Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pilar’s Last Days

Uncle Dante and Auntie Lita

Mama hardly said anything if at all from Friday through Sunday even though visitors came in and out through the day.  Uncle Dante and Auntie Lita were there every day. Others who came to visit were baby Annika and her mom, Carmela Marfil, Leonardo Wee, Irene Hassan, Vic and Chit Pabellon, the Mother Butler group, Caloy, Madie, and their children of course, who just lived upstairs, and other people who escape my mind now, so please forgive me if I forgot to mention you.
Annika - Apo sa tuhod
We purchased a bulb syringe to try to clear Mama’s throat of phlegm or saliva when she started choking from drinking fluids. She was also having difficulty swallowing by this time and took all her energy just to sip water from a straw when taking her medications. Because of the heat and humidity, the caregivers changed her clothes frequently which was no easy matter because these were house dresses and not hospital gowns. Under the circumstances, we did our best to keep Mama as comfortable as possible.
Mama was on oxygen by nasal cannula all day and night. By Friday, the oxygen was running low and Caloy with his trusty handyman, Erning found a wrench in case we had to switch the regulator from one oxygen bottle to a backup one if the delivery of a new bottle didn’t come on time. It turns out that the regulator came with its own wrench as Larry told us. We just had to find the box it came in. I tried transferring the regulator to the backup bottle but heard some hissing indicating a leak. Fortunately, the oxygen company delivery guy came shortly and showed us how to detect a leak by using soap bubbles. It turns out, I only had to put more muscle into it to tighten the valve. Well, we can always learn something new every day, can’t we?
With Madie and Ate Chit present on Saturday, they went through Mama’s dresses to pick out what she would wear at the end. They knew Mama’s preferences very well and picked out a pretty cream colored ensemble that Mama would have approved of.
With Notre Dame classmates at Palmeras Restaurant on Notre Dame day.
I had to leave Mama for a couple of hours Saturday night because my Notre Dame of Jolo classmates invited me to dinner at Palmeras Restaurant. It was going to be a mini reunion on Notre Dame Day!  Mimi and her son picked me up and we encountered the worst evening traffic on the way. The car could barely move at the corner of Nunez Street and Governor Alvarez Avenue. What normally would have taken 10 minutes took half an hour. The same group that met me at Amil’s the week before was there minus Nayda, but plus Delia and Fatmawati. Earlier in the day, Delia sent mangosteen, homemade durian preserve, native organic Jolo coffee, and itlug payukan (I will not translate that last one because it’s supposed to be illegal obtaining them anymore), to Mama’s apartment. We had Japanese cuisine that evening which I offered to pay for but my classmates declined again. An equivalent of less than 75 dollars fed 10 people Japanese food with much left for doggie bags! A great time was had by all but we had to say our goodbyes pretty soon. People don’t spend too many late nights out in that city. I thought it would be a few years before I would see my classmates again.
I was driven home by Mimi and her son after dropping off Delia at her hotel. I checked on Mama and the caregiver said she hadn’t complained of any pain while I was gone so I was relieved to hear that.
Sunday, I was out for my early morning walk again then attended mass at St. Joseph’s cathedral, where I saw Mama’s doctor with her family up front. On my way back home I stopped by Morning Sun Satti House to say goodbye to Solomon because I was leaving early Monday morning. I invited the Tupaz family to lunch and we went to Lantaka Hotel’s Sunday smorgasbord after they went to mass at 11 a.m.
A view from Lantaka Hotel showing the Port of Zamboanga and Santa Cruz Island beyond
When we returned home, the morning shift caregiver – Joanna reported that she was concerned about Mama’s low blood pressure so we monitored that closely through the day. It went as low as 70/40 which was cause for much concern even though Mama’s pulse was strong and constantly in the 100 to 110 range. When Joanna got that low reading she burst into tears. I rechecked it and it was similar even though I got 82 for the systolic. We couldn’t really do anything about it. Mama was having what is called fluid volume deficit due to lack of fluid intake, not to mention food. I told her to hang on and that I was leaving the next day to go back to the States, and that Larry will be with her in a few days time. But I had a feeling at that point that Mama wasn’t going to let me get off that easy in leaving Zamboanga. I can only imagine what she was thinking (“oh no you’re not!”). So I made a mental checklist of what I had to do if the inevitable happened while I was still there. Since arrangements for Mama were already done, all I had to do was contact my work supervisor via email in case I had to extend my leave, and rebook my flights. I also made a backup plan for Auntie Beth in California to call my supervisor in case she doesn’t get my email over the weekend. As for Mama, we can only monitor her. Because of her difficulty swallowing, I told the caregivers to hold all her maintenance medications because those were inconsequential at that point. Basically they were blood pressure and acid reflux medications plus multivitamins. Her blood pressure was already too low and there was no acid reflux because she wasn’t eating. She had to reserve all her energy to take the pain medications because that was all that mattered now.
I tried going to sleep but because of the situation, I couldn’t. I expected a phone call or text message to come at any time, and it did at 1 a.m. The text message from Neneng just said “sir Noel”. I rushed to Mama’s apartment and saw that she had started gasping for breath. It was no longer the usual the respiratory pattern I had observed consistently during the past week that I had been there. I held her hand, felt for her pulse with the other and detected that her pulse rate had slowed down considerably. I whispered to her that we loved her and that it was okay to let go and to say hello to Papa for us. Part of me felt like getting a panic attack and getting out of there to avoid the situation. In Mama’s last few moments, I prayed to God to help her go peacefully and to give me the strength to handle the situation and not freak out. Thank you God for being so accommodating. Drawing one last deep breath, Mama left the earthy world and to her Maker’s hands, also reuniting with Papa, no doubt. The date was September 10, 2012, 1:05 a.m.
I called and woke Larry up a few minutes later and told him our Mama was gone, and he prepared to return to Zamboanga on the next available morning flight.

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larrydlp said...

Thank you, Kuya Noel, for sharing this. I have shed tears over Mama's passing, but not like after reading this piece. Tears of sadness, for this is an indication that this series on Ma's last days will be ending. But more tears of gratefulness, for your being with her 'til the end. I was not there, but I'm very thankful that you were.
It was a difficult from the Tuesday when I left you guys in Zamboanga. I couldn't focus with work. I was just like a zombie going around doing my tasks with little or no emotion or passion. I would jump with every beep or ring from my phone. I was itching to hop on the next flight back. Especially knowing that Kuya was scheduled to fly back to the US that coming Monday. Sunday night, I even texted: Are you all set for tomorrow? His reply: All set, barring any incident.
But Mama had other plans and she had her way this time.
Xavier School had make-up classes that Saturday and I was trying to mark student work Sunday. But I could not concentrate, especially when Kuya texted that Mama's BP was quite low since Saturday. The whole day Sunday, I was compelled to read about what happens during the last few hours of life. Maybe it was to compensate for my absence by Mama's bedside. Maybe it was a way for me to experience what she was going through at that moment. I tried several times to leave the topic and get back to work. But it was futile. I felt an obligation to know more about dying.
I tried to get some sleep past midnight and I answered Kuya's call after the first ring. I knew.

Noel DLP said...

Thank you Larry. We often don't believe in fate. Remember originally I only planned on staying for 7 days but changed it to 9 days after you asked if I could come earlier. Now I know the reason why. Mama was telling me subconsciously.