Losing a Parent
My Mom is dying.
I’ve known this for several days now, but this is the first time I’ve written down the devastating, heartbreaking words.
These past few weeks have been a nightmare.
As readers of this blog already know, my Mom, who suffers from Lewy Body dementia, recently broke her hip. She had a hallucination in the middle of the night and was trying to get out of her bedroom, forgot her walker, and fell.
After her surgery and a few days at the hospital, my Mom was sent to a rehabilitation center. Unbeknownst to us, she developed a bedsore which was not treated. Within days, the bedsore turned into a seven-inch long and an inch-and-a-half wide raw, gaping wound. We are not sure who to blame. Although we cannot be sure, we are suspicious that Mom may have had a staph infection as a result of her surgery at the hospital.
At any rate, the sore began to tunnel and quickly became infected. Antibiotics were not effective. We landed back in the hospital. However, the doctor did not recommend surgery since it would have been horrifically painful and Mom probably would not have survived it. If by some kind of miracle she did, my mother would have had a permanent colonoscopy bag. The doctor recommended that we bring Mom home and put her back into hospice care with the goal of making her as comfortable as possible.
The family agreed to take his advice after a long cry-fest.
I’ve been a caretaker for my Mom for a few years now and my job is not over yet. We are told that even though she sleeps most of the time that the hearing is the last to go. So we talk to her, watch home movies, and listen to music with her. My sister and daughter-in-law are sitting with her now so I can have this quiet moment.
Surprisingly, amidst all the pain, I still can feel grateful.
For 77 years, I’ve had the best relationship with my mother. She is my best friend and for that I am thankful.
Before we started the morphine treatment that would put Mom into a gentle sleep – we were all able to tell her how much we loved her. I realize not everyone has the opportunity to do that and for that reason I am grateful.
That same morning, when Mom saw all the extended family in her room, she said it felt like a party. She asked for a sip of wine which we gladly supplied. Mom wanted to wear her favorite red lipstick and her rings. She was more alert than she had been in weeks. Even though she was in and out of it that day, we felt it was a good morning for her. I am thankful for that.
Mom told us that she wanted us all to take a trip to Maui together and we assured her that we would. Right before my mother gave birth to me she lived in Hawaii for a short time and has the best memories. I can hear Hawaiian music drifting out of Mom’s room now and know that she is smiling inside.
I am grateful that we are a large family and can support one another. I am thankful for all the friends and members of our congregation for their kind words, prayers, and offers to help. I am appreciative for the wonderful hospice workers and caregivers that are lovingly helping us. I am grateful that my mother will die at home surrounded by the family she loved and dedicated her life to knowing this was her desire. I am happy that she won’t be suffering any longer.
And I am grateful for my faith that has taught me to rely on God for strength beyond what is normal and given me a solid hope for the future. I know that I will see my Mom again. That is a tremendous blessing.
Still, my heart is breaking into a million pieces right now. Grief comes in tidal waves of despair.
A parade of relatives and friends are coming through the house to say their good-byes and trying to find some sort of closure. This has been exhausting but a blessing of sorts. All the people are a distraction and that is not completely unwelcome since I know that my emotions would be overwhelming otherwise.
Even though I am a writer by trade I do not have any words to describe the pain I am feeling right now. A part of me is dying and I know that I will never be the same again. As anyone who has lost a parent no doubt knows, this is another journey. There are no shortcuts to grieving or the healing process. Unless we die first, losing our parents is a road we must all travel.
As I wrote in my blog, This Too Shall Pass, time may heal all wounds, but while the open, gaping wounds close up, the scar remains. However, I am old enough to know that life will go on and take me with it. Our ability and infinite capacity to endure and bounce back is far greater than we think.
As Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist and author of On Death and Dying, said: “The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”
And my all-time favorite scripture at Isaiah 41:10: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be anxious, for I am your God. I will fortify you, yes, I will help you, I will really hold on to you with my right hand of righteousness.’