Health and Longevity

It’s My Life and My Decision

May 10, 2018
Mom's "Grandchildren

So Here We Are….

The week of May 1st has been filled with the past, present, and future.  It’s like a seeing a late movie on T.V. with little bits and pieces of my childhood and adulthood.  May 4th I turned officially 65 and have now joined the ranks of millions of baby boomers. This post contains a lot of different emotions for me and hopefully the last of its kind.

Those readers who have been following my posts know I’ve been struggling with my mother this year, not only health issues but living conditions and her depression over the loss of my father last year in April.  It’s officially been over a year now since he’s been gone, but every day missed.  My mother has been progressively getting worse and a couple of days before my birthday was admitted to the hospital for acute heart failure and fluid in the lungs. 

This was her second week living at the Assisted Living Facility (ALF).  I thought she was really doing great until I got a winded phone call from her letting me know she was in trouble.  I immediately got in the car and drove there and I found her in bed in the fetal position crying.  She was hospitalized 5 days with dozens of tests when she finally decided she had enough of all of this action.  As I looked into her sky blue eyes I knew she was serious.  Our conversation went something like this:

Mom:  “I want to be with dad”.  

Me: “Mom, eventually you will be.”

Mom:  “Well, there ought to be a rule that when you are married for 65 years and one of you dies the other should be able to go, too.”

Me:  “I understand, but it’s not your time.”

Mom (pursing her lips):  “Well, I don’t want to ever come back to the hospital again.”

Me:  “Okay.  Let me talk to the doctor.”

I know when my mother purses her lips and looks at me with a stern look she is serious!  We spoke with the doctor and decided hospice was the way to go.  Once we get her discharged from the hospital the ambulance took her back to the ALF (she needed oxygen).  I met them there to settle her in and make sure she was comfortable and spoke with a hospice representative for a plan of action (or non-action).  As the nurses began to take all of the vital signs, explaining to her what medications she needed to take, I could tell she wasn’t having any of it.  They were talking to a wall at that point.  She looked at me and said, “this is not what I envisioned.”  Deep down I knew she was thinking this dying process would be easy, but you can’t force your body to die if it’s not ready.  I could see the frustration as she kept explaining to the nurses she wasn’t going to take any more medication. 

If you can imagine a little old lady with pursed lips about 5-foot tall stomping her foot and letting everybody know she wants to be with dad.  I can only imagine what my dad must be thinking (wherever he is).  He used to joke and tell me “your mother follows me everywhere“; or when it was their wedding anniversary he would say “her wedding anniversary“.  He was always joking, but I imagine he wasn’t laughing knowing my mother had made this decision.

The Vigil

It’s been seven days and she has stuck to her guns, her journey is almost over, but it hasn’t been an easy journey.  She’s been holding a picture of my dad in her hands, even as she sleeps ready to transition.  The body is amazing, it knows what it wants even if your mind thinks differently.  I’ve said before that my siblings haven’t had much to do with mom since her trip to Michigan.  It took one phone call from me to my sister and she was up here the next day, and then the call to my brother, who can’t make it up and we are suddenly all speaking to one another again.  Why does it always take a tragedy for a family to come together?  

My brother and sister are angry with my mom for giving up which is, in essence, what she is doing.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and I get it.  She’s just plain old tired and has decided to let nature just take its course.  So who am I to say, “no, you must stay and be happy?”.  I’ve been struggling with this question for the last seven days as I watch her slow decline.  She and I have had a year of love and hate, yelling and crying, shopping and taking small trips visiting.  Every day of the last year is replaying in my head as I try to figure out why my mother doesn’t want to live?  Is it because of me?  Is it because of her son and my sister?  Is it because she is that lost without my dad?

It finally came to me, I think my mother’s heart literally broke when she lost my dad.  There is research about couples married for a very long time, their heart breaks due to the loss of their loved one and some die from broken hearts. It’s called “Broken Heart Syndrome” (Please click to read the article).  I didn’t believe it until I saw my mother.  The light in her eyes is gone, her eyes are dim and energy slowly leaks from the body until she was too weak to talk.  This whole ordeal has been extremely difficult for me physically and mentally but mom’s got one thing on her mind and that is to be with dad.  She actually said, “get me the hell outta here!”  

Currently, there are five states that allow death with dignity:

  • California (End of Life Option Act; approved in 2015, in effect from 2016)
  • Colorado (End of Life Options Act; 2016)
  • District of Columbia (Death with Dignity Act; 2016/2017)
  • Hawaii (Our Care, Our Choice Act; 2018/2019)
  • Oregon (Oregon Death with Dignity Act; 1994/1997)
  • Vermont (Patient Choice and Control at the End of Life Act; 2013)
  • Washington (Washington Death with Dignity Act; 2008)

Right or Wrong

Who is to say it is right or wrong?  Life should be celebrated.  Should a person of sound mind and body have the right to decide when to leave this world?  The year wasn’t all bad, there were good times and we got to enjoy them together.  It wasn’t easy living with my mother, as a caregiver, you begin to lose all sense of self-worth, you worry constantly if you are doing the right thing and you have no life to speak of.  Now, that made me mad.  I’ve also been thinking what in the heck am I going to do with myself when I don’t have to take care of my mother?  I’m working on that.  Thank God I have my children, I am so blessed.  I’ve uploaded pictures of my mom and dad more so for myself because I know one day I will want to look back and remember the way my mother looked when she was happy.  

Bottom line, we are born alone and we die alone, who am I to say what my mother chose to do is right or wrong?  That is not for me to decide or judge.  We all have choices and it’s not important whether we agree or disagree, what is important is the person making those choices … it is right for them.    

On a happier note, stay tuned, I’ve got some tasty recipes I’m going to share toward the end of the week, we’ve got a one bowl spicy dish that will knock your socks off!!!

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