My mother-in-law, Mia, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's a few years ago. She was around 55 at the time of discovery. This past month she declined very rapidly, so we travelled 2,000 miles from the west coast to the North Shore of Chicago to see her & wish her a speedy passing... At this point, she was not on life support & had been unable to swallow for some time. Basically starving to death; a very painful & agonizing way to go.
A quick backstory: Mia was of Italian descent & came from poverty. She became pregnant with my significant other when she was just 15, dropped out of high school & worked to support her baby - her home life & upbringing were difficult to say the least. When Mia was in her early 20's, she met a handsome, older Italian man; a guest at the hotel bar she was working at, at the time. 17 years her senior, they eventually married and had two sons together; her husband, I'll call him Tony, adopted my beau & raised him as his own. Tony was a wealthy businessman in Chicago & spoiled the hell out of Mia & the boys.
Tony & Mia eventually divorced. The beautiful, stately, Victorian home on the north shore Tony worked hard to get for his family sold. Despite their marriage dissolving, the two remained close friends. He stood by her until the very end.
In the early years of our relationship, Mia & I were very close. My other half, her oldest son, was a serial monogamist, never married, & in his late 30's when we met. Mia & I talked on the phone often, texted, & planned girls-only getaways that would never materialize. She never liked any of his girlfriends until she met me - she said I was the daughter she never had - a mother of 3 boys and called me "baby girl". (That last part is worth consideration in a bit.)
Now, here is where I may get some scoffs & judgment, that's fine - it has little to do with the rest of the story but I feel it's relevant. A few months ago, I downloaded the Ghost Radar app with very few expectations. I've used it a few times to see what would materialize & nothing of note has happened, but one evening I was outside on the patio with the app running. It said, "east". So, out of curiosity, I walked east on our property which brought me down to the garden. Silence. Came back up to the patio and it said, "August". Then soon after, "prepare". At the time, "east" didn't resonate with me, but I found "prepare" & "August" troubling, like something bad was going to happen... And it did.
Mia's battle with Alzheimer's was a true battle. My other half & I received news on August 15th that her time was limited. Flights were booked, tears were shed, & we prepared for the worst...sadly, you never can truly prepare. August; prepare. Illinois is east of Oregon, where we live.
A few days before we left for Chicago, her youngest son came to Oregon to see us. He'd gone to visit Mia in the nursing home earlier this spring before she was nonverbal and recorded some conversations. Some made sense, most didn't. One that haunted me was Mia talking about seeing a baby girl who had died, due to lack of oxygen. "Yes, just a baby, baby girl, baby girl..." Part of me believes she meant that me, her "baby girl" had "died" in that we hadn't spoken in so long. Combined with the confusion of the disease... Her oldest son had breathing problems as a young boy.
When we arrived at hospice the following week, the otherwise fit, vibrant woman we loved had wasted away to an 80lb sack of skin & bones, incoherent, unable to communicate. That Tuesday she seemed to be trying to speak, but just uttered noises. She made eye contact & seemed responsive to music we played for her. The following day she'd declined even more, eyes barely open, mouth unable to close, & very close to death. It was truly the most unbearable thing I've witnessed in my lifetime. Towards the evening on Tuesday, her youngest son, 27, came to see her one last time. He spent the night by her side.
The next morning on Wednesday, we'd slept in & planned to visit Mia at hospice in the afternoon, but we didn't make it in time. My father in law received a call at 2:45 saying her breathing had become very shallow & her vitals were poor. We gathered our things, hopped in the car. A 25-minute drive away, she passed at 3:15, barely missing her. Tony got the call when we were just a few blocks away.
We all spent some time with Mia's body, I gathered her things, the boys hugged their mom & kissed her forehead. We had made arrangements with a funeral home earlier in the week, so Tony called to confirm the time of service.
After her death, I was given the task of gathering photos for collages at the service. I was handed several boxes of old family photos - hundreds to each box. It was not easy, but such a pleasure to find old treasures like Mia pregnant with the boys, baby pictures, family vacations. Happier times. I was also asked, as the now-only female in the immediate family, to choose her clothes for the viewing. To me, it's a deeply personal thing to go though family photos, much less go through someone's clothes & choose a final dress for a funeral (I chose a brazen red designer dress, for the record).
Summers in Chicago are hot & very humid. Tony's not crazy about using the central air, so it was a constant struggle for me to keep the house cool - I'd turn it down to 68, an hour later he'd move it back to 80. We slept with the windows open, a big box fan blowing on us & the ceiling fan on. The ceiling fan turned on by one of those round dial switches on the wall; the kind that click when turned and you push it inward to flick on the light. The box fan was just that - one of those with the dial on top, not "difficult" to turn, but difficult for it to slip into the off position... Impossible if you ask me. The doors upstairs where the bedrooms always stick & creak - you can't open any of them without force, and it makes a noise the whole house could hear. Anytime I'd get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, the door would unstick so loudly the senior & hard-of-hearing dog downstairs would bark.
We started waking up with the box fan off, switch in the off position. We had it situated in the window, about 15 feet from the door, next to the bed. The ceiling fan would be off in the morning. I woke up in the middle of the night one night to the door rattling like a very gentle earthquake was occurring. I got up to shut the door & it was snug in its sticky jamb. There was absolutely no wind, & sadly the fans weren't powerful enough to make that door budge.
One night while we were in bed, watching tv, the ceiling fan shut itself off. The switch was physically off. I got up like WTF? Turned the switch back on & we resumed our show. My other half seemed unfazed. He pretty much lives in denial whenever something strange happens, but I have to admit, this stuff started freaking me out a bit.
Every night I'd plug in the tablet to charge. In the morning, the plug would be loose from the outlet like someone had unplugged it. I thought the socket might be loose, but upon plugging it in again the first time it happened, it was very tight & not easily knocked out. I have a history with electrical issues, but none quite like this.
One afternoon my guy & I were in the house alone. It had gotten cloudy & the sky was dark, so we turned on some lights downstairs in the living room while tidying up. One lamp by the tv, I turned on. Not 5 minutes later, it flickered out & I didn't think much of it. A few hours after the youngest & his dad returned to the house, we walked into the living room & that lamp was on. My father in law said, "Ah, you changed that bulb? It's been out for a long time & I haven't gotten around to replacing it." I'm not reading too much into this, it could easily be bad wiring or a worn-out switch. Still worth noting given the other occurrences though.
On Saturday night, the night before Mia's service, the youngest bro, my beaux, & I were putting together a playlist for the visitation. The was visitation scheduled for 4 hours so it was a lot of time to fill... It took a while to pull her favorite songs & find appropriate music, so we were up late. I am a light sleeper and my partner & I have been sleeping in separate bedrooms for a while due to his snoring & nocturnal habits. On this trip, I made sure to get a pack of ear plugs - the obnoxious, bright fluorescent orange ones - so I could sleep. After finishing the playlist, I got ready for bed. One ear plug was missing.
I threw a fit & tore the bedroom apart. The floors are hardwood, so it was easy to scan the floor with my phone's flashlight with the help of overhead lights. Nothing. I looked & looked, & finally sighed, agreeing to watch something else before sleep. After the show I decided to look again. There right under the bed, plain as day in obnoxious bright orange was my missing ear plug under the bed on the floor... Where we had both looked about 10 times.
A few other strange things happened but I feel they are too personal & give away too much information to share anonymously. I can't help but think going through Mia's things, pulling out old photos, and being with her during the final days made her want to pop in for a visit once she left her earthly body. Unfortunately, she had been "dead" to me for the last couple of years... As she succumbed to the disease, she became a very spiteful, mean person, rendering her intolerable to speak with or be around... She'd have me in tears within minutes, and said some really terrible things to her boys that left deep emotional scars. We forgave her before she passed, but I think we all have a little lingering guilt for not being able to separate the disease from the person. Looking through photos reminded me of the wonderful person she once was - beautiful, funny, playful. The weird happenings may be debunk-able, but I choose to believe that Mia was showing us her playful presence once again, free from the prison of Alzheimer's.