My mother in law was given four months to live - she died in two.

by Blagica Bottigliero


Her death taught our family lessons for years to come. 

It was around Christmastime of last year.  Michael came home from the hospital and his face was grim. If you know my husband, you know he's a quiet man. I knew something was terribly wrong. The routine hospital check ups his mom had for her cancer and post double mastectomy procedure wasn't so routine that night.

Ann was given four months to live, max.  My mother in law didn't want to hear her fate. The doctor, Michael and his brother left the hospital room and spoke in the hallway. Ann knew she was sick, but she didn't want to know the truth. 

The following months were a blur.  Imagine for a second, you are in your early 60s.  You check into the hospital for a check up to discover that things are so grim that you can't return home - ever.  We had to keep Ann in the hospital while finding hospice care in the area.  She couldn't go home, take things she needed or even say goodbye to her memories.  Michael found a reputable hospice facility and the boys checked her in.  This never felt right with us. 

Lily's birthday party was the weekend of December 17. Ann was able to attend, but barely had the energy to walk.  I know she wanted to see Lily hopping and skipping around the playroom. My mother in law was Lily's best friend. They sang songs, told old jokes from the 60s and talked about animals.  It was a bond that is only reserved for grandmothers.  We are grateful for that day.

Ann spent a short amount of time in hospice. We decided it was best that she was surrounded by family. My brother in law stepped up and took my mother in law in.  He made room in his apartment and took care of Ann 24x7.  Nurses visited and did their jobs, but it was my brother in law who made sure Ann had everything she needed. I can't see too many bachelors doing this. 

Our collective family priority was Ann. Michael took the kids to visit as much as he could. Lily would sit on Ann's bed, watch TV and eat hot dogs. Ann had the chance to spend more time with Niko and see his baby progress. Throughout this time, I was cranking on the business. From where I saw things, I wanted to make sure Michael and the kids saw Ann as much as they could. My job was to keep the business running and keep the household in tact. It soon became clear that we were running out of time. I needed to say goodbye.

It was a Saturday morning, February 1.  Ann had a rough night and was unresponsive. Michael came home after staying up with his brother by Ann's side. She was breathing slower.  They didn't know if she'd make it through the night.  I called a friend to see if she could watch the kids for us.  Without missing a beat, my friend said yes.  As we gathered our jackets for the car, Michael's brother called. Ann passed away 30 minutes earlier. Less than two months passed since the doctor gave us his prediction for Ann's life. We weren't prepared for how soon this day would arrive - but it did.

After dropping off the kids, we made it to my brother in law's. A priest was waiting for us and delivered Ann her last rites.  My body left me that day.  I couldn't believe that I didn't visit Ann earlier. I couldn't believe that she was gone so incredibly fast. I held on to Michael and didn't remember most of what happened that weekend. 

I do remember the Illinois Cremation Society finally arriving to the apartment. Ann's request was to be cremated. It takes about 10 days in the state of Illinois for the appropriate papers and approvals to go through for someone to be cremated. How terribly final it was to see two men arrive with a stretcher. I couldn't bear to look in the bedroom to see my fantastic mother in law lifted out of her bed and zipped in a bag.  I heard the sound of that zipper and just about lost it. I didn't want Michael to see me crumble. I needed to be strong for him that day. 

Losing Ann was a wake up call for our family.  Never again would my work get in the way of any family obligation - even though I thought the 'work' was important for the family at the time. Michael and I don't argue as much as we used to - especially for the small things.  We've spent more time putting effort into doing simple things like going to malt shops, playing with dirt and letting our kids explore the world. I began exercising more and being OK with taking more time for my well being. The outside factors like jobs, personalities and environments that we can't control no longer tick us off. 

I haven't written for a while because I wasn't ready to share again. I wasn't ready to process what I was feeling about life in general. I didn't think it was OK to talk about these things. With Michael's blessing, I did. And so it goes with the future of this blog. I'll be sharing a wide variety of thoughts on life in general, whether it's about the digital world or why Ted Cruz scares the heck out of me. 

We miss you, Ann. Thank you for helping us remember what is always first and foremost in life.