Dear Ms. Spiritual Matters,
My mother wanted some control at the end of her life. Cancer had weakened her to a point that she no longer could take care of herself. Being the oldest of nine children, she had always been the giver not the receiver. Now, at age 80, needing assistance upset her. Being helped made her uncomfortable. Deep down she could only give not receive. Her attitude of doing for herself was not going to change…not if she could help it.
One evening my father called and asked that I come quickly because mother was unable to get out of the bath tub by herself. She was crying. He had to lift her out.
Just as I finished dressing to leave, the phone rang again. I picked it up at the same time as my purse because I was going to quickly tell the caller, I could not talk but had to run. This time my mother spoke. She pleaded, “Please don’t come.” I explained that dad had phoned upset with worry. My mother said she was aware he was shaken up. “But, I do not want you to come and rescue me again. I want you to stay where you are. The room has been spinning more often. You know I’ve been on the other side. I am tired and want to go. Please do not come tonight.” I said I would not come because she asked me to not do so.
My sleep was restless and full of second guessing. Should I stay or should I go? It was hard to go to work the next day fearing my time with my mother was about to end.
The next evening, Dad called an ambulance. I picked him up and we went to the hospital. Mother looked so tiny in the bed. An IV pump pushed fluid into her vein. She was pale but smiled when she saw us. Dad sat down in a recliner and promptly fell asleep. This left time for mother and I to talk. She had been throwing clots periodically—the reason the room kept spinning. This was happening more often. Her medicine to keep the clots from forming didn’t work well with her drinking. We both knew that. People make their choices and take their chances. She knew what came next and wanted it.
After a few hours, my mother asked me to take my father home. I awoke him and we said good-bye. As we were leaving, my father had to use the bathroom. I dropped him there and went through instructions to wait for me outside the door when he was done.
I flew back to my mother’s room. I grabbed her and held onto her and we each were saying how much we loved each other. The nurse trying to keep the IV line from tangling between us started sobbing too. “I love you. I love you.” I could not say it strong or loud enough. And, she weakly but strongly said the same. And we wept together.
Leaving her alone was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But, she wanted me to take my father home.
I settled in overnight at my father’s place. The phone rang the next morning at 8 am. It was a call from the hospital. I passed the phone to my father. He was told my mother died. My father crumbled into a chair. He never expected her to go first.
I worry that I misread what she meant. Maybe, we should have stayed with my mother. What do you think?
Your mother told you that she knew she wanted to move on. She said she would be okay…all right just somewhere else.
You carried out your mother’s last wish—to care for your father. Doing good is not always the most comfortable path to walk.
Be happy your mother was able to arrange her own final entrance into the world she trusted awaited her beyond this one.