Wednesday, May 1, 2013

November 16, 2012

There are few days in your life that truly stand out in your memory forever. My wedding day is one, and the days when my children were born. For me there are 2 days that are burned in my memory as the worst days of my life. The first is July 21, 2011. That was the day my Mother was diagnosed with ALS. It was the day we knew that it was only a matter of time and through a painful process that we were going to lose her. I was devastated, not knowing how I could survive without my Mother.

On November 16, 2012 that fear became a reality as we lost her to ALS.

I kept a journal about the last week I spent with her through her funeral and I'd like to share that on my blog so that I have two copies of it in case something ever happens to my written copy.

November 26, 2012

"I wanted to write down everything I can remember about the last couple of days with my Mother. Even though I knew that the possibility was becoming more and more real, I wasn't prepared for the events of 11/16/12.

I went down on Tuesday as usual. Luckily Chelle had Myla that day. When I got there Mom was just getting up. She hadn't been sleeping well. The maids had been there the day before and had put everything back in the wrong place. Laura had helped her put the stuff in her bedroom back together. She told me to be patient with Mom because it was hard to know what she wanted but it was very important to her that we fix it.

I took her into the great room and helped her to stand so she could show me what needed to be fixed. Once we got it all put back together she wrote on her iPad "shall we shower".

Showering Mom was one of my favorite things. The first couple times I did it I was uncomfortable but once I did it with Jenny I felt better about it. At that point I was helping her with everything. I helped her undress and turned on the water. I waited in the bathroom until she was ready to have her hair washed. I made sure all the doors were closed so she would be warm. I washed her hair and made sure not to get the water in her eyes.

She said she liked it when I ran the water down her back and over her shoulders. They were so skinny, all the muscles were gone from her arms. When I was done washing her hair I wrapped her in a towel and patted her down. I got another towel and dried her hair and face. I patted her body down to make sure I got her legs dry. Once she was dry I put her lotion all over her legs and arms and face. Next up was her garments and the dreaded bra! We always made jokes about how hard it was to put on her bra and make sure everything was where is was supposed to be. 

I was wearing sweats that day because we were going to watch a movie but of course Mom wanted to wear jeans and cute clothes. She refused to look like a shlump-a-dink. Laura and Jenny were there to watch "Bridesmaids" but we couldn't find it. I don't think it was a coincidence that her last movie was "Emma" instead of a dumb movie like "Bridesmaids". 

While I sat on the bed watching the movie I peeled the gel off her nails. Then I trimmed them and filed them. I felt so bad because I cut the tip of her left thumb with the clippers! She just flinched and I saw the blood. It was awful! I felt so bad and she was just smiling and me and giving me the thumbs up. I kissed it over and over telling her how sorry I was.

She was so sick that day. Lots of coughing and suctioning. When Dad got home I told him how sick she was. He was always so sweet to her. A lot of kisses and kind words. I'm not sure when it was exactly but we had a great talk with Mom a few weeks before. Dad and I discussed how awful it was to watch Mom suffer. We talked about how we didn't want her to hang on when the time came because she was worried about us. We have been grieving since the day of her diagnosis. We grieved all along as she lost the ability to talk, eat, walk, etc. It was a good conversation.

Tuesday night I stayed long enough to get Mom ready for bed in her pink pjs and I brushed her hair and pulled it up for her. She slept better with it up. I also helped her get her clothes out for the next day. There were going to the clinic at the U. I kissed her goodbye.

I didn't see her on Wednesday or Thursday but I texted her to let her know that I wasn't about to let the hospice people take away our shower parties on Tuesdays.

Friday we were going to Orem to drop our kids off to Laura so we could go to the cabin with friends for the weekend. We stopped by the house and I'm so glad we did. Jenny was giving her some medicine when we got there and she looked at me shaking her head because Mom wasn't doing well. I ran out to the car and asked Logan to take the kids so I could stay there with Mom. She wanted to watch TV so I sat on the arm of the blue love seat and rubbed her arm while she dozed in and out. She was really out of it. She said she had a headache so Judy Richards rubbed her temples while I tickled her arm. We had to suction her a few times because the saliva was so thick.

Logan came back and Dad came home. We sat with them visiting in the great room for a while. Dad talked about quitting the temple on Friday nights and even though she was half asleep she chimed in to let Dad know she didn't want him to give that up.

When we got ready to leave I went to Mom and kissed her cheek. I told her I loved her and kissed her again. She gave me a thumbs up (telling me she loved me too) and I held her hand and kissed it again. I want to mention that I had Rife give her a kiss on the cheek that day as well. I was reluctant to leave but it was time.

Logan and I had lunch at Tuchanos. The food was good but I believe that restaurant is ruined for me now. After lunch we headed up the canyon. We got to Heber and stopped at Walmart to get groceries for the cabin. I can't believe I was wandering through Walmart as my Mom was at home dying.

As we were loading the car my cell phone rang. It said "Rife Home" and I knew immediately something was up. I answered quickly and Jenny simply said "Mary you have to come home right now! Mom died, she's dead." I hung up the phone totally bewildered. I started throwing the bags in the car and looked at Logan in shock. He asked if we needed to go and I said "She's dead. My Mom died." He ran around to hug me and I fell apart, sobbing against him. He helped me into the car and took off towards home. I sobbed and sobbed all the way down the canyon. I cried "no, no, no Mom" over and over again. As we got closer I started to panic and it was hard to breathe. I just had no idea what I was returning home to. As we got there I told Logan to get the baby and I ran inside. 

She was laying on her bed with her head tilted back and her mouth open. The color was gone from her skin and I knew she really was gone. I threw myself on her, hugging her and crying "No Mom, no Mom". I fell to my knees and held her hand crying harder and harder. I felt Logan's hand on my back. I didn't want to let go of her hand. Brian came in and I moved so he could have a moment with her.

The people from the mortuary got there and they needed us to say our final goodbyes. Dad asked us to kneel around the bed while he said a family prayer. I held her hand, caressing it as we prayed as a family. After the prayer the girls took off her jewelry and the people came to take her body away. I followed her out to the car, not wanting to say goodbye. Once they were gone there was a strange void and I felt bad for her that she was leaving with those strange people while all of the people she loved were at the house together.

We all sat in the sitting room a bit in shock. Laura's friend was watching all the kids at Laura's house. We decided to go over and tell them the news before bringing them up to the house.

We were nervous to tell them. Sophie took it the hardest of anyone. She wanted to know why it was our Nana that had to die. They came to the house and hugged everyone. Clyda and Judy showed up with lots of food. It was perfect.

We sat in the sitting room as a family laughing and crying together. It was a strange night with Mom gone to the mortuary and all of us together.

We called Michael and were waiting for his call. When he called I sat in the office with Dad, Hillary, Jenny and Trevor. We cried as he cried asking Dad what he was supposed to do now. It was his choice wether or not he wanted to stay there. Dad told him to talk to his President and sleep on it before making a decision.

We slept downstairs but I woke up at 4 am because I saw Dad's light go on. I had been checking on him through the night making sure he was asleep. He was in his office so I went in there with him. Jenny was awake too so I was texting her. Dad's phone rang and it was Michael again. He still didn't know what to do. We talked for a while explaining that it was his decision.

Later that day we went to the mortuary to discuss the funeral with the director, Phil. We picked out a vault and designed the casket. We decided to do the viewing on Tuesday Nov. 20th and the funeral on Wednesday Nov. 21st, the day before Thanksgiving.

After that we went to the florist to order the flowers for the casket. It felt good just to be together. That night Jenny decided to stay over and we slept with Dad. She slept in the middle and woke up really hot because Dad was holding her hand with his other hand over her head. That's how he used to sleep with Mom. She would hold his hand so she could get his attention if she needed to. And he held her head to make sure she was still warm.

Sunday I decided to go to church with Dad. The kids had gone to the Brains for the night. We spent the day together, you could tell we were a bit afraid to separate. Mike called again and wanted to talk to all of his sisters. He was just so confused. He finally decided to come home.

Monday morning we went with Dad to the cemetery to choose a plot. Then we went to Springville to design the headstone. After that Dad had lunch with his work friends so the girls headed to the mall to find clothes for the viewing and funeral. Laura had said to Mom a few weeks ago that she wanted to have everyone wear blue to the funeral and Mom agreed that was a good idea!

That night I was the only one that stayed at the house and I slept with Dad again.

Tuesday we were scheduled to go dress Mom at 10. I was a bit nervous because I didn't know what to expect. We all rode together and met Gram outside the mortuary to say a prayer before we went inside.

We met Phil and he showed us the casket. It was navy blue with gold trim and white interior. That's exactly what Mom asked for. Then he took us into the main room where Mom's body was. All my nerves disappeared as I saw her body peacefully laying there. I knew she was gone. But that beautiful body that I have spent the last year caring for was there and I had the opportunity to care for it once more.

Phil was great. He helped us put on her temple clothes. As I stood there holding her legs as we dressed her I found myself caressing her the way I always had. I had such tender feelings for the sweet woman she was as she suffered in silence. 

Once she was dressed Phil directed us as we put on her makeup. I was nervous that she wouldn't look like herself. But we did a good job and next we did her hair. Judy had styled it the day she died and it still looked pretty good. Her bangs were crazy though and I tried hard to fix them. I ended up cutting more so they would lay right and felt guilty because she had been growing them out. While Laura worked on her nails I kept looking at the sore on her thumb I had caused just a week before while cutting her nails. It broke my heart when it happened and broke my heart again that day.

Once we were all done we looked at her and she looked so beautiful. We placed her in the casket and took a picture with her. 


We went home and loaded up to head to the airport. I rode up with Dad and Laura. We were all very anxious to get there and see Michael. The airport was great! We had a banner with Mike's picture on it and balloons. He looked so handsome when he came down the escalator. Dad hugged him first and it was a sweet moment.




I rode home in Dad's car with Laura, Jen, and Mike. It was crazy that he was actually home. When we got home it was time to get ready for the viewing. Jill had offered to watch all the kids which was a tremendous blessing. We got there about 30 mins early and within 15 mins people started showing up.

At one point the line was clear out to the parking lot and remained that way until well after it was supposed to be over. We brought a table full of things that represented Mom. The display looked beautiful, I'm sure she would've been proud.

It was amazing to see all the people who came to support us. All the members of the old ward came and it was great to see everyone. It wasn't until I looked down the line and saw my friends that I fell apart. First I saw the Browns and the Flittons. I cried as I hugged them feeling of their love and support. Next I saw Nicole and Jeri. As I hugged Nicole and she cried with me whispering in my ear how sorry she was I was overwhelmed with how much love and support she has shown me. I was overwhelmed with the thought of how many hours both she and Jeri have spent serving me so I could be with Mom and how thankful I am for that great blessing. I hope some day I can show them how thankful I truly am. 

There were many missionaries there, sealers from the temple, temple workers who worked with Mom, and so many wonderful friends. Even Ashlee Jensen and her mother came. Once the line finally went through we realized how starving we were and decided to grab some dinner on our way home. We stopped at Taco Amigo for a very fancy meal of burritos and fries. We tried to get to bed quickly
because we had to get up early for the viewing and funeral.

The next morning we got everything ready and went to set up. We brought the table of decorations again but this time we put out the jewelry Mom had requested we share with her loved ones. 


Before the viewing started Angie De St Jeor stopped by. I have been friends with her on instagram and kept in touch better recently. It as very nice of her to come. Once the viewing started there was immediately a line all the way down the hall. We had to break up the line because it was taking too long. There were many more friends, ward members and family members that came that day. When it came time to say the family prayer I started to get nervous. I knew the hardest part was yet to come. 

Michael gave a beautiful family prayer and set a great tone for the rest of the funeral. They asked people to come say goodbye and I watched as all of our family members came up to the casket. When it was our turn I felt my heart beating out of my chest. How could I say goodbye? (When I took Myla up to see her earlier she said "is Nana sleeping?" and I told her she was. Then she said "I wake her up, I say BOO!" It was so sweet.)

As we walked up and took off her jewelry and put on her vail I felt so incredibly sad and scared. Scared that I would never see her again. Even though she wasn't with her body anymore, her body was all we had left and it was time to say goodbye.  I caressed her head and softly whispered bye to my Mother. I told her once more that I love her. It's a strange feeling as they close the casket because you think they can't breathe in there and that it's too dark. I know she's gone and can't feel anymore but I still had those thoughts. 

Once we were heading in for the funeral I looked over and saw how full the building was and my stomach dropped. Not only did I have to get up in front of everyone but I had almost forgotten and wasn't mentally prepared.

I'm glad I was at the beginning so I could get it over with and enjoy the rest of the meeting. I made an opening joke about how much I hated speaking and was only doing it for my mother followed by a comment about how I'd rather get up and do a jig than speak.

I read the obituary almost flawlessly including my own insert about Dad and his care for Mom. The rest of the meeting was beautiful. Laura and Dad gave beautiful talks. Myla was in the back with Judy and that was a blessing.

We were greeted by many loved ones outside the church after the meeting. Almost all of Logan's family was there. We visited for a bit and then loaded up to drive to the cemetery. The dedicatory prayer was give by Gramps and beautifully done. I made it through without a tear. I was beginning to think they were all gone. But as people started leaving I found myself standing by the casket unable to move. In just a few hours they would bury her and I'd never see her again. At least not in this life. I just 
couldn't leave.




I took some flowers from the casket to save and they are hanging in my room. It was done. She was gone. The most horrific 16 months of my life watching my strong, independent mother slowly digress was torture. And now it was over. It's a strange feeling. Like you don't know what your purpose is anymore.

We stayed down that night for Thanksgiving the next day. We even went to CPK for dinner while the kids were skating with the Parsons. The next few days are a blur. All I know is, I didn't want to leave. I didn't want to get back to real life. I knew I would have to eventually but I wasn't ready."

January 18, 2013

"So now here I am . . . 2 months and 2 days later. I honestly can't say if I'm better or worse. I think the sting of seeing her so ill has worn down and now I'm mad that she's gone; mad that she was sick in the first place. How did this happen? Why did it happen? How do I move forward and not feel guilty about it? Part of me doesn't want to. I want to be sad and miserable forever. But that's not right. That's not what she would want for me. I have children who need a mother. Just like I did. Like I still do. I am trying to find a way to be there for everyone else in hopes that it will help me heal.
I've tried hard to be there for Dad. I tried very hard to be there for Jenny when Copelyn was born. I tried to support her the way Mom was always there for me."

That is the last entry I wrote. I just wanted to document it so I would have it forever.

This picture was taken at Jenny's baby shower. It was our last picture taken all together.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Back in action . . .

It has been so long since I blogged, I don't even know where to start. I stopped for a while with good reason. When you lose someone you love it's hard to find meaning in the every day tasks. Blogging just didn't seem important for a while. But I love looking back at the experiences I've had with my family and I don't want to lose that opportunity. Blogging is the only type of journaling I do, so without it I have no record of my life or the lives of my children. It's time to get back on the horse.

On September 22nd Todd and Kiersten were married! It was a wonderful ceremony and a beautiful day. I'm so glad my Mom could be there. I know it made her very happy to see them get married. It was great that the Buchanans lived here as well. Kiersten is a beautiful person and I know she and Todd will be truly happy together.

This is my favorite picture because with Mom not being able to speak, giving the thumbs up was her way of communication that she is happy. I cherish this picture and I know Kiersten does as well.


Thats a good looking group of kiddos!

Such cute cousin friends!
A very cherished moment for me.
I love my sisters.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

{ Ayden and Rife }

Saturday November 3rd was a very special day for our family. It was the day Ayden was baptized and Rife was blessed. It was such a wonderful day mostly because we were surrounded by friends and family that we love so dearly.

Ayden was baptized and confirmed by his father. These two are such great friends.  

Two very proud parents. 

Ayden asked his aunt Chelle to speak on baptism and his Nana to speak on the Holy Ghost. Both of their talks were incredible. It was the best baptism I have been to since my own. The Spirit was so strong.

We had over 60 people there from our family and so we were able to use the cultural hall for a nice dinner afterwards. It was a much better option than trying to fit everyone in my house!

One of my favorite memories from my baptism was the "8" cake my mom made for me. I had to follow in her footsteps. (although I remember her cake looked much better than this.  

Rife and Bapa having a special moment together. 

Ayden is blessed to have such wonderful grandparents.
Nana and Papa gave Ayden this handsome suit and a special blanket with a bear on it. 

Brammy and Bapa gave Ayden a count down (8 days of Baptism) with many gifts and also gave him some scriptures with his name on them. 

I could not have made this day happen without the help of my wonderful friends and family. The are such an inspiration to me and I thank Heavenly Father every day for the blessing they are in my life. Thank you for supporting Ayden and our family on this special day. Thank you for all the food and gifts you brought. You are all so wonderful.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A special day . . .

I am so looking forward to the special day we will be having with our boys on November 3rd. Ayden has chosen to be baptized. And since we new we would be having Rife's baby blessing around the time of his baptism we asked him if he wouldn't mind sharing his day with his brother. He lit up with excitement at the thought.  He is so kind and loving, Rife is lucky to have him for a big brother!

I got some great pictures of them for the invitation and I wanted to post them before I forget.

I am so blessed to have these two sweet boys in my life. I can't wait to celebrate their special day.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

{ One month old . . . }

I can not believe it has already been a month since our little angel joined our family. I'm devastated that time is going by so quickly. But he has been such a wonderful addition. He is an angel baby and I can't get enough of him.

His big sister who absolutely adore him.

What a special gift this precious angel is. I feel so blessed to be his mother.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

{ introducing . . . Rife Logan Hammer }

I started this post 4 days ago and it has taken me this long to get it posted!

My last post said 11 days until baby day but that turned out to be incorrect. This little guy decided to grace us with his presents a little bit early.

August 20th was a very special and wild day for us. That morning we got dressed in our Sunday best to attend the funeral of Gladys Elkins, Logan's grandmother. She was an incredible person who lived a wonderful life. Her sweetheart passed away just a year or so after Logan and I were married so she has lived alone for almost 10 years. She was one of the happiest people I have ever known. She always greeted me with a smile and a hug. I know when he was growing up she was a really awesome grandmother to Logan. She did many things to keep her family close and give them opportunities to bond.

The funeral was a beautiful tribute to her. We took Ayden and Sophie with us and they really enjoyed listening to the stories told about her during the service.

After the funeral we got home just in time for me to run to my appointment with Dr Hall. I had met with him on Saturday morning because I was concerned about how swollen my feet and hands were. He wanted me to come back on Monday to check my blood pressure again and make sure it wasn't going up. But unfortunately (or fortunately for me) it had gone up quite a bit and the swelling had reached my face so he wasn't comfortable sending me home. He told me to get the kids squared away and meet him at the hospital in an hour.

We didn't have anything ready to go so we were in a mad dash to grab everything we needed and get the kids to Whitney's house. She is so wonderful, not only did she take them for the night, she took them to school the next morning, took them the next night, and took them to school the following day. She went above and beyond the call of duty!

We waited for Dr Hall for a while when we got the the hospital and didn't end up getting things started until around 7:30pm. He broke my water and started the pitocin. Then we just waited for a while. Laura and Jenny brought my Mom up and got there around 8:30. It was so fun to have them there! Jenny came when I had Ayden, tried to catch Sophie's birth but she came too fast, and had to miss Myla's because she was at the MTC with Trevor's brother. Laura has been in NY for all of my deliveries so it was so fun to have her there. And my Mom hasn't missed a birth and I knew she wasn't about to miss this one. Judy also came up which was so nice considering she had had such a crazy day.

Once I was 4 cm and the contractions were really getting intense I asked for the epidural. I always try to hold out as long as I can even though Logan says there's no reason to be a hero. I think he is much more calm once he knows I'm not in pain anymore. The first dose of the epidural only got me numb on the right side and I was still feeling intense pain on my whole left side. As the baby started to move downward I started to feel a lot of pain again so the Dr came in and gave me another dose of something stronger that made me incredibly numb. I didn't want to be that numb again but when you are in that much pain you don't really care what they have to do to make it go away.

Once I was able to relax things started to go pretty quickly. Around 11pm Dr Hall came in and we tried pushing for a little bit. He said the babies head was way up high since he was posterior and we decided to stop pushing for a little bit and let the contractions bring him down. I was disappointed because the pushing part has always been my strong point.

I was really wanting to have him on 8-20 and not 8-21 because I think it's a cool birthday. So the closer it got to midnight the more anxious I got. At 11:40 I asked Dr Hall if we could start pushing again. He was actually able to turn the babies head so that he could come down faster. I pushed and pushed with all my might. I had my Mom on one side softly caressing my leg, and Logan on the other offering words of encouragement. It was so wonderful. I remember looking at the clock at 11:55 while I was waiting for the next contraction and thinking I had less than 5 minutes!!

Well, I guess all the ab workouts paid off because Rife Logan Hammer was born at 11:57pm on August 20th 2012.

The first thing I said when I saw him was "Oh my gosh, he's huge and he looks like Ayden!"

He weighed 8 lbs 5 oz and he was 21 inches long. The Dr was surprised when the nurse told him that Rife's apgar score was 9/10. So right off the bat we knew he was perfect. Once he was cleaned off and I got to hold him I was just amazed at how perfect he was. I think because we didn't plan this one I just expected something to go wrong. At every turn I was prepared for bad news. But here he was, totally perfect.

Everyone got a chance to hold him. When my Mom was able to hold him for the first time it was a very special moment for me. I watched as she looked at him knowing that she won't be here to watch him grow up. Which made having her there that much more important. She had a special gift of strength to be able to be there that night. It was a miracle and something I will cherish forever.

Once I was in recovery I was able to get a little sleep which felt good, but I kept waking up and wanting to hold Rife. There is something so magical about a newborn.

We couldn't wait for the kids to come meet him so Logan checked them out for lunch and brought them to the hospital. It was really sweet because the first thing they both did when they got there was come up and give me a hug and ask if I was okay. Then they went to see the baby. Ayden said "he looks like me!"

They were so cute with him and so happy to finally meet their baby brother.

Myla was staying with the Halls so she came to visit with them and she was very sweet as well. I don't think she put it together at that moment but she definitely has since then. She knows that he is the baby that was in Mommy's tummy and she is so sweet and tender with him. I was worried she wouldn't like him but so far she just adores him.

We only stayed in the hospital for 24 hrs which seemed really short but Whitney had our kids so we figured we would sleep better at home anyway. So I got him dressed in his take home outfit and we loaded him up in his carseat. He looked so sweet all snuggled in.

We have had so many fun visitors and recieved so many wonderful gifts.

So far Rife has been a perfect angel. He sleeps at night, he hardly ever cries (unless you change his diaper) and he is an absolute joy to have in our home. I can't get enough of him. Sometimes I just sit and hold him while he sleeps because he's so peaceful. I am so blessed to have this beautiful baby in my home. I don't want him to grow up, I wish I could freeze time. I am usually so quick to just back into life and the routine, but his time have just lived on my bed in my pjs holding my little angel.