Anne's mom, Esther Cummings, passed away Saturday, April 6. Esther and Glenn (Anne's brother) were over visiting on Sunday. Esther had a bad cough, but we figured it was just a cold. She seemed fine, maybe a little weaker than usual. Anne took her home that afternoon, then about 9:30pm she called saying she couldn't breath. Anne called the nurses station and they talked, finally deciding to take her in to the emergency room at Medical Center of Plano.
The nursing home arranged the transport and we met her there. The ER doctor said another 20 minutes and she would have died. Her lungs were full of fluid and her blood oxygen content was down in the 70% range (should be 100%). They put her on a external forced ventilator. They couldn't use a breathing tube because she had a Do Not Resusitate (DNR) order in her records. The ventilator brought her back and her blood oxygen went to 98%. We stayed with her a few hours as she stabilized then went home to get some sleep.
The next morning we went back to the hospital to find her staring fixedly at the ceiling and unresponsive. She was now restrained. The nurse said that she had pulled the ventilator off sometime in the night. When they found her she was gray and breathing very shallow. They immediately put the ventilator back on and she recovered some. As soon as Anne arrived the nurse removed her restraints and said they would keep them off as long as someone was with her. From this point on she would become lucid for a short time then fade out. Anne's brother Glenn, who lives in Frisco, joined us on Monday to stay with her. She really wanted to pull the ventilator off and the IVs out. We stayed with her and helped prevent her from doing that.
Anne started calling her brothers and sisters to let them know what was happening. We knew it was serious but nobody really knew how serious. Esther had two doctors attending her now, her primary care physician, Dr. Naini, and a pulmonary doctor, Dr. Sastry. Both said that we'd know the next day whether she was going to recover or not. Anne told all this to her siblings so they could make decisions. In the meantime the doctors had put Esther on "Lasix" drugs. This was to force the excess fluid from the body and into the urine. On Monday night the pulmonary doctor aspirated her lungs to removing fluid from outside the lungs. This helped tremendously. Esther was able to focus and speak in sentences again.
Anne's two sisters Kathy and Teresa in St. Louis and Indianapolis decided to come here. Teresa drove to St. Louis and picked up Kathy and they arrived on Wednesday. From that point forward they kept up a vigil in Esther's hospital room, talking with her and helping her not remove her IV and oxygen.
Thursday morning Anne, Teresa, and Kathy were at the hospital when Dr. Naini came in. Dr. Naini told them that Esther's kidneys had failed and it didn't look good. Later Dr. Sastry came in and examined Esther and said he thought she was terminal. Trina flew in Thursday night. Friday night Doug and Manasi visited. On Saturday Andrew and Sherry came by. Also on Thursday a priest came by and Esther was given last rites.
On Friday Esther's digestive system failed and they stopped feeding her through the mouth. They gave her an IV of sugar water, morphine, and dopamine. This kept her comfortable and alive until her son Gilbert arrived from California on Saturday. Once he arrived the doctors removed the dopamine and she slowly, quietly, peacefully faded away. We were all there 5:30pm on Saturday when she took her last breath.
The doctors, nurses, aids, and everyone at the hospital were incredibly supportive providing anything we wanted and allowing us to do just about anything. They didn't enforce any visiting hours while Anne and her sisters stayed with Esther every night until the end.
After she passed away the next steps were just as hectic and complex as before she passed away. We had to find a funeral home, prepare for and hold a memorial service, arrange for everyone to come and stay nearby, vacate the nursing home, and discontinue all her services, insurance, etc. Luckily Esther had a lot of children and most were here to help out. We found a small family-owned funeral home in Frisco, Cantrell Funeral Home, that was within 5 minutes of Glenn's house and exactly met our needs. They were low pressure, very supportive, and knew exactly what to do. Thank god. We arranged for a cremation. This is more complex than it should be. All the children had to agree and sign to permit it.
On the next Tuesday we held a memorial service at the funeral home. The night before, on Monday, Esther's sister Nel arrived from Virginia for the memorial service. The funeral home had contacted a Monsignor from the local catholic church to preside. Kathy, with help from her siblings, wrote a very nice eulogy. Gil presided over that part with the Monsignor following with the religious parts. It was beautiful. We had many photos and painting of Esther and her husband Glenn from different points in her life.
After the memorial service we went down the street to "The Abbey", a nearby restaurant. We reserved the 2nd floor. We had even more photos, showed a movie of Esther from the 40s, then had a slide show of all her kids from the 60s. It was a real celebration of her life. Everyone left with a real feeling of what Esther's life had been like, the good and the difficult (she _had_ raised 7 children alone!), where she came from, where and how she lived as she aged, and what her life was like near the end.
Teresa and Kathy with her two kids left that night driving back to St. Louis and Indianapolis. Doug and Manasi left that night to drive back to college. Trina and her family left the next day. Esther's son Gil and her sister Nel left on Thursday flying back to California and Virginia.
Here's the Eulogy and the Obituary.
Here's some of the photos of her life and memorial service.
glenn esther 1
glenn esther 2
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Memorial Service #1
Memorial Service #2
Memorial Service #3
Memorial Service #4
Memorial Service #5
Memorial Service #6
cummings girls 1
anne and tom
teresa and kathy
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cummings kids 1
gil tom bike
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