Sunday, November 16, 2008

Not Dying?

How ludicrous that sounds. We are all dying; as if we all had a choice not to! In hospice-speak, I have known for a few months now that Mom is "not actively dying." In actuarial-speak, (for insurance purposes) that means that death is not expected at any moment, but that the patient is still expected to die within about six months.

We have now entered a new phase. Mom has recovered to a point where she is no longer likely to die within six months and therefore, she is no longer eligible for hospice services. She is no longer dying, technically-speaking. When hospice began at the beginning of September, I was told that Mom's condition would be evaluated every 90 days. I can tell that, given the state she was in when they first evaluated her, the hospice people consider her present recovery something of a miracle. All the more shocking is that this miracle was brought about by simply removing all her medication, allowing her to eat whenever and whatever she feels like eating, and allowing her to sleep as much as she likes. It all makes me wonder in what state of health she would be presently if she hadn't been taking all that medication all these years and limiting her diet to spartan proportions. Officially, the service will end on December 1, and we will lose the kind ladies who came three days a week to bathe Mom, help her change her clothes and change her sheets.

Mom was almost in a state of disbelief when Kathy, her hospice nurse, told her she is not dying and that the service will be discontinued shortly. Given what she has been through and the way she feels sometimes, I'm sure she thought there was something terribly wrong with her about which we weren't telling her. The problem now, is that she is beginning to give us a hard time again about having someone staying with her at all times. Her hands are functioning so poorly that she is not able to perform simple tasks like opening a lid, holding a utensil properly or closing a zipper. She drinks her tea with a straw because her hands shake too much to hold a mug properly, and her mind sometimes goes south for a little while, just long enough that she is probably a risk to herself. I can't imagine that this part of the situation will improve a whole lot in the future, but one can only hope. The hospice people tell me in her present state she should not be left alone. I am delighted to learn that her health should continue to improve, but it also will be a big responsibility to see that someone is with her all the time in the future, especially with her constant fighting for her independence. I understand. I, too, would be horrified if I thought that I should never be left alone again. It would be almost as horrible for me as never having companionship again. Everyone really needs both.

This past week was pretty upbeat for me even with all the bad news about the economy, the war zones, the China subway collapse, the earthquake in Indonesia, and the fires in southern California. I am enjoying my new recipe blog immensely, as I enjoy writing this blog. I love to cook, and the combination of preparing, photographing and reminiscing about food experiences over the years is as creative and informative an outlet for me as I ever could have imagined.

Saul picked Larry up from the airport and returned with him just in time for dinner on Friday evening and for a belated celebration of Larry's birthday. Dinner was homemade baba ganoush with pretzel chips; homemade challah; minestrone soup from Amy's; baby spinach, goat cheese and pomegranate salad with hot dressing; seared tuna steaks; mashed potatoes with sautéed onions, and a decorated Texas Sheet Cake that is Larry's favorite (made with Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa). This was the first time I made the cake with the dark cocoa, and even though Saul and Larry both love dark chocolate, Larry preferred the regular cocoa because of the cake's similarity to Tastykake's Chocolate Cupcakes--the way they used to taste years ago when we were children, before they changed the formula.

Poor Larry has been sick with a bad cold that was just beginning on Friday, all weekend. Ken also went home early from work this week with the same bronchitis that I am finally shaking off. Fortunately, Randi was able to come and stay with Mom on Saturday morning so that I could go to synagogue with Saul.

Rabbi Howard Addison's sermon was about Abraham's personal characteristics--what about the man's unique qualities caused him to be chosen by God to bring the message of monotheism to the world, and how, although a flawed human being, he was able to learn and grow from adversity to become a moral exemplar capable of confronting God. In reading the introduction to Chapter 18 in the Etz Hayim, I found the discussion of spirituality interesting. I think that many people are grappling with a viable definition of spirituality so as to give meaning to their lives without being sappy or airheaded. The description of this unique aspect of Abraham's personality provides as practical a definition of spirituality as I have seen: "One of the gifts with which spiritually sensitive people are blessed is the ability to see the presence of God in their daily experiences. Others, sharing the same experiences, are blind to the divine presence."

Today, I caught up with my computer work and sent out a first draft to the editor while Saul went outside to deal with a humongous quantity of fallen leaves. Between the heavy rain and the fact that practically everything came down at the same time, I have been picking the dead leaves that cling to everyone's shoes off the floors for a week. They are a driving hazard and are piled so high that the outside steps are treacherously hidden. I can't wait to be rid of them all, but there is such a huge amount I don't see a light at the end of the tunnel this year. Perhaps before they do too much damage to my plantings, I will find a few hours to pick the oak leaves out of my heather.

No comments: