When it is time to say good bye

When someone you love is dying, in particular a parent now you have an opportunity to be soft and protective. At first, as they start showing symptoms, maybe you will feel angry. Don’t be short tempered with them. It is only your grief. You will have time for your grief down the road.
Whether it is dementia, Cancer, whatever….you can still find moments to share together that will keep you warm after she is gone. My mom’s last meal was a good spoonful of chocolate ice cream. I am so glad. That was not the time to argue about eating fruits and vegetables. So, even if your parent asks for something strange, don’t judge, just do it if you can.
I dug my mom’s own nightgowns out of a drawer and cut them up the backs. When we changed her, that way she got to feel her own things against her skin and not a hospital Johnny. Rather than put her through more painful wound dressing and so forth, after she had said ” I’m done.” I respected that and stood between her and the medical system which grinds ever onward. I suggested and implemented slipping a depends over her entire little elbow and arm to absorb and protect. My dogs were howling on the porch like mad….until the nurse left her alone, did what I asked.
I refused to take her rings off. There is something about having your rings on that is an identity thing.
When I sit by myself or lie awake in the dark, I am satisfied that not only did I follow her own wishes but I protected her. I’m not sure if anyone ever did in that life or death way. I know she had a tough time protecting me as a kid. But I told her ” You are safe. I ve got you. It’s going to be alright.” And so it was.
The story was not coming out any other way. 90 years and a fascinating life filled with many adventures is a great achievement and her birthday party 2 weeks previous was a wonderful time for us all. As we drove in, there she was sitting in the dining room window, waiting. In good earrings and a silk blouse she had put on herself.
During the final days she kept apologizing for putting us through this. I said ” Silly girl. I put you through 26 hours of labor pains. I think it is a fair trade.”
If it was messy and awful, parts of it, well so is young childhood and also adolescence. It is part of being human and being a family. There is a line from Silence of the Lambs where Clarice Starling is comforting a distraught police officer at a murder scene. She says to him [ ] ” Let us take care of her now. Let us take care of her.”
You can do it. You can’t imagine it or practice for it. Just one day you walk into our mother’s house and the first glance when you see her face you know all the rules have changed. You take your bags to your room, maybe stop to use the bathroom, and then you wade right in to be with her.
We were so lucky she was home. We got up in the middle of the night. The various agencies came who have to in such cases. Once they d finished taking care of her, we had time alone for almost an hour before the funeral director came to pick her up. We had time to touch her, talk with her, talk about her to each other, to pray. I cleaned her face because she would ve been so embarrassed if I hadn’t. I ve never done this before and as hard as it was, I am so grateful I did it. I comforted her o de long ago, for she always always obsessed about dying, eating right, checking to see if she was dying yet…..so I said ” Nobody gets out of here alive.” ” Oh!” She startled and laughed. ” well, how funny! You’re right.”
Then I said ” Isn’t that great because that makes one less thing for you to worry about. It isn’t optional. Now go on and live your life.”


2 Responses to “When it is time to say good bye”

  1. clover58 Says:

    You’ve mentioned things that I’ve learned from my experiences, too — not to get short tempered, mean is the main thing in dealing with the elderly. They cannot help what may be happening. I saw it as a ung girl — relatives being so annoyed because my great-grandmother (also a wonderful, fascinating woman) was constantly loosing her glasses. I was only about 12, but knew they were wrong in being so annoyed and yelling at her. Patience is one of the virtues, hard to learn, but so important at any age.

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