Two years ago November 29th, 2011, my 91 year old mom, left us after getting good care in a Hospice facility in her final 10 days. She had hid her illness severity for almost a year or more, but we all knew SOMETHING was seriously wrong. She was born on a farm during the depression where no sissies were allowed. She later worked in a hospital, had a son-in-law who was a Dr/surgeon and knew all about anatomy and signs of good and bad health without the need of modern scans. She took no medication!
She'd had gall bladder issues off and on her whole life and avoided greasy foods and knew how to self doctor herself at home with fasting and food choices. She kept blaming 'this illness of many months' on her gall bladder but then wondered what was going on. She had refused to see a doctor no matter how much we threatened, begged, pleaded. She was on no meds, lived in her own home alone ---her choice. She fired meals on wheels due to their gross meals (which sadly, they are--we treat elderly in this country HORRIBLY in case that is a news flash to you.) and even fire the in house help we'd gotten for her. I guess in retrospect it scared her to know she was losing control of her own life.
She knew she had been dying before we did but chose not to talk about it...this was difficult but those were the wishes she told the hospital (When she finally asked my sister to call an ambulance...she had fallen and broken a bone a few weeks before, and moving around a lot while lying in bed was horrid...and her kidney output had turned the color of tea she had told me so she knew, things had gotten dire.
10 days before she died, she finally relented to go to the hospital when she turned very jaundiced. They immediately spoke of Hospice admission and even held her an extra 24 hours until a bed opened up. She'd been complaining of pain but not the severity of it. She finally accepted that it was ok so say yes to pain medication! Long story short, she had a massive cancer mass in her abdomen that, judging on symptoms, was pancreatic. She'd lost over 50 lbs in less than a year, had been nauseated off and on and in pain. Hospice kept her medicated to the max, and we learned the signs to look for from her expression, in her sleep, to learn if she needed more pain meds. We were around her almost 24/7 until the last 24 hours...
She died while alone for four hours in the middle of the night..as often, loved ones wish to die without an audience. She was practically comatose by then and not aware of things for days, as far as we could tell, but we still chatted in her hospice room among ourselves as if she COULD HEAR us and kept conversation pleasant.
My advice to ANY of you people with parents or other loved ones, but especially parents, never leave unfinished business with them. You never know when they will be gone. Tomorrow is promised to no one.
Holding onto resentment, hate, or keeping a grudge, etc.... only keeps you a prisoner in your own self misery.
There are self help books, support groups and therapists for every problem. Even if you have good relationships, when your parents die, it is most difficult. If your parents die, and you have had a falling out, believe or not, I hear that grief is much worse. And I can see why ... too many 'what ifs, if only, I shoulda/coulda/wouldas' that YOU THEN have to live with forever. Why would one 'choose' that route?
So I leave you with a few pictures of her and a reminder if you love your parents: No matter how long they are in our lives, it's never long enough. How do you want your story to end? Good terms or bad.
I have very little immediate family left except for a sister, to whom I am close to, and one brother whom we never see, even though he lives close by, and one out west that at least emails and sends cards for birthdays. No cousins, aunts, uncles, no children. Nephews and niece live far away.
So holidays can be depressing for many as they age. Check on your neighbors during this time. And don't be a fake. Just be genuine, shovel their walk, take them some food if you know they are not on special diets. Call them if you don't see them outside for a few days. See if they need groceries, that kind of thing.
Just be thoughtful and nice. If you are lucky enough, you will be old someday.
Mom's 90th birthday with my niece and one of my nephews
Last family get together 1988 with all of us, two years before Dad died.
Mom and Dad holding my sister in 1946. They went on to have two sons, them me in 1956
Her last Christmas 2010