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the long good-bye

When the table turns: the long good-bye

by Judy
June 21, 2015

The last leg of the journey – that’s what I am on now with my mom. It’s been six years since my mom lost her independence after going into hospital with a restricted aortic valve and I have recently brought in home hospice. My mother is not recovering from the cold she caught three weeks ago. She is drinking and eating almost nothing – just doesn’t have the strength anymore. She is so very tired.

It really is a shifting landscape of feelings, responses – swings between beautiful tender raw moments and then the agonizing moments of agitation when it’s hard to assuage my mother's discomfort. She may repeat again and again: “Help me…I’m tired.”

There are heart to heart moments where I express yet again but in even more detail why I so much appreciate her. I tell her I will miss her terribly but I will be fine. And she is relieved. I tell her tentative plans I have after she goes and she listens attentively. She says she has confidence in me.

There are other moments when she tells me she is happy to go and for me not to be sad. She expresses what a wonderful daughter I have been; expresses much gratitude to Pat and then she tells me who to call after she goes. She is calm, very calm after we speak, at least for a while. I play music the whole afternoon. Music soothes her soul.

A week ago, she met the hospice nurse and doctor and for a time she is that charming woman again. She smiles and makes them laugh. She emerges briefly out of the cocoon she has been abiding in and connects, wants to please, wants to bring laughter.

A friend said to me recently it really has been a love affair with your mom. And it’s true. I mean of course not a conventional love affair, but a love affair nonetheless. It’s a little like how it was with my brother – literally his flesh felt like my flesh and so it feels like with my mom.

I feel stripped down just as she is stripped down; heart to heart…raw…close to tears and at the same time, life goes on as usual, but not really as usual.

I will never forget this time that I have spent with my mom in her last days on earth. It has left an indelible mark on my soul and I can’t even say how, but I know it has changed me forever.

Not now…no, not for quite a while, but one day I shall write a book about this whole journey.

Friends and family are writing, calling and that makes a big difference. That human connection of care and sharing of one’s experience, wisdom, heart…it all makes a difference. It can never be underestimated the power of human connection/communion. It helps so much.

A few days ago, my mom ate a little bit – quarter of a cup of soup, two cookies and some coffee. Not much, but much more than usual. Pat and I literally rejoiced. Life wants life; and at the same time I am letting go more and more; letting her go and an acceptance of the end. Yesterday she said to me: “It’s tough on you." I responded: “It’s tougher on you” and she said, “Well that’s different.”

It feels like Mom has been saying good-bye to me for a long time and it’s gone through different stages. At one point she said she was ready to go, not afraid of dying, but didn’t want to leave me. She also was concerned that I would be alright. She is still somewhat concerned but not as much. I tell her over and over again that I will be fine and she is relieved.

And in a strange way, I have been preparing for her death for a very long time – way before she lost her independence. I have been acutely aware of death and loss since I was very young and my ties to my mother have always been very strong even when I lived out of the States for many years and didn’t see her very much.

Today I spoke with a good friend/ hospice nurse. She is so tuned into the dying process and sees it all as part of the life force that has its own direction. Again and again she sees how her patients come to a resolution, a peace, as they give themselves over to this process.

I thanked her very much. So helpful to hear her perspective – gives me a huge handle on how to listen, understand and respond to my mom. She wrote to me and said, “Treasure this precious “vigil” time.

Yes, I am treasuring this time and so very grateful.


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