She wasn’t sure about god. She liked to imagine there was a god.
Lately, each day was so challenging for her. It was hard for her to understand how each day became more difficult than the day before it. However, life was challenging for many people. How could she be inspiring to others if she became sad and overwhelmed?
She decided it was time to imagine she could talk to god. No image came to her, but she did hear a voice. The voice told her that her life had a certain number of measurable items. She would not know how many she was given. Each item was good for a day.
The voice told her that for each day of her life she could either choose a precious coin or a rock. When she thought of each day of her life as a rock, she realized that sometimes those rocks would be like boulders. There would be nothing to look forward to. She told the voice she definitely preferred coins to the rocks.
The voice told her that in order for her to receive a precious coin for each day, she must spend her day wisely and treasure her life. Every person could make this choice, but few people actually “spent their day” in a way that was precious.
She remembered how for decades every day was as gray as a rock. She was willing to try. Then the voice said, “I want to bless you with something to help you, in addition to your smile.” She knew her smile had often lifted her up and was a gift. That was not a surprise for her.
The voice told her, “I am going to give you a special elixir. It will be magical and it will take away all of your pain. Whenever your day becomes overwhelming, this elixir will soothe your soul and remind you that your day is a precious coin.”
The voice faded away. The special elixir was her music and songs. Her life would never be gray again.
She was thankful and knew she had been blessed.
I woke up this morning, grateful that I hadn’t received any “emergency calls” last night. Receiving calls with upsetting news was familiar for me.
I called the hospital to find out how my father was. I was told he was in ICU and was stable. His urologist called and told me my father was in renal failure last night, but he was doing a better now. A lot of fluid had been drained, and his kidney function that had been blocked by blood clots was reappearing.
It was early still and the stress began. I received a call from Miriam, my mother’s caregiver. Miriam told me my mother was angry and agitated when she arrived. My mother’s angry mood had actually begun yesterday when she “slid” onto the floor out of her wheelchair.
My mother always loved to get her hair colored and cut. She had an appointment this morning and Miriam told me she was not in any condition to go. I said, “Let me speak with her, I know I can convince her.”
The woman I spoke with didn’t sound like my mother and was quite paranoid and angry. She said she did not want to have her hair done. She told me Miriam was “evil” and asked me to send her away.
Miriam said to me, “She was upset like this when I came, I don’t know why. She refused to eat any breakfast. What shall I do?” I had no good answer for her. She promised to keep in touch with me.
I got dressed and planned to head over to the facility. The phone rang and it was her facility calling me. I was not surprised. The nursing supervisor said in a cool voice, “Mrs. Unger, I’m sorry to inform you that your mother became aggressive and abusive. She needed sedation and the doctor was called. He ordered lab tests.”
I told the nurse that my mother had adverse reactions to sedation and I had a note in her chart that all psychotropic drugs needed my approval. The supervisor’s response was to tell me that the law allowed for sedation whenever it was necessary for safety reasons. My mother had been given Ativan.
I called Miriam immediately. She had come back from the bathroom and didn’t know what had happened in those few moments. I told her my mom was given a drug.
Miriam said, “That explains why she became sleepy so suddenly!”
I did not rush over because my mother was asleep. I stayed in touch with Miriam until she went home. My mother was actually unconscious for ten hours. We didn’t know it would be that long. We brainstormed ideas to feed her, but she would not awaken.
I began to wish I had driven over to the facility quickly enough to avert the situation of her being sedated. Perhaps I could have made the difference. When despair began to strangle my insides, I remembered. Miriam was so loving and still couldn’t do anything either.
I decided I would try to sing while I waited for my mother to awaken. My father had visits from my brothers, so I decided I’d visit him later on, too. The grayness of my day began to lift as I allowed my elixir to soothe me. I wished I had known about this magical gift earlier in my life, however, perhaps I might not have appreciated it as much. My music inspired me, and filled me with amazement.
I drove to the facility in the late afternoon around 5 p.m. My mother hadn’t eaten or drank anything since the night before. I was informed she could not be awakened; however when I gently stroked her cheek she smiled. I told the nurse I was going to put her in a wheelchair and take her outside, even if she was asleep!
While the nurse changed her diaper, I went to speak with her social worker. I wanted Ativan permanently removed from her medication list. Her doctor happened to be nearby and came to speak with me.
He told me her labs had come back. My mother had a urinary tract infection, as well as pneumonia; her blood pressure was also high. The doctor said, “Her agitation could be from dehydration. I’ve ordered an IV to be inserted – she’ll have it for about twelve hours.”
I told the doctor that drugging her where she couldn’t eat or drink and then putting an IV in sounded pretty awful. He shrugged and acknowledged that the facility had no choice but to “calm her down.” I tried and tried to understand, but I couldn’t.
My mother’s eyes were half closed as she drank the glass of water I pressed to her lips. Once she was in the wheelchair, she began smiling in the fresh air outside. I breathed in deeply to stay calm. People kept asking me about my father, but I didn’t want to share much in front of my mother. It was all too much!
It was then that I remembered my day could be like a “precious coin.” I kissed my mother and found beauty in the purpose for this day in life. I had written a message to my brother earlier in response to a comment he had made. I wrote:
“As far as god goes, I figure aging and death is the unpleasant part of life. God gave us a long goodbye with our parents, so we are more fortunate than most.”
My mother ate her meal with relish and her eyes brightened a little. I remembered how seeing the other residents had often repulsed me. I often felt like being at her facility was a “chamber of horrors.” I’d see patients wearing bibs with food on their faces. I’d cringe while listening to hacking coughs; moans and screams filled me with chills.
As I sat at her table watching her eat, I was inspired. I looked in front of me. The couple I looked at were two ordinary people, yet suddenly it was profound to see them. A devoted wife had walked over from her more independent living situation to feed her husband. They had been married over sixty years and she said his stroke happened twenty-five years earlier. He had not spoken since then. She wiped his face and gently moved his hand away from hot coffee. I asked her how she was. She said, “I am in some pain from falling yesterday, however, nothing could keep me away from seeing my husband!”
Another woman on the other side of me often stroked my arm and told me she loved me. She started to eat her food and it dropped onto her clothes. The other lady at the table stopped feeding her husband and ran over to help her.
I brought my mother seconds. She smiled as she ate her entire meal, including seconds. I left for a moment and went to speak again to her doctor. I had great clarity.
I said, “You know, I don’t want you to put in the IV. In the past, it has been very difficult to insert and often takes half an hour or more to get one in her. My mother will just pull it out and she will just suffer more. It would be helpful if the nurses could just offer her something to drink as often as possible.”
The doctor nodded and said, “That’s fine, but just know I recommended she have an IV.”
Now it was time to leave my mother and face my father’s situation. I called and told my family not to wait for me for dinner. It would be awhile until I’d be home. I had cried on the phone while speaking with my father earlier in the day. I regretted adding any extra worry for him. My visit was to lift his spirits.
He wanted me to bring his cell-phone charger to the hospital. However, I first needed to go into his bedroom to find it. It would be the first time I went into his bedroom at the house he was living in next to my mother’s facility. My father was a hoarder, so I was not surprised at the condition of his bedroom.
As I drove to the hospital I accessed my magic elixir. I realized I had craved it so much. The music traveled to every part of my soul. I parked at the hospital and as I walked inside I began to float. Everything and everyone around me became part of “the musical of my life.” It was a story that was predictable and beautiful for me. The sad parts were part of my story and still filled with beauty.
The parking attendant and the guard at the front desk remembered me. It was my smile again. It beamed ahead of me as my life unfolded, and cleared the way for sweetness instead of sadness. The ICU nurse said she remembered me, as well as my smile from a year and a half earlier when my mother was on a respirator.
Since my father had read most of my book, he understood me much better. He asked me how my voice lesson with Peaches went. My father did not want me to leave. I kissed him goodbye. He asked me to stay a little longer. I did. I kissed him again. He moaned. I asked him if he were in pain. He said, “I am not, but I am emotional.”
I left the hospital, anxious to write. Thoughts swarmed all around as I drove, but I kept returning to my day and wondered whether I would consider it a rock or a precious coin.
As I took in my musical elixir I decided it had been a precious day indeed.
I hoped I had more coins. I was especially glad to know that I treasured each and every one.
After all, there was no way of knowing how many I had.
© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.