When your Mom Dies

Bruce and Anna Babcock with 1956 Black Thunderbird, Gowanda, New York, June 1998 (2)

Mom and Dad in 1998

Next month – March 2020 – will be the second anniversary of my mom’s death. Her death has been extremely difficult to put into words, and I’ve purposely waited some time before really delving deeply into its meaning to me. Mom and I were not close, and I still have mixed feelings about her death. Of course, mom is my mother and she will always be my mother, no matter what. But, we never had a close bond. There are reasons for that, of course, that I won’t explain here. It’s something that cannot be changed.

Sometimes I miss Mom and sometimes, I don’t. I miss the things about her that I love, and I don’t miss the things about her that I dislike. What I’ve come to terms with is that it’s okay. Many years ago, I came to accept our relationship as it was. There’s no changing someone who won’t change, so I made little effort to convince her to see things another way. The lack of closeness and bond are losses enough in themselves. There is always that void and emptiness there that will not be fulfilled. I know that, I understand that, I accept that. That’s how it is.

What was so difficult for Mom to endure was all of the suffering that accompanied death. Mom battled cancers for two years before she died. I remember in early summer, one year, when she had flu-like symptoms, but didn’t have the flu. This went on for a week, and I told her to call her doctor. She didn’t. It went on for another week. She still hadn’t called her doctor. By the third week, things still hadn’t improved – and had worsened, and called her doctor and made an appointment for her.

Mom’s biggest fear about cancer was her fear. She watched her dad die from cancer long before I was born, and it was a fear that paralyzed her. But, by trying to avoid to fear and the truth, she was just making it worse. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after many tests, and began chemotherapy. She didn’t want to have chemotherapy, but I told her she had to do it – she didn’t have a choice. She had to try. Mom had an oncologist in Atlanta who was nationally-renowned. She believed in him, she trusted him. He saved so many people’s lives. He became her god, in the hopes that he would save her, too. He didn’t.

I went with Mom to only a few of her appointments. It was my dad who religiously took her to her appointments, even when he was exhausted and felt ill, himself. My dad was available, and so, he took her. I would’ve had to change my schedule, take off work, or cancel commitments, including my son’s school commitments, if I took Mom to her appointments. So, Dad did it.

For nine months, Mom had regular chemotherapy appointments. She was sick, she couldn’t eat, she was hospitalized at times, she lost weight, and she eventually completed her treatments. The cancer and the chemotherapy changed Mom. She lived in fear. She still had difficulty eating. She wanted to be happy when her oncologists told her that her cancer was in remission, but I wasn’t so sure. If the cancer was gone, why did she still have difficulty eating? Why was she still sick?

I didn’t believe that Mom’s cancer was gone. While I wanted to be happy, I was cautiously optimistic. There was something about it all that wasn’t quite right. I told Mom and Dad, together, that Mom should get a second opinion. It wouldn’t hurt to see another oncologist. Again, Mom believed in her god-like oncologist. He knew what he was doing. He had decades of experience. After all, he said she was cancer-free. She wouldn’t seek a second opinion. I couldn’t tell her anything, and she wouldn’t listen. The chemotherapy also made her mind such that she couldn’t “hear” me. It was already too much of an ordeal of suffering and fear that was overwhelming to her.

Mom was to go to get checked, monthly, with lab work for her cancer cell count. Two months after she was supposedly “cured,” her cancer cell count was up, slightly. The next month, it was up significantly more. By four months after Mom was supposedly cured, she was diagnosed with another cancer. Unfortunately – and tragically – I believe this is the cancer she shouldn’t been diagnosed with the first time – peritoneal cancer – a type of intestinal cancer.

When Mom’s oncologist did her surgery to remove her cancerous ovary, he also found and removed cancers from the outside of her intestines. These were cancers he missed on the MRI. This nationally-renowned oncologist was so sure that Mom’s cancer was ovarian cancer that he failed to consider whether it could be something else. I believe that the intestinal cancer had spread to Mom’s ovary – in the beginning – and thus, her diagnosis of ovarian cancer. I believe the primary cancer – the peritoneal cancer – was totally missed…until it was too late. The oncologist, himself, also realized this, and cried with Mom when he was unable to tell her that he could save her.

Having been diagnosed with cancer a second time, Mom was in and out of the hospital for extended stays. She couldn’t eat. She couldn’t sleep. She was sad, angry, and afraid. She just wanted to die. Mom’s intestines were blocked. Fortunately, the doctors devised a way for her stomach to eliminate what little digested food she could eat by having inserted a tube in her stomach. For the last three months or so of her life, Mom ate only crackers, chicken soup, and homemade custard. She just loved that custard. I couldn’t make it as well as she did, but I did my best.

Once Mom’s oncologist couldn’t tell her there was any hope, Mom was discharged from the hospital to home hospice. She was given three months to live. She lived only for just over two more months. Mom apologized to us for putting us through what was about to come. How sad that she would apologize for something out of her control. We just wanted to take the burden away from her.

Dad and I wanted Mom to be as comfortable as she could be. We stayed with Mom in shifts, around the clock. When I worked, Dad had a double shift. We tried to shield my son from Mom’s decline as much as we could, but he also helped us care for her. He was a great help with her, especially because she wanted to get up out of bed, and we were afraid she would fall and break a leg or hip. That would just make things worse. My son made sure Mom stayed put when Dad and I couldn’t stay with her.

We made sure that Mom had an IV drip in her last weeks. A truly inhumane way for someone to die is for them not to have any liquid or nutrients, and we didn’t want for Mom to suffer any more, unnecessarily. We employed a home hospice company that was really good, for the most part. Mom had the meds she needed, and the CNA care was excellent. All but one of the nurses was great. The one that wasn’t great was no longer welcome in our home – as I informed the nursing manager. That nurse should never even be a nurse at all – she was horrific.

The last five days of Mom’s life were the worst. She no longer knew who she was. She no longer knew me and didn’t remember that she had a grandson. She wouldn’t listen to anything and couldn’t understand anything. She wasn’t herself and she was out of her head. I had to tell Mom that I was her sister, in order to comfort her. I later joked with my aunt that I impersonated her to Mom in order to help her feel better.

In Mom’s final two days of her life, the smell of death surrounded her. The hospice CNA told me it was only a matter of time before Mom died. I asked her how long – a day, two days, a week? I wanted to plan and prepare myself. What you discover with death is that you can’t plan anything. Death has its own timetable.

I called people and made appointments. I called and arranged for the hospice social worker to come by in a couple of days with the hospice pastor. I didn’t want for that to scare Mom because she had been terrified when I had earlier asked our church priest to visit her while she was in the hospital. At that time, he was only there to do a healing prayer, and she thought he was giving her last rites. She was unable to understand, and I didn’t want to scare her again.

I also called our church priest and asked him to come by. It was late on a Monday when I spoke with him. He said Tuesday is his day off. Couldn’t he ask another priest to come and visit? The other priest was already overwhelmed by his own responsibilities, I know. The soonest our priest could come was Wednesday. By then, Mom had already died. Father – people still die on your day off.

The day before Mom died, she was very stiff and catatonic. It appeared that she could no longer see. Her eyes were bloodshot and her vision was impaired. She wanted more pain medicine. Dad and I did our best to keep Mom on a regimented schedule with strict dosages, so she was getting enough, but not too much. On the morning of the day that Mom died, I couldn’t awaken her for her medicine. She was comatose. She was breathing, but she was no longer with us. I hadn’t realized it yet at the time.

Dad was sitting with Mom when she took her last breath. He and I had just changed shifts about a half an hour prior to that at lunchtime. Unbeknownst to me, Mom had died, and he sat with her for about a half an hour before coming to get me. She was gone. I couldn’t believe she was gone. For several weeks, Mom had already been using oxygen tubes for her breathing. I believe those helped her body not have to work as hard to breath; they were good for her. Her oxygen tubes were still circulating the oxygen to her nostrils; they seemed so awkward now that she had died.

Mom died at home, surrounded by family. Mom’s immediate death was felt most strongly by my dad – her husband of almost 55 years. Dad grieved very severely for about nine months before I noticed that he seemed to be feeling better. I believe it will always be somewhat lonely for him without his life partner. No one else can fulfill for him what my mom did. I love and miss you, Mom. I know you’re in a much better place, and I will see you again. Please save a place for me at The Table.

February Snow in Georgia

20200208_105913

Snow on the cherry tree, Snellville, Georgia, February 8, 2020

We haven’t seen snow here in Georgia for the past few years. For me, as a Yankee, it’s always a treat to get snow in the South! I definitely miss it, especially the skiing. Both the North and South have their advantages and disadvantages, though I don’t miss the brutal cold of those Buffalo winters.

20200208_105946

Snow in Snellville, Georgia, February 8, 2020

Last weekend, though it was 39 degrees Fahrenheit, it was snowing here in Snellville on Saturday morning, February 8, 2020. It snowed for most of the morning – a heavy, wet snow with huge snowflakes. It was so pretty – and was more like what winter should be – rather than the 65 degree Fahrenheit temperatures we have today, less than one week later.

20200208_110008

Let it Snow! Snellville, Georgia, February 8, 2020

On February 8, my son was training fellow Boy Scouts at his troop’s bi-annual leadership training event. They also took some time out from their instruction to step outside and have a friendly snowball fight. That’s another good memory to include in my Eagle Scout son’s wonderful experience in scouting! Oh – and by the way – the daffodils are blooming in full force now and the maples are budding out, too…

Making Another Holiday Cake

20181231_153524.jpg

A better Christmas cake than last week! December 31, 2018

I’m getting better at decorating these holiday cakes, now. Instead of trying to frost half green and half red, I just decided to frost all red, and make a green Christmas tree, outlined with cinnamon drops.

Happy Holidays Lights

It really looks much better than my previous one!

Making Apricot-Nut Roll Pastries

20181226_145639.jpg

Today, I baked some apricot-nut roll pastries to continue celebrating the Christmas spirit! The recipe is one that my Mom had since the late 1960s or early 1970s from the magazine, Better Homes and Gardens. My first tray turned out a little gooey (see above), but I improved by adding more flour after that (see below).

20181226_155558.jpg

If you don’t really like apricots, the pastries are still really great! You just use apricot jelly to make them, and it causes them to taste quite sweet. They are really yummy, and my family and I love them!

Baking for Christmas!

20181220_161112.jpg

Christmas chocolate cake, December 2018

In the past week, I’ve done some baking for Christmas! Usually, my mom does the baking around the holidays, but with her death in March, I’ve done a bit. We all miss Mom and her lovely peanut brittle, fruit cake, and other goodies. She really should’ve opened her own bakery because she was so talented at baking.

20181223_192059.jpg

Chocolate-nut fudge, December 2018

This year, I tried my hand at the chocolate-nut fudge, and it turned out great! It was the first time I ever made fudge. I followed the recipe to the ‘t,’ and was very pleased with the results. My son really loves the chocolate fudge, and I’m happy he can enjoy some at these Christmas holidays.

20181215_205730.jpg

Merry Christmas cake, December 2018

I also baked two chocolate cakes, and decorated them with a Christmas theme. I baked one cake for my family and another for our elderly neighbors. Both cakes have a Christmas tree on them.  One cake even has a shooting star at the top – see if you can spot it! Hopefully, I can bake some cookies next…Merry Christmas!

Anna Maria Krakowiak Babcock (July 25, 1943 – March 7, 2018)

Mom and Dad 2002

Anna Maria Krakowiak Babcock (July 25, 1943 – March 7, 2018)

Anna Maria (Krakowiak) Babcock died on March 7, 2018 at her home in Snellville, Georgia after a long illness. Anna was a survivor of ovarian cancer. Shortly after her recovery, she was diagnosed with primary peritoneal cancer, which took her life.

Anna was born to Wladislawa “Lottie” (Bulera) Krakowiak and Janek “John” Krakowiak on July 25, 1944 in Schelerten, Germany. Anna’s parents, both Polish, endured two world wars in Europe, and decided to immigrate to the United States. Anna and her family came into the United States through Ellis Island, and moved to Gowanda, New York, near Buffalo in 1950, where Anna spent most of her life.

Anna graduated from Gowanda Central High School in 1963, and married Bruce Babcock, originally of Collins, New York, on July 6, 1963. Anna attended Jamestown Community College, studying business and psychology. She was employed at the Gowanda Psychiatric Center, and co-owned and operated the Sears Retail Store in Gowanda for many years, where she retired in 1982. In 2006, Anna moved to Snellville, Georgia, to be near her only grandchild, J. Bobby Nice, III.

Anna is survived by her husband, Bruce E. Babcock; her daughter, Michele E. Babcock-Nice; and her grandson, J. Bobby Nice, III, all of Snellville. Anna’s surviving son is Charles J. Babcock, of Gowanda. Anna is also survived by her sister, Maria (Krakowiak Spires) Walker, of Delray Beach, Florida, and Larry Krakowiak, of Gowanda. Anna’s surviving nephew is Phillip Spires, of Gowanda; and her surviving niece is Desiree (Spires) O’Malley of South Carolina. Anna was predeceased by her parents, and her brother, Peter Krakowiak, of Chicago, Illinois.

Among Anna’s favorite pastimes were gardening, cooking, baking, and spending time with family and friends. Anna was very religious and spiritual, and regularly prayed the Rosary. Anna, also known as “Mimi” to her family, was loved dearly by her husband and family, and will be sorely missed.

A memorial service for Anna will be held at St. John Neumann Catholic Church Marian Chapel in Lilburn on March 16, 2018 at 11:00 am. Funeral arrangements are by Wentland Funeral Home in North Collins, New York, and burial will be at Holy Cross Cemetery, associated with St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, in Gowanda, New York. Memorial donations may be made to St. John Neumann Church or the American Cancer Society.

Seeing the Total Solar Eclipse at Boy Scout Camp Rainey Mountain in Clayton, Georgia

IMG_2404.JPG

View of total solar eclipse through the rain clouds at Camp Rainey Mountain, Clayton, Georgia, August 21, 2017

On Monday, August 21, 2017, my son and I traveled to Clayton, Georgia to Boy Scout Camp Rainey Mountain to participate in their special event, held to witness the total solar eclipse!  We met up with other boy scouts from my son’s troop, and enjoyed viewing the eclipse with about 1,000 people who were there for the event.

It was an absolutely wonderful and amazing experience to be in a zone of totality to view the eclipse, even if rain clouds came through during the last 20 minutes before totality.

IMG_2368.JPG

My son and other boy scouts looking at the eclipse, Camp Rainey Mountain, Clayton, Georgia, August 21, 2017

Thankfully, we did get to see totality for a few seconds when there was a part in the rain clouds, during totality.  The halo around the sun appeared to be lavender in color, through the clouds.  It was really neat!

IMG_2379.JPG

My son and I viewing the solar eclipse, Camp Rainey Mountain, Clayton, Georgia, August 21, 2017

And, when we experienced totality, the sky became really dark, like it was night time.  Of course, the rain clouds had already caused it to become dark, though the total eclipse made it significantly dark.

Though we were on the road, driving, for a total of 8.75 hours, plus stopping to eat dinner for 45 minutes, it was well, well worth it to take the day and see the total solar eclipse!

IMG_2396.JPG

People in the dark during totality of the solar eclipse, Camp Rainey Mountain, Clayton, Georgia, August 21, 2017

I saw a partial solar eclipse when I was younger, but this was like no eclipse I’ve ever seen before.  Again, it was really amazing to see totality and was well-worth the trip.  I would do it again if I could, and am so happy that we had the opportunity to go and enjoy seeing the solar eclipse in totality!