My "Annual Christmas Letter for 2016" such a different twist on this past year.



                       “The Steele’s” Annual Christmas Letter 2016 - by Pam Steele 


I have tried to set down at least 10 times and start this Annual Christmas Letter. I've been doing them for many, many years, at least 25 or more. I send them out with my Cards, to family and friends especially those that we don't get to see much anymore.
With what happened for the at least last 6 months of 2015, with the abscesses and cellulitis in my thighs, then my internal pain pump "failed" and it was the last week of the year, December 29th before I was well enough and clear of infections to have the pump replaced.

I did well, and Mom had been giving me certain "signs" for at least 18 months or so, that her "memory" was just not as it used to be. Of course she turned in 80 years old inn August 2015, so our minds, including mine are not what they used to be. Yet, I was with her, or talked to her everyday. I noticed more and more certain things she said, she did, she did not do, and the way she seemed confused at times, really concerned me.

I began to notice her "telling stories" that she absolutely believed happened, and which seemed “odd” at the very least. Yet, what she was telling, just seemed to not at all be something that really ever happened, or would almost be "making-up" portions like she was not sure about all of what she was saying,

I had already fixed everything(bills & such) and it just paid out of her account. Before I did, she made out checks, and did not sign them, or could not "recall" how to spell something such as "one hundred" etc. In January this year, I was getting more concerned by the day. She became to falls. One time, she fell out of her chair in the living room, could not get up, did not have the cordless phone anywhere she could get to, and I felt like she laid in the floor at least 8 hours or so, because I could tell she had cushions under her head, and I would ask her Mom, how long have you been there? She would say, at least 3 or 4 DAYS! No one ever comes to check on me! Well, I had been by the afternoon before. Plus I had talked to her on the phone about 7PM or so, and she was “fine" that same evening earlier I felt like she got up in the night, sat down in her chair in the living room, maybe to get a drink, or sometimes she would have a bad dream, so she would get up, roam around in the dark basically, then sat down in that rocker, fell asleep, and fell out of the chair.I had already gotten onto her about NOT keeping that cordless phone with her at all times, and the doctor even suggested a cell phone or an alarm around her neck. Well, I bought one, and she said she did not know how to use it, so I gave that idea up quickly,

Within about 4 weeks after seeing the doctor, she began to "regress". It was very rapid the way, she went from being able to drive, clean her house, cook, and buy groceries. By the middle of February, she called me and said her "car" would not start. I tried to ask her what she was doing, and I knew she was NOT turning on the ignition, so it would NOT go drive or reverse. I had to jump up, put clothes on (this was early, like 8 or 9AM, she wanted to go to the store)...so sure enough, I go over, open the door, put the key in the ignition, turn it and the car starts, and I could put it into the gear. She was MAD thinking that "I did something". Yet, she just could not recall how to turn on the ignition, and drive. So, immediately I took the keys away, and within a few days, I would go over, and either she could not "light the oven", or she forgot how to use the television. She told me she did not "care about" television anymore. But, she used to watch shows late at night, when she could not sleep.
She could not dial a phone number a number was "messed up" because there was no way she could dial it. So, if I did not call her, or go over there every day, usually several times, I was stressed over what she might do that could harm herself or worse, so I had to check on her.

I had been scheduled for neck and lower back surgery and rescheduled about 4 times from March till May. There was not way I could trust her, even for a day without me going to check k on her, so I turned off the gas to the stove, to the heater, it was not cold anymore anyway, and then she just stopped eating. She began to lose weight, and nothing fit her. She could not take her medications correctly, and would either take them twice, or not at all, mostly, not at all. I even had them in a holder, but she did not know what day of the week it was.

By, May, I had to have help, Her doctor gave us a "script" for home health. The more I was at her home, I began to notice, that the house, that always was spotless... things she would never let go or get dirty, were terrible. She had not been sweeping, the bathroom was terrible, and she had ants everywhere. It took me weeks to finally get rid of all of the ants.
By May, Mom became mainly bedridden. She was "barely knew where she was, who she was, who anyone was", she would not even get on the bedside to clean up, or to get on the portable potty. Then anytime the nurse, the aid, or even I barely touched her to get her cleaned up, she would CRY and fuss, and say were were abusing her and that “I” should be ashamed of myself ofr allowing this all to happen.

She fell again right at the 1st of June, and the nurse for the home health wanted her to be taken to ER. I said NO, her wishes are NOT to be transported, nor on medications or machines, she did not want any tests, no blood work, she just wanted to be left alone. But, that nurse called the ambulance, and after much griping, I let them take her, which was a mistake. They did NOTHING for her, kept her overnight, in a bed, no medications, nothing. They sent her home the next EVENING, now this was like 7PM after being at the hospital all day long and no one doing anything, and then they expected ME TO GET HER UP TWO STAIRS, INTO HER HOUSE, AND IN THE BED BY MYSELF!

I almost fell, she almost fell, and it was the last time I heard her "laugh"... I said MOM, dammit, YOU HAVE TO TAKE TWO STEPS UP, then I can get the walker, and between it, and me helping, we can get this done, BUT I cannot carry you up these steps, and if you fall, I fall, and we both will be in deep "do'do"! She actually kind of giggled, as the neighbor saw us, and she came to help, and we made it in, and made it to the bed. But, I really hurt my neck and back again, and felt it when I did.
It was exactly one week later, on a Thursday morning, I went in to give her the medications "Hospice" was giving her as comfort meds... and I knew then, she would not make it through the day.
About 10AM, something just told me to go in there, and by now she was not responsive at all, nothing. So, I sat down beside her, on the left side, took her tiny frail hand in mine, and began singing 3 Hymns that she always loved to her Dad sing.

I finished the last few words of "Pearly White City", she took a breath, and she was gone.
Oddly enough, the Hospice Nurse knocked on the door within a few minutes, so she came in, took Mom's "pulse", they must check it for 5 minutes before they can "pronounce" them gone. She called the Funeral home for me, and once they arrived, I left and went to "Urgent Care" myself. I had been sick for two weeks so, while I knew I had that time to go and take care of me for a bit, I did. I had already bought her a blouse, and pants, and I took those to the funeral home, picked out the casket, etc. and began to try and "decompress" from all of the shock of it all.
From there, of course family called, and friends, and those who needed to be called.
The service was perfect. I could not have asked for anything that fit any better than how it all came together.

There are still loose ends to work on, decisions to be made, and I hope that I will be able to "finish up the year" having either my cervical neck or lumbar spine surgery.
It has been a year, that if I tried to explain all of it, and the emotions, feelings, and so many things that I've been through, there would be no way, to truly give you real look into how much it all changed me.
My hope is that each of you, your families, friends, and this nation can find a solution, to PEACE, here, and on this Earth!

If I have wished for anything, PEACE is on the top of my list for all,

With my love and Merry Christmas, My prayers are that 2017 bring in light, love, laughter, and a life that is truly in “satisfaction".... along with hope, & a renewed faith and knowing what matters For as I experienced the moments of life are truly fleeting and precious

Rhia and her two "fur-kids" - Bubba and Peanut
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