Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dying isn't for the faint of heart.

As  I sat by my mother's bedside today, as she stared up at the ceiling, I talked to her about who she will soon see waiting for her. My mother is dying and it should be much easier than it is. For the last 11 years she has been failing (she will be 87 in a few days) as her life became a living nightmare for those who loved her. First she start stumbling and then a dementia started to play out. She still could go get her nails done, hair colored an occasional lunch with friends and the caregivers. She was happy to go and wanted to continue her way of life but life had another plan for her.

 She stopped being able to walk and her muscles atrophied and she started to hurt from lack of use. Slowly over the last 11 years everything was soon of no interest to her. She would stare sometimes blankly and if engaged in a conversation she would ask as soon as it concluded, "so what is new" and the story would be repeated. Finally all activities stopped and she was  a shadow of her former self (she owned a successful jewelry business for 40 years and was known all over the world).

 The visits to the beauty salon to dye that previous beautiful natural red hair stopped, the nails were no longer polished and beauty and makeup, which was so important to my mom, also waned and stopped. She now lays in her bed waiting to die but still on those very  limited lucid minutes will remember she wanted to live to be 100 (her dad died at 42 after having a heart attack at 32).

 Even hose thoughts are all but gone and now when she is awake and you ask her if she is ready to go she will say yes. Within the last month she has had so much pain that we are giving her pain patches which help her relax and sleep. She is no longer interest in eating. Her doctor is advising us on how to make this passing as easy as possible. My mother without modern medicine would have already died. She had a major heart attack in her 60's and was given an angioplasty with stents and she bounced back. Medicines lowered her cholesterol and all her inherited issues from her father and mother. Modern medicine kept her going until now.

I struggled with my Mom for most of my life but somewhere after years of therapy for me, I came to a peaceful way to communicate and we got along. Did we hang out, not really ever. Did we have deep conversations, never, I do have one wonderful letter my Mom wrote me when I was getting divorced which was the most loving letter I have ever received from anyone. I cherish it and just read it to my sister and family. It spoke about our inability to talk to each other and how letter writing was always better for us. I agreed at the time.

As I watched her today, I wish I had a magic formula to help her pass quickly and easily but that is not the case today in our state. Thank goodness I have a loving sister who was always much closer to my Mom and she and the doctor have worked closely to end her pain and make the transition from this earth to what awaits all of us.

As I sat today and told my mom I loved her very much and she did a great job and it was okay to let go, she listened and kept looking at the ceiling. Finally after a time she said a simple thank you and that was enough for me. I have done what I needed to do. The caregivers are all sad as well as they watch on a much more intimate basis, my mother's fading. The care has been amazing and loving and the one main caregiver's kids grew up calling my mom grandma and they too. at 12 and 5. will miss her. My kids and my sister's kids (the grandchildren) have all said goodbye when they visited last week. The great grand kids have gone to visit her in much better times and fairly recently when it was too sad for even the older ones to understand, so those visits are over.

It is now a waiting game which has no winners. Her body will continue to break down as more and more pain patches are administered and the time will pass, as my Mom finds her peace and lets go. For me, there is a sorrow that I will now be an orphan, as my dad died 11 years ago soon.

As I think about my childhood and all that it entailed it has been a gift and blessing and I am so full of gratitude for the life I was given by this very strong, determined mother who changed before my eyes from a 50's mom to a powerhouse. I inherited my strength and strong will from her. And because of my struggles, I learned to believe in myself and the ability to take care of myself and be proud to be who I have become. Thank you mom for the struggles and the love which I knew was there even though it often very hard for us to communicate.

28 comments:

  1. I am so sorry, Madge. Hugs and love from the Midwest during this difficult time. It sounds like these last days are giving you some value and peace but I know how truly difficult they are. Love to you and your family.

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  2. Thank you Barb for keeping up on my stories.

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  3. I'm so very sorry, Madge. At this point, she is no long really living. Better when she can be released, both for her and for you. It sounds like you are at peace about it. I'm "holding your hand" as you walk through this, and so are your other friends.

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  4. Thanks Bonnie. Yes, I am at peace with it.

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  5. I walked this walk with my mom. There are subtle moments of beauty as we hold space for the transition. Sending love to you as you witness her journey.

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  6. Thank you Carol. I remember reading and hearing about your journey with your Mom.

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  7. Madge, I am sorry. Modern medicine is great but when it cannot help it is painful. I am glad that you are at peace and hope that your mother doesn't suffer in pain. My thoughts are with you.

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  8. I have a similar story. I cared for my mom in that state for 2 years but my sister was trying to take all of the family money. Each night I wondered if she would make it through the night. My mother and I also had a rough relationship. Life is short. I too am grateful for my childhood but Am sorry my family has such a hard time being actively close with family. You are lucky to have a great sister. Sorry you are going through this.

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  9. Thanks Bobette. I can only imagine how hard it would be if I was not close to my sister.

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  10. Oh Madge, I know how hard this is for you and my heart goes out to you. I'm glad you have found some peace in all of this. It's never easy to lose a loved one, especially a parent, but I think it's even harder to see them change into something so different from who they have been all of their life. Blessings sent your way and even more love. Love, A.

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  11. Thanks Amy for your kind words. I am at peace with my Mom.

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  12. I went through a similar experience with my own mom so I know what you're going through. It was very hard to sit next to her while she lay there, wanting to die and not really able to do anything for herself, while modern medicine kept her alive. I too, told her a lot of those things I hadn't shared while she was younger and I hope she heard me, I was never really sure. It sounds like you're at peace with her, which is important for both of you. Lovely post, so honest.

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    1. Thank you so much Claudia. I am at peace with my Mom and hope she lets go and joins my dad and her mom and dad where she will be at peace too. They say that hearing is the last to go so I know your mom heard you to the very end.

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  13. What love and honesty in your beautiful words of a daughter.

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    1. Thanks Michael. I hope someday to meet you, I love how you love Lois.

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  14. So beautifully written! My heart goes out to you, sweet Madge. I've sat in that same seat and held Mom's hand as she said her goodbyes. As soon as she joined my Dad, I could hear the angels singing.....you are strong and brave and exactly where you need to be.

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  15. So beautiful and so real.
    Thanks for sharing--I know it's both cathartic and amazingly difficult

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    1. Thanks Pia for your lovely comments.

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  16. Thanks Joan. Am at peace with my Mom and that is a good feeling. This could take a few weeks or months but the pain is gone for my Mom which is the best possible outcomes for right now.

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  17. Thanks for sharing you sweet, tender story with us. My mom is 89 and I cherish everyday with her.

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    1. Thanks Janie. The process in my Mom's case has been long and arduous. It could be weeks or months. Up to her to decide to let go.

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  18. Your peace with this final phase and your tender farewell is an incredible testament to the love you had for your mother, despite past hardships, challenges. In the end, it's the love the wins out. Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comments Lisa. I appreciate them so much. Yes, I am at peace.

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  19. Dying surely isn't for the weak or faint of heart. Good on you Madge for writing about it and for making peace with mom.

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    1. Thanks Jesse. I know having just lost your mom you are dealing with the peace that we all hope everyone achieves when they die.

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  20. Beautifully written. My mother passed at 68 from lung cancer. I remember watching her star fade quickly. That is what she wanted. She did not want to be a burden to her family. I also had a turbulent relationship with her. I'm so glad you mentioned that. Hugs to you. Also a thought...if she is not eating and her weight is below 100 lbs. the pain patches will not work. That happened to my mother.

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  21. Neetzy, fortunately my mother is over 100 pounds and has no medical issues which will hasten this process. Today she was awake and was asked if she wanted to have an enema or sit on the commode. She wanted commode. Without pain she is more apt to let the caregivers move her position and once a week put her on the commode. Today was for a brief period her time awake. We are increasing the strength of the patch. If you knew how dynamic my Mom was as she ran a business for 40 years, you would know how tragic this whole process is for all of us. She is still eating tiny amounts once a day on most days. All her choices is she is awake and lucid for a few minutes. Today my sister thought it could be months. Her body has a strong mind of it's own. Her mind doesn't. Thanks for your lovely message. Sorry about your Mom. I know the struggles well. Thanks goodness I have sons, so much easier to me.

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