Thursday, June 07, 2007


Toni Lee Hines, 59, died peacefully in her sleep at 11:31 a.m., June 6, 2007. Her son Justin Philip Anderson, MS III, 32, watched her take her last shallow breath and used his stethescope to check her heart one last time; it had stopped completely. Her husband Mark David Hines, 48, held her hand, and a mirror to her mouth and nose, checking for condensation of breath, but none came. They held her hands and said, "Bye Toni." "I love you, Mom," respectively. She is survived by her husband and son, and his wife Olaina Anderson, 32. Her mother-in-law Dorothy Hines, 75, moved to CA from OK to be Toni's steadfast caregiver for seven years after Toni underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor and radiation therapy. Though cancer free, the long term effects of radiation to the brain gravely effected her quality of life and eventually lead to her death. Dorothy will continue to care for her children, including her daughter Mary Looraine, 45, who lives with her and also moved to CA. Toni, a vibrant, quick-witted and fun-loving woman will be remembered fondly by her family and friends. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to [TBD organization that does research on brain cancer or organization that helps people in need or underserved populations without medical insurance or some such thing?]

It's too long of an obituary, but it is what it is.

Let me catch ya'll up on the last few unrecorded hours. I think I'll do this in stream of consciousness order and clean it up later...

Dorothy, who in all the years of Justin and I visiting Toni and Mark always greeted us at the door and then went back to playing a computerized version of Mah Jong while puffing on cigarettes and drinking Budweisers encased in a red can-cooler, turns out to be a sharp, quick-witted, hoot with a lot of history to share with us. She's hard of hearing, so we all have to talk loudly and sometimes try to speak into her amplifier attached to earphones to be heard. Hearing aides cost over $5000. Who knew?

On our first night staying at their house to take care of Toni she had one of those moments where we were sure she was going to die, or maybe just suffer more for longer. While Mark held her hand and Justin administered medications I had to take a breather, so I went into the smokers' kitchen and sat on one of the step stools with my hands on my face. Dennis and Ruth and seen the tears on my face, but Dorothy didn't know I was there until she turned around from the counter.

"Tired?" She asked. I nodded and said, "Yes."

Then in a perfectly even old voice she said, "I'm not tired, I'm just drunk!" and sat back down in her chair.

I laughed so hard through my tears and said, "What kind of family have I married into?!?!" After taking a breath I added, "My mom doesn't drink at all and neither do the Seventh Day Adventist elders of the family and my dad drinks but..." It wasn't an insult, just more of an acknowledgement of this entirely surreal situation.

That night, Justin slept on one couch and I slept on the other, but both of us kept checking on Toni. Checking on Toni--is she breathing, is she eating, is she still in her wheelchair, is she awake, is she alive, does she need to go to the bathroom or have some more coffee or a jacket or the channel changed... these have been the occupations of years.

Toward the end of a life breathing is erratic and congested coughing is frequent. At one point Toni made this calling out sound with her vocal cords that jumped both Justin and I to her bedside immediately. She had already been in more pain that day, so he had called to check with the doctors to get permission to increase her morphine dose. He knew she had a long way to go before she maxed out the allowed amount, but since it's a controlled substance he needed permission. So, he medicated her, we made her more comfortable in her bed and went back to our vigil from the couches. We hardly slept at all that night, and I ended up sitting in the Lazy Boy chair in the morning watching one of our favorite shows--Law and Order--quietly and napping for a couple of episodes.

Then, the rest of the family went into the backyard (except Dorothy, who in her tenure with Toni has had a hip replacement and been diagnosed with emphyzima and Mary Looraine who either slept or went out with friends or talked to them from her car after saying, "No one is going to want to hear this," one of her best acts of judgement that day--however off the mark in general.

They replanted a lemon tree from a pot to the yard, cleaned up the patio, cleaned the patio furniture, swept and organized the pots for planting (Toni and Mark used to garden a lot), and set up the benches so people can sit there now. Dorothy is thrilled--she's been wanting to take her morning coffee and cigarettes out there for years, but it has been a minefield of broken pottery and glass, dog droppings and leaves fallen from the trees. Meanwhile, Mark set up his computer so I could listen to Nora Jones while I continued to organize the office closet (after years, we can get to the closet since we moved all the boxes of Mary's into the garage and her room and put his few things away. We found the treasures of photos we'd been looking for--Justin's baby photos through Mark and Toni's adventures have been divied up--Justin gets the pre-Mark era.). As I cleaned, I intermittently checked on the breathing status, she was chugging along with these shallow little breaths; if I tried to breathe in her pattern I would have been dizzy. We were still able to offer ice chips to cool her mouth, put cherry flavored chapstick on her lips...

more later.... gotta go clean stuff.... but just in case I forget future subjects include the last night sleeping on the chair, the breathing, the wake up call, the I'm gonna live forever morning, the breakfast and errands, the housefull of people and the end, then the hospice call, the mortuary call, the equipment removal, and dinner at Tokyo Hibachi, her favorite restaurant where they remembered her but didn't dare say anything until I quietly let the owner know what happened today.

No comments: