In-between

Neither B nor I was prepared for this hideous in-between. Sleep easy, my sweet mama.

As I have shared, when Mama J moved to Louisiana I asked to photograph her and began this blog as a way to work through the emotional toll of becoming a caregiver to an aging/dying parent. I didn’t realize it would all too soon become a vehicle for keeping friends and family apprised of her condition in her hospice bed.

It’s hard to express what’s “wrong” with Mama J right now. I used the word in-between in the title of this post, and it’s perhaps the best way to explain what’s happening.

I went to snap a photo of her, and she opened her eyes and looked straight at me … and waved. Where are you, my sweet mama? Somewhere in between yourself and forever. I love you.

In-between describes this space between life and dying, a space that B and I were not prepared for. Foolishly, selfishly (both for her and for us), I thought I would come to her apartment one day and find her, fallen asleep never to awaken.

But life, and dying, don’t always work that way, and her time is evidently not run out. Mama J is no longer herself. Due to oxygen depletion, or carbon dioxide buildup, or the falls, or whatever else is happening physiologically (aside from the devastating long-term effects of her COPD), she has suffered some cognitive impairment. She sometimes knows us or what is happening and sometimes repeats a word over and again. She has referred to both her parents, both long dead, and people we don’t know. She asked for soup last night, and B rushed to get her some, but when he returned we both realized she was playing out something that was only happening in her head. Sometimes she can respond to a request, and she has said “I love you, too.” An automatic response, programmed in? Or God’s way (and hers) of comforting me? She wants up and out of the bed and the chair, and fell again early this morning, hitting her head. Mostly she is sleeping, as her body works whatever processes it is trying to work right now.


We have been faced with the difficult choice of what to do next. Her social worker and doctor and Medicare have decided, at least for now, that she is “well” enough to transfer to a nursing facility, perhaps as early as Monday. I look at her and wonder if they are talking about the same patient. I’ll admit to saying “That’s bullshit” to the social worker through tears of frustration. One nurse says she will not leave hospice. Another says she’s improving (um…). All agree that she is not yet “imminent” or “actively dying,” yet the infamous little blue book (have you read it yet? Rush right out…) Gone From My Sight has a checklist of mental changes “one to two weeks” from death that we can check off every item on the list. Disorientation. Check. Picking at clothes. Check. Talking with the unseen. Check. Agitation. Check. Check. Check.

We have decided that once they “release” her, she will stay here at the hospice. It is clean and quiet, and she is getting excellent care. If she runs out of money before she runs out of life, we’ll figure it out.

I want to say how much your love and prayers and kind words mean. When I write to someone on Facebook or in a text and say I’m thinking of you or praying, I mean it and do it with my whole heart. But I’ve not really been on the receiving end before, and it’s a powerful gift of a place to be. I can’t express enough our love and thanks.

Meanwhile, Mama J is still here. In between herself and forever, somewhere. I hope her journey will be easy, and not long.

To read about the Adventures With Mama J from the beginning, start hereAnd Mama J makes 3

Next post: This is grief

32 Comments on “In-between

  1. Please whisper our love to Joan from John, Teresa and Wesley McAllister!! She is so dear to us and so was Gene!! We are facing struggles with JOhn after a massive stroke in February and at 68 he is in a skilled care facility. Again give Joan our deep love and respect!! We have you all wrapped in our prayers and thoughts!! Love you all

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know how important your family is to her, Teresa. Sending love and prayers back your way as well. God bless.

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  2. My dear Gail, I know exactly what you’re experiencing as I went through the same ordeal with my dear mother. You and your mom are definitely in my prayers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sorry you know this hurt, sweet Ellen. Love you and treasure your friendship.

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  3. Very powerful my friend. You will never regret spending this time with your Mama. She is very lucky to have you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. W and I have walked in your shoes with my mom in her final months. It hurts. Its hard. There are no words anyone can say to make it easier or even comprehensible. Im thinking of you all every day. Stay strong. Love you all.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for sharing Mama J’s ongoing story! She and Gene along with Bob Davison taught me just about everything I know about scouting. Some of my fondest memories of The Owens kids was riding with Gene in the camp truck helping with camp stuff during camp. Joan would always thank me for spending time at camp with Gene.

    I tell boys now that don’t take their hats off when they enter a building that they obviously didn’t spend enough time with Joan Owens!!!

    I miss them both a lot! Again thank you for keeping all of us in her circle!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Gail, what courage and love you have shown. Your post was beautiful. I love you and B and pray for your peace! We love you both and praying for Joan’s comfort and peace. 💕Mimi and Papa

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Joan is so very fortunate to have her caring compassionate family with her. Seeing her frail in a bed and reading your words bring tears to my eyes. Joan will always be a strong lady full of life, vim, and vigor. Blessings to you and please give her a big hug from me.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your mama has always been a favorite of mine and I experienced her thoughtfulness just a few weeks ago when she sent me a piece of mail. I will pray for peace for all of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for the update. I’m so glad for the few times that I have been able to visit Joan since her move here to BR. We will keep everyone in our thoughts and prayers.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I know how hard it is on your heart to see your Mother/and any loved one slipping into the in between. I believe she knows you’re there, and appreciates everything you and B are doing for her. I met Joan at church several years ago, she was always a delight. We were volunteers together at Logos and we had a lot of laughs. I am So sorry to hear about her illness. Thank you for the update, and being so authentic about Joan and your journey. I am Praying for Gods strength and peace for all of you. Sherry Kempton

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This is your most beautiful writing yet – so full of grace and heartbreak. I had a mental image of Joan today, of her becoming one with the natural world she so treasures, and it comforted me. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  12. When she waved at you and the camera…it made me cry. My mother is 88, and SO herself…but I suppose your mom was too, until she just wasn’t. I’ll be thinking of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m sure this is one of the most difficult and sad experiences you will go through. We become so fragile as we grow older and our time is so valuable. My thoughts and prayers are with you, B and Mamma J. Love ya

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: Rest – Adventures With Mama J

  15. Mel just helped me get to this blog of yours. I’m not very good with this kind of stuff….sorry! I’m praying for you and you sweet mom always, even when you don’t know! i would so much like to give a last careful hug, In thoughts I do! With tears I send you My Love! wiesje.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Gail, you and your precious Mama will be in my prayers. So sorry you are having to experience this phase of life. I know she has struggled with the COPD for many years, but for awhile it didn’t stop her. Take care, being a caregiver is not easy!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Gail
    Keep strong. My sister-in-law is taking care of her Mother, since Sandye and I have seen this we know you need prayer. It is a very difficult time in one’s life. Joan and Gene were special friends. We will be praying for you all.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Gail, I hope she can stay where she is. Thank God for hospice care. Be gentle with yourself, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I said that wrong. I realize this is a step toward catharsis for YOU, but I want to tell you that WE appreciate it, too. And love you. ♥

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