Recently I went through a small bag of my mom’s things that my father brought me. There was really nothing of major consequence in it. There were a few small things from the kitchen, a few recipes and an old Disney resort key. That key was from the last trip that my mom and I took to Disney together, just the two of us. We took a few other trips as a family, but that was the last one just for us girls. I admit that I had a good cry.
You see, mom went home to heaven in March of this year (2015), so the loss is still quite heavy at times. This unexpected bag, although almost empty, was full of memories and emotions. That one card key holds the sights and smells of the Walt Disney World theme parks. There were memories of laughter during the ride to Florida while listening to oldies on the radio, and there was that nervous feeling that I had while trying to explain about this guy that I had been chatting with online. That key holds the memory of mom telling me to give that guy (now my husband) my cell phone number because she “had a good feeling about that one”, and it was the first time that he spoke to my mom on the phone.
We loved to go to Disney at Christmas. Disney just really knows how to create the atmosphere! We loved seeing the Osborne Christmas Lights at Disney Hollywood Studios, and we always made our rounds through the deluxe resorts to see their decorations. Of course, there is no match for the Magic Kingdom at Christmas. Should I even mention the food? The smell of gingerbread, chestnuts and pastries. Oh, it makes my mouth water to just think about it.
During this trip mom let me push her around the parks in a wheelchair without fussing at all. She had allowed me to do this a few times before, but I could tell that she had settled into knowing that this was the best. I believe that the only reason that she did not use a motorized chair was her fear of hitting someone. She’d had a stroke when I was 14, and a small portion of her vision was missing. Sometimes large objects could disappear, depending on the angle that she was looking. She found out that having the chair freed her up to enjoy the parks, and ultimately to enjoy just spending time together.
As I am thinking about that trip and others that we took together, I am so thankful that my mom had the courage to push through and keep trying. Just think of the memories that I listed. I would not have had those if mom had decided (without even trying) that it would be too hard. We still would have had a talk about this guy that I was talking to at some point, but it would not have been as detailed. It most likely would have been on the phone. There would not have been silly conversation in the lobby of the Fort Wilderness Lodge, as she reasoned that I should just send him a photo from my phone and surprise him. Then she would not have been there for that first phone call.
Granted, all trips will not be as life-changing as this one was for me, but each trip proved to her and to all of us that life is worth living. It is worth taking a chance, getting out of the house, making the extra arrangements for the oxygen and making lots of memories. I have pictures from that trip, but I have what I call heart pictures too. Those moments when there is no camera around, but the image is forever imbedded in your mind. Those moments are some of my greatest treasures.
If you are thinking that she must not have been in the end stage or maybe her lung capacity was higher than yours, I would like to say, please don’t try to compare. I know of some with lung capacities above 35% that will not try, and I know that my mom was still trying with a capacity less than 17%. That’s right. That was the last test that they did, and after that things got worse. Mom and her doctor just decided that it wouldn’t help either of them to know details about what they already knew. It was less. During this time, mom went to Disney with us. She was able to enjoy watching my son (2 years old at the time) with Mickey. Then a few months after that, she was able to go with us for his first beach trip. We only wish that she could have enjoyed the same with my daughter.
Please take our example as it is intended, to encourage you to get out of the house and continue living. For more information about how to accomplish traveling with oxygen and the limitations of COPD, check out my book Traveling with COPD. I hope you will continue making memories.