It actually kinda began a few months earlier, in September of 1995. That is when my stepfather, Percy Joe Handley, retired from his occupation, and with his wife, Maria, packed all their belongings, loaded up a U-Haul, and moved into their mobile home here in Carson City as permanent residents. How they were so excited to be here and not have to drive back to that place out by the Bay area.
My mom, Maria, really enjoyed the Christmas holidays. You see, she was an immigrant from West Germany, along with ol’ Saint Nicholaus. Oh, how she loved Santa and the reindeer, the snow and snowmen. Above all, she loved the Christmas lights. We would drive around town just to look at the various house decorations.
I knew Mom wasn’t feeling well, with all her back troubles and such. And she probably overdid it a little, having done most of the packing while dad was finalizing his obligations. I had prearranged a doctor’s appointment for her shortly after their arrival here. Evidently, she had developed a tumor on her lumbar spine. With subsequent treatment, including radiation, the offending tumor had been eradicated.
“She’s cured,” dad joyfully cried out on the day of her final treatment. This was just before or after Thanksgiving 1995. I only vaguely remember she didn’t have much appetite, and we all got together for a very sparse, hastily put together, canned turkey a la king, or was that queen?
Anyway about the same time she had developed some inner soreness inside her mouth, but what was disturbing to me, when she was lying down one evening, I noticed that her abdomen appeared distended and when I questioned her, she shrugged it off. But I was concerned, deeply concerned.
Toward the end of November 1995, Mom was admitted to C-TH via the emergency room. Why? We didn’t know at this point. I finally took one of the nurses aside and asked what’s going on with my mother? Don’t you know, she replied? No, I responded. The nurse bluntly told us that she was full of cancer!
With tears flowing, no, not flowing, but gushing forth like a … I went back into Mom’s room and asked her if she knew what was going on. Her only response at the time was “floating tumors” as she pointed toward her abdomen.
Elizabeth Kubler Ross, “The Five Stages of Dying,” was on my mind quite a bit in the days that followed. And I instinctively knew at what stage Mom was starting and trying not to get through.
The first week of December 1995, we had her home and decided to have Hospice of Northern Nevada through Carson-Tahoe Hospital referral, to provide us with help and medical care. During this time period, Mom would ask me, plead with me, to please give her something to end the pain, to “put me out of my misery, I just want to crawl in a hole and die!” The only thing I can do for ya, ma, is admit you into the hospital where they’ll put you on an IV/morphine drip. It began to snow.
Tuesday, Dec. 12, 1995, C-TH, Room 272, Catholic Priest Fr. Chuck, Sister Marie, myself and dad, all of us holding hands around Mom’s bed, celebrating the Sacrament for the Sick, for the giving of Last Rites. And after I introduced Father Chuck and sister Marie McGloin of St. Teresa’s and told ma what we were to do, she replied, “Oh, yeah.” She knew what was coming down and she was ready.
Later that evening, as dad and I were standing next to her bedside, she suddenly blurted out, “I’m dying, I don’t think I’m going to make it through the night.” She had reached another plateau — acceptance. She did make it thorough the night and another as well. Friday, Dec. 15, 1995, 11:55 a.m. Mom, we didn’t want to let you go, but are grateful for God’s divine gift of no more suffering and pain.
Thank you for letting me share.