Las Vegas, NV and Bismarck, ND: January 1-February 14, 2010

Barb writes from the US:

I arrived in Las Vegas on January 2nd to take over the care of my parents from my sister Mary.  My five sisters and I had been taking turns staying with them since our mother was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer last September.  I expected to be in Las Vegas until February 9th when sister Lori planned to take over.  Chuck spent the time taking care of TT II and fending for himself in Grenada.  Actually he had a good time taking hikes daily with friends on Arctic Tern and Receta and doing a lot of socializing as well as eating many meals with them.  It's great to have such good friends. 

The first week-end I was in Las Vegas my brother George was also there.  This afforded me the opportunity to fly up to Bismarck, North Dakota to visit Chuck's mother Evelyn, sister Zona, and Zona's family.  It was -32 degrees Fahrenheit when I arrived in Bismarck, but the sun was shining and there was no wind.  So even though it was really cold, it was actually pretty pleasant.  We tried throwing up a glass of water outside to see if it would freeze in the air, but it didn't.  My brother George who lived in Alaska for a number of years says that it needs to be colder than -40 degrees.  I'm glad I didn't experience that. 

As you may remember from our October 2009 log, Chuck and Zona helped their mother Evelyn move out of her house in Jamestown and into a remodeled wing of Zona's house in Bismarck.  This was the first time I was able to see Evelyn's finished apartment and is it cozy!   I had a nice visit with them and also came away the proud owner of a new Kindle.  Zona thought it might save us space on the boat and be handy, and she was right.  Thanks again Zona.   I've downloaded lots of books, use the dictionary on it regularly and enjoyed a subscription to the Atlanta newspaper while in the States.  We aren't sure how well the communication end of it will work while we are down in the islands, but since we have so many books already downloaded, we aren't sure we will need it before we go back to the States later this year. 

Barb's Trip to Bismarck

Snow in Bismarck when I arrived

Cleaning the roads in Bismarck

Snow at Zona's house

Zona's grandson Cole is ready for the snow

Evelyn (Chuck's mother), Zona (Chuck's sister) and Mike (Chuck's brother-in-law) at their home in Bismarck, ND

Evelyn's new mother-in-law suite

Cole testing out her bed

Her new bath

And closet

And sitting room

The Docktor family (Cole, Jon, Kathie, and Kate)

Evelyn, Kate, Cole, Jon and Kathy

Barb with Cole, Zona, Jon, Kate and Evelyn

Jon and the kids

Las Vegas

Starting in November my mother Louise needed a blood transfusion every couple of weeks because her cancer was causing her hemoglobin to get so low - around 7.  On New Years Eve she was taken to the hospital by ambulance because it had gotten down to 6.2.  They gave her four pints of blood and that helped her for less than two weeks.  She had to get a walker, a wheelchair and a bedside commode. 

She loved children and was anxious to see her newest great-granddaughter Taylor who was born on December 29.  Mom was adamant that we would drive up to see her in Utah (three hours north) if granddaughter Jessica or son Mike could not bring Taylor down.  Taylor had had an ear infection and her doctor had forbidden them from taking her down to Las Vegas because of the change in elevation.  Fortunately, the ear infection cleared up and they were able to make the trip.  Mom was sure thrilled to see Taylor.  The next week-end my daughter Danielle -- who lives near Savannah -- and her two daughters Kristen and Abigail came to see Mom, as did Jeff's son Zane from Wyoming.  They all realized it would be the last time they would see their grandmother/great-grandmother, so it was a special visit.

Great-granddaughter Taylor's Visit

Louise got to see her 18th great-granddaughter Taylor

Wes, Jessica, Taylor, Dad and Mom

Son Jeff, Barb and baby Taylor

Barb and her mother Louise

Sister Lori and husband Ray

Jeff, Zane, Abigail, Danielle, and Kristen

Dad, Mom, Ray and Lori playing Quiddler

Sister Kathleen, Dad, and Barb

Brother Dan and Kathleen

Side trips with Danielle, Jeff, Kristen, Zane and Abigail

We took a 30 minute trip to see snow in the mountains near Las Vegas

The locals were out in force enjoying the snow

Abby enjoying her first experience of snow

Zane - king of the hill

Kristen ready, set...

... go

Even snow on Red Rock

Son Jeff and daughter Danielle

Lake Mead (very low water - see marina on far left)

Barb with granddaughters at Lake Mead

Hoover Dam - see huge bridge being built in background

Grandkids enjoying Circus Circus



Abby & Zane

Kristen & Abby

Kristen and Zane on rollercoaster

Zane and Abby

Mom's had eight increasingly frequent and decreasingly effective transfusions in all, and by the last on January 16 and it was clear that there would be no more of them.  Mom and the doctors all agreed that it was time to get Hospice involved and so she signed on.  What a fabulous organization/concept Hospice is!  I didn't realize that Hospice now is focused on helping patients in their home to be comfortable and safe while they are dying.  I had thought it was a place where people went.  The nurse assigned to Mom came a couple of times a week or as often as we needed her.  The nurses' aide came by twice a week to give Mom a bath and attend to any other needs she had.  The social worker ensured that we understood how Hospice worked and that we had everything we needed.  The spiritual advisor spent valuable time with Mom and then helped us understand that Mom was probably trying to hang on for us (someone was coming to visit her every couple of days) and that she needed our permission to let go and die.  My sister Kathleen who was with me at the time, Dad and I had a long talk with Mom and gave her that permission.  That evening she had a stroke and was partially paralyzed on her right side and not able to speak coherently very often.  We had to give in and let Hospice bring her a hospital bed.  Mom had been adamant about dying in her own bed, but it was not possible to take care of her in it.  We were able to put the hospital bed right next to her bed.  The day we learned of the stroke, my sister Audrey, who is a nurse in Wichita, KS got off of work at 7:00 am and was in Las Vegas to help by 3:00 pm.   Then brother Dan and his wife Candy flew in.  Then sisters Mary and Lorelle.  Then brothers George and Mike.  Then sister Suzanne and nephew Tony arrived.  Also, our mother's sister Luella arrived with her daughter Caroline and her husband John to visit.  Then our father's sister Evelyn came.  Then brother Tim and nephew Preston arrived.  And finally brother Hugh flew in.  All of Mom's children were there and we rallied around her to make her last days as pleasant as possible.  Her mind was still sharp and she recognized us but we had difficulty understanding her.  We would all gather around her bed and play her favorite card game: Quiddler.  Mary played Mom's hand for her and would ask Mom for advice.  We even had a birthday party around her bed for my brother Dan on January 29.  Mom was in no pain and her mind was still sharp, but her body was getting weak.  She eventually stopped eating and then stopped drinking.  She passed away peacefully the morning of February 7th.  She was ready.

Chuck flew up from Grenada and the rest of the family amassed again for the funeral.  Mom was cremated and we had a lovely memorial service for her followed by a social gathering/celebration of her life.  I put together a slideshow of her life that we played at the reception.  Many aunts, uncles and cousins came from North Dakota, Minnesota, California and Arizona for the funeral.  It was really nice to see them since it had been over 20 years since I had seen many of them.  After the funeral and reception the immediate family went back to the house to divide up the jewelry Mom had amassed over her life.  It was pretty unbelievable.  I had no idea she was such a jewelry hound.  It was fun to divide it all up and Mom would have enjoyed the experience.  We all took pieces to pass on to those grandchildren and great-grandchildren who were not able to attend the funeral.  The day after the funeral Chuck flew up to North Dakota to see his mother Evelyn, sister Zona and her family for a couple of days, while I stayed with my father to help him get his affairs in order. 

We left Dad in good hands with my sister Lorelle on Valentines Day, February 14th, and had a non-eventful flight back to Grenada.  It was lovely to be back home on the boat and together again, but I wouldn't have traded spending the last six weeks with my parents for anything.

Saying Good-bye

Playing Quiddler with Mom

Photo of Mom at 19

Mom at 82

Dad & Mom

After the funeral - Uncle Joe, Dad, Uncle John, Aunt Evie and Aunt Lorraine

My four aunts

Dad and Barb

Cousin Caroline and sister Mary

Barb with her father and siblings

Chuck and Jeff

Cousin Mary entertaining Angie, Lori, and Audrey

Uncle Joe and his wife

Brother Dan, cousin Jeanine, Aunt Lorraine, brother Tim, and cousin Jeannette

Aunt Luella, cousin Caroline and her husband John

Cousin Marty & brother George

Nephew Matt and his wife Jody

Nieces Angie, Janelle, Michelle, Megan and Mallory

Twin nieces - Josie and Maggie

Brother Tim and cousin John

Mom's jewelry and jewelry boxes to be divided up

There was plenty for everyone