Is there such a thing?
I just read an article in today’s Wall Street Journal, “A Full Life to the End.” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324577304579054880302791624.html?
It’s adapted from the book ”Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death,” by Katy Butler, and due out on Sept. 10. So, I guess there is if you’re able to leave this world on your own terms whether it be doing anything and everything to prolong life or choose palliative care. As my generation of those born in the 1950′s and perhaps later face the imminent passing of our parents, it’s important to honor whatever wishes of dying they have.
Once my mom approached her 80′s she would comment that “we’re just living too long.” I would say, “Oh, come on, mom. It all depends on your quality of life.” I believe she had a good one…until she didn’t. She had directives of no heroics.
We talked about her dementia, however uncomfortable it was for me because while I acknowledged it privately, I was in denial that she had Alzheimer’s. I wish I had been more honest with myself about it because maybe I would have handled some things differently. Mom had a wonderful speech therapist and we often discussed her condition and progress. But I remember getting annoyed with mom when she couldn’t use her TV remote as I explained certain buttons to her. There were times when either I just forgot or didn’t want to acknowledge the increasing limitations of her cognitive ability. Why? My denial or acceptance was not going to change things. I’m still baffled by it.
One of my biggest regrets is not being there when mom took her last breath.
I had sat vigil with her in hospice for two weeks, about 10 hours a day. During the second week she was sleeping a lot more and less awake. I still talked to her, stroked her hands and face. The night before she passed way I decided I needed to sleep in a little and was going to come in a little later that morning. Where was my head? Her doctor had told me that it was going to happen that weekend. Why didn’t I just stay with her overnight?
The hospice nurses assured me mom was not alone, that they were there. But I wasn’t there. And to me, that makes the biggest difference in the world.
Still, I am grateful that mom suffered no pain, and went peacefully.
I’ve mentioned before that the two things mom wanted more than anything in her last years was to see her grandchildren not only marry but to become a great-grandmother (GG).
While mom didn’t live to see D get married, she did get to see her engaged and in pictures of wedding dresses. And there’s another wedding in October as her first grandchild and grandson ties the knot.
But even more exciting is that mom is going to become a GG and I’m going to become a “nana” when this precious baby is born in early March. Babies are truly miracles and the reinforcement that life does go on and is to be celebrated despite personal loss.
It has now been one year, five months and four days since mom passed away.
The progress one makes in the grieving process can marked in many different ways. The marker for me is that when someone brings up mom’s name or makes a reference to her, I feel more in control. I can feel the emotions coming on and I can feel a glistening in my eyes, but I’m able to control it enough that the flood gates don’t open.
This realization of my progress happened yesterday when I went to my tailor to pick up some clothes I had altered.
My tailor loved mom, and mom was very fond of him. He would always mention how sweet she was and how she always had a smile on her face.
As I picked up my clothes he said in his Asian accent, “I miss your mom. She was always smiling.” I told him I missed her too, and we continued to talk a little about her. The fact that I was able to keep it together is a major milestone for me.
However, while typing this, it doesn’t keep my eyes from welling up.
For the past two years, July 4th has become a bittersweet holiday for me as this is also mom’s birthday. She would have been 91 today.
There’s not much to say except how much I miss and love her. A day does not go by that I don’t think about her.
So today, on what would have been mom’s 91st birthday, I just want to say, Happy Birthday, Mom. You are always in my thoughts and heart. I will love you forever.
I’ve written often about T., mom’s companion of 26 years. In many ways he reminds me of my own father. T. is very well-read, is extremely articulate, has a great love for classical music, and is very loving.
Since mom passed away 16 months ago we’ve kept in touch through phone calls and emails. Conversations are never too long, just a call to say hi and see how each other is doing.
At 98, T. remains quite an amazing figure. He just never ceases to amaze me.
I recently sent him a link to a chamber music festival’s live webcasts so he could enjoy listening to it. I work as a volunteer, providing PR assistance for the Mimir Chamber Music Festival in July. Mom loved the festival and always thoroughly enjoyed the concerts.
Upon receiving the webcast link, I promptly received an email from T. In response to my mention of how much mom enjoyed the festival, T. wrote, in his inimitable way, “If being loved was the only thing she needed to stay alive, she would be with us today.”
Tear ducts cued.
It is now 15 1/2 months since mom’s passing. Along the way I have made progress and have had some setbacks in the grief process. This is expected.
Thoughts of mom still flood my mind while I’m driving. Perhaps because it’s alone and quiet time for me. Hindsight being twenty-twenty, I go over choices made and not made. This Monday morning quarterbacking always enters the picture and plagues me but not to the extent it has in the past. That’s progress.
Another bit of progress is that M. and I finally hooked up mom’s big flat screen TV – the TV she asked for shortly after Thanksgiving 2011, saying she needed a bigger screen. It is a very nice TV but it was too personal for me at the time to use it. Maybe because she barely got to enjoy it herself and I didn’t feel right about “enjoying” it. Whatever the reason, I’m OK now about it now.
Along the way my daughters have quietly been observing my progress or lack thereof.Case in point: A couple of weeks ago one of them asked if I had lost weight because the walking shorts I was wearing looked a little large. I replied, “No, they’re are nana’s.”
Well, that sent them rolling with laughter. “Mom!” D. declared. “You were doing so well. I think you’re regressing.” I countered that they just have to be taken in a little at the waist and was wearing a belt. I thought they looked fine.
Yes, I like to keep mom close to me be it with her clothes, her jewelry, pieces of her furniture, her paintings, and most importantly, thoughts of her.
That can never be taken from me.
As Mother’s Day approaches, my thoughts naturally turn to mom, although rarely does a day go by that I don’t think about her. But particularly with Mother’s Day, I’ve been remembering ones from the recent past like when my brother came down and surprised her and me making a special meal since we both hated going out to eat on Mother’s Day with all the crowds. I probably got that from her!
This will be my second Mother’s Day without mom, and not surprisingly, my feelings of loss have not waned.
While looking for a birthday card for a friend I was bombarded with Mother’s Day card displays. I couldn’t help myself and began looking through some that I might have considered had I had someone to send it to. Mom and I both preferred cards with very few lines of words but that conveyed a loving and powerful message. We both favored simplicity.
It’s not just Mother’s Day but every day circumstances that continue to bring memories to the surface, like this morning. The smell of turkey bacon cooking in the microwave at work took me back to the brunches we shared at her independent living facility – how the wait staff served her, how her friends greeted her, and just the special time we spent a couple of Sundays each month.
As I drive by the Botanic Garden, I remember our time at the annual Japanese Festival and the Butterflies in the Garden exhibit. At our local performing arts venue I remember the concerts and plays we saw. In essence, just about everywhere I go there are memories of mom.
And so, as this Mother’s Day approaches, I lovingly remember the last one we spent together in 2011, with her wearing a sticker from a card one of the kids gave her – “Best Nana Ever.” That she was.