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The Thing About Shoes. -- 02/03/2018

posted Feb 3, 2018, 8:01 AM by Kathryn Simpson   [ updated Feb 4, 2018, 6:27 AM ]

"Someone has to die in order that the rest of us should value life more.
It's contrast."

-- Virginia Woolf*



We all know I love my metaphors. Well, I've had to change my metaphorical shoes again. My Caring for An Aging Parent shoes were replaced with Caring for A Dying Parent shoes. It's a thing that so many/too many/not enough people understand. The lengthy illness or injury of a person you love. The frustration of watching them struggle for health and breath and Life. The struggle to guarantee them physical peace while they seek their spiritual evolution. The quest to get them the best care. The fear of not doing enough. 

I'm a fairly realistic person and I never imagined it would be easy. Before he died my father was ill for a long time. That was heartbreaking (Screw you, Congestive Heart Failure!). But watching my mother's years-long apathy about her illness was absolutely hard. She was a very smart lady and I kept waiting for her to be similarly smart about her future and her diabetes. But as smart as she was, she was just as stubborn. She would either live or not live on her terms; a position I did not always handle well. I spent a lot of time very angry. I should have had more patience. I will spend the rest of my life wishing I had been more patient. Because she's gone now and I have to own that. 

Meanwhile, I must acknowledge it wasn't just the strokes and diabetes she had to battle. I believe depression played a bigger role. It's hard to care about your blood sugar when you're too depressed to want to live. And who am I to judge? But that's a blog for another day. 

Mom made her career in Hospice Social Work and her end-of-life wishes were no secret. She had a DNR for many years. As her illnesses (Dia-pression? Depressi-betes?) took their toll we knew there was a clock ticking. Again, a situation to which I know many people can relate. 

Through her last months we were fortunateI cannot adequately describe the care Husband showed. We had conscientious, diligent nurses and CNAs at Mother's nursing homeWe had amazing professionals from  Hospice keeping her comfortable while they cared for us, too. Mom's dear roommate held our hands and family, friends and friemly all stopped by with hugs and jokes and tears. We weren't alone. And in her lucid moments, when neither her pain nor pain management had her fogged, Mom could communicate that she was ready to die. That she wanted to join her parents and older brother and my father. I do not doubt her peace at the notion nor her desire to go. But as Summer waned in tandem with her strength I was struck by her body's ability to linger. She was physically miserable. The sweet spot between being medicated to her gills and consumed by pain was hard to maintain. She was often confused. Her confusion left her frightened. She wanted and was ready to die. But whatever and wherever is the bridge that spans the Here to the There, she couldn't find her way. 

It was terrible to witness, but more terrible was the fact I couldn't make it better. I asked every question I could to have rational expectations. I found a series of NY Times articles that helped me ask more questions. But I feared then and fear still that all my efforts to prepare and help only made things worse. One evening her nursing team needed to treat an aggressive new bedsore. This was going to suck, so I held Mom's hand and told her to squeeze mine as hard as she could. 

    "As much as it hurts, squeeze my hand that hard," I told her. "It'll be okay, Momma," I insisted. "It's okay."

    "It's not okay," she cried out. "It hurts!" 

My heart ripped into pieces, and she couldn't have been more right. It most definitely was not okay. All my stupid words did no good at all. I own that, too. Another lesson I've no intention to forget. Sometimes things are not "okay," and saying otherwise doesn't change the fact. 

I must also own that by the end I wanted her to go. I wanted her to achieve the peace and freedom she sought and in which she vehemently believed. Waiting for a dying person's discomfort to stop is an agonizing business for them and anyone watching. I have literally no idea how medical peoples and care givers do it on a regular basis. It cored me out. But at the same time, I am grateful for the opportunity to be by her side in that intensely vulnerable condition. She would have done it for me, I'm certain. To do it for her was an honor.

Mother died in the early hours of September 21, 2017. Thister and I were with her, as we had been in shifts for the previous days. Then she left this stratum and traveled to another, the details of which I can only speculate. My hope before her death was to keep her safe and comfortable and wrapped in love. My hope since is that we somehow did her justice. That we somehow fumbled our way to providing her the care she would have given to others. 

So again with shoes. Back to the ones for Life After Burying a Parent. We all end up with those at some point, so at least I'm in fashion.

Ba-dum-bump. Tssss! 

Now enough with the metaphors.


     
                                    The family back in the 80s.                                        On a road trip with Niece and Thister.


            

With her new Grandcats, 2013.


Letting me fuss.



*This specific quote is actually from the 2002 film The Hours, spoken by Nicole Kidman as Ms. Woolf. 
The concept, of course, can be traced more directly to Ms. Woolf herself within her novel Mrs. Dalloway. 



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