Once you're on the roller coaster, there is no getting off until the roller coaster hits the station. Parents of children with Reactive Attachment Disorder are encouraged to stay in the station and allow their children to ride alone. I've mastered that pretty well. I'm not sure that's possible, though, when the roller coaster is the health of aging parents.
Roller coasters are beyond the rider's control, and if the roller coaster is health related, we can't see or predict the drops or turns that may be coming. It's like riding the roller coaster blindfolded. In my younger days (before I got smart and stopped going on roller coasters) I would sometimes get off the coaster with sore muscles. I'd hold onto that bar and try to force that car to go in a different direction, which was impossible, of course. It's much the same with aging parents. We can't change the direction of the car.
Yesterday Mom's car was on an easy straight away, and the journey forward looked easy. Sister went to visit her and was delighted to find her bright and chipper. They'd gotten her to stand up during PT. She told Sister no when Sister tried to roll her wheelchair back into her room. Sister had taken her down to the dining room and fed her, and she ate all her supper. They'd given her thickened liquids, and she drank all of them. Sister called us all quite pleased with the improvement she'd seen in Mom. She promised Dad that she would take him over to see Mom on Saturday.
I talked to Dad this morning, and he sounded great. He was pleased with the improvement Sister had seen in Mom and was looking forward to visiting her. Then Sister called. Mom is headed back to the hospital. This morning she has a temperature of 101, wasn't eating much, ans wasn't very responsive. The doctor suspects aspirant pneumonia. She's been taken to the hospital.
My Sisters and I have talked, and we have agreed that there will be no ventilator, no feeding tube, and we aren't even sure we'll allow them to transport her to the hospital again if she survives this one and is discharged. Mom was always very firm about no life support. She never feared death. She would not be happy with her current quality of life, and would not want us to approve heroic measures to continue it.
We think the roller coaster may be approaching the final station, but there also may be a number of unexpected dips and turns yet to come. Now we need to stop trying to steer the car and trust God to get us safely to the station, knowing that God's time is not our time.
We have been surprised by our grief, as we thought we had grieved when she lost the ability to communicate verbally. We also recognize that Dad will probably not live for long after she dies. We know that, and we are as ready as we can be. I continue to reflect on these issues as part of my Lenten reflections. It seems that Christ's journey towards Calvary and my own family's journey are parallel this year. My family family's journey is made much easier by the knowledge that Easter follows Good Friday.