Mom had another fall. This time she didn’t feel like getting better. Mom stayed in the hospital, asking for more and more pain killers by the hour. For some reason I thought this was my final visit with her. She really did want to leave the suffering and the fear of hurting herself behind. She told me she was ready to die.
It is one thing when your aging parent says she aches and feels sad because she’s in the hospital again. I can encourage her to take care of herself, move her sore muscles a bit more each day and let her know I care.
But it’s quite another when she says she’s ready to die. This is all too much to handle.
This one frightened me! I even asked my siblings about their thoughts on her wish for demise. I hoped they could provide some words of inspiration. They were logical, intelligent and less emotionally affected than I normally get. I cry easy. Alas… their response was appropriate… and one I didn't want to hear.
I remembered her recovery from the last fall. Nothing really was different – nothing. What seemed more difficult for me was how I was handling the recovery process with less and less aplomb.
However, I reminded my mother of the recovery in the past and how well she felt after resting for almost 2 weeks in the hospital bed.
That’s what she needed, rest. And once the hospital food annoyed her once too often as “slop better served to the hogs” she smiled, relented her desire for death and rethought the process again to well-being.
The next visit, I knew I was in a much more centered place to consider the “had enough and ready to die” should it come up again. My husband and I discussed how to handle it without begging or denying her wishes. I didn’t want her to think I thought she was a silly old woman. So we committed to being the voice of encouragement and the means of opportunities for recovery despite her painful rants.
With this in mind, we agreed upon a course of action.
And as usual, she was still determined that the pain was too great, the recovery too slow, and life not worth living.
So we proceeded to ask her about her options in the wake of the impending death.
“Which dress did you want to be buried in?"
“Shall we call the doctor and have him give you extra drugs so you’re not in pain and can fall asleep into death?”
“Mom, before you go, I do want to say this one thing. If you speed up your death, you speed up missing out on a few things that are happening. There’s Cory’s wedding, Nan’s trip to Singapore, Parker’s promise to fly you in the plane, Mark’s NHL draft party, Nicky’s grad, Killian’s visit, Daw’s big league game, and …."
She cut me off.
“Listen girlie, I know what you’re doing. I do know that this is the only life as me I’ll ever experience. In fact I just read something… where is it? Ah, yes, listen to this.
“Do not live as if this life
is a dress rehearsal for the next.”
is a dress rehearsal for the next.”
OK, daughter. I will try again. By moving a little bit more, by stretching my sore muscles, by drinking more water, by meditation and prayer and asking myself what do I really look forward to, I think I can slowly get back to strong.”
The visit ended full of hope by all.
In retrospect, when Mom announced she was going to die, I could have just flat out told her “no” that it was too harsh a consideration…but that would have put her into defense and argue with me. In fact, I believe she would have easily willed herself to get worse and prove the point.
This way, I gently agreed with her desire, probed a bit for some details, safe-guarding her mental spirit of control and equally as important, shifted my own resistance into acceptance.