little today , but I continued my bedside vigil . She last spoke to me about noon . When she woke I said ‘Hi, Aunt Carole” and she replied
“Hi Babe”…I ask her if she knew who I was as i was rubbing her wrist with her medication for pain , and she said, ” why yes” and she called me by name. I told her that last night she was not too happy and that she didn’t know me and that she had a mean right hook, and she started to cry and with a lot of effort said “Im sorry”. I wiped her tears, and kissed her forhead for the hundredth time during this ordeal and said I know it wasn’t you..its ok…
Friday April 22 ………………At 1:18 p.m. She was freed. Free of this life on Earth. Free of the past mistakes or decisions she had made throughout her life that others would NEVER let her forget. Free to go see Stan, the love of her life. (The man she loved for 9 years . His former wife being catholic would not consent to a divorce, she set him free but would not legally release him. ) She kept his photo and that of her son next to her bed. She would be able to hug her parents, her Sons, her Grandma that she said she saw before she died.
For me, once again I am cleaning up a body, calling a coroner, and waiting for that black Hurst to coming pulling in. This time it drove into my farm yard. What a sobering sight.
On top of this job, which is not a pleasant one at all when it comes to cleaning and changing an adult human. Watching their bodies run rapid with fire fever and infections. Watching the skin start to loose its shine and moisture and begin to peel…all of these and more are part of the last few weeks of life. I met them head on and wanted to, for her sake.
It was after her death, and I contacted her immediate family members that she said had disowned her , that I really got hit hard with judgment’s, ridicule, questions of why they weren’t called…..and they went so far as to request an autopsy convincing themselves and our County Clerk that there was foul play involved in her death. What a smack to my face, to my friends at the clerks office and the funeral home who have known me for over thirty years. A summons was issued to every funeral home two counties wide that simply stated “If you have the remains of Carole Blansfield , cease cremation procedure’s immediately as family suspects foul play”.
Shocked, and hurt do NOT describe how that felt to me. Hospice was notified and immediately called explaining that Carole had signed herself into hospice and that there was a paper trail of doctors and nurses who prescribed her meds and over saw her care and treatment, and everything was absolutely fine and above board and told me again how much they all knew how happy she was here, and that her care was top quality. Every couple weeks I am still receiving condolences from hospice.
I still cant turn the handle of that door without expecting to hear the oxygen tank, hear the tv or Aunt Carole saying “Good Morning”. It is my belief that we all DERSERVE TO HAVE A DIGNIFIED EXIT from this world, and I believe each and every one of us on this planet deserve to be forgiven for things we did or did not do intentionally.
We do not have the right as “CHRISTIANS” to blame others for the life we believe we should have had. We can talk about the low times, the hard memeories, but we must move forward and learn from it all. We cannot become stuck on the stay story and continue to blame others for what ever is wrong in our lives today. JESUS HEALS. TAKE YOUR HURTS AND BURDENS TO HIM AND LEAVE IT THERE.
Forgiveness heals. It is not so much a gift for the offender but more of a gift for the one who graciously offers forgiveness with a smile and says its ok..none of us are perfect……lets go forward.
ONLY GOD HAS THE RIGHT TO JUDGE AND HE ALWAYS FORGIVES HIS CHILDREN AND RECEIVES US ALL WITH OPEN ARMS.
Rest in Peace Aunt Carole. YOU MATTERED TO US
October 9 1936 – April 22, 2016