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Mother’s Day

May 9, 2010

I’m spending Mother’s Day with Mom, sitting beside her hospital bed. Three days ago she fell and broke her upper thigh bone, only a few short weeks after we moved her into the one room assisted living wing of the retirement community. She is frail and suffers mild dementia. Miraculously she has survived surgery, unlike my father who broke the same exact bone seven years ago only to die two hours after surgery.

For four days now I have been here, beside her, as she clings to life. I drip water into her mouth, moisturize her lips, and keep her oxygen tube in place. When she is alert enough to talk I laugh at the silly things she says. When she cries out in pain, I cry with her.

I am so grateful for my mother. As much as her contrary, mysterious ways have agitated and annoyed me over the years, I am a better person because she loved me…and loved life. As I gaze upon her ninety pound, five foot frame, I wonder how such a little woman could have had such a huge influence on me all these years.

Each day she takes one step forward and one step back in her recovery, the emotional roller coaster taking its toll on all of us.

As I prepare to leave her side and ready myself to return to home to North Carolina for a few days, I pass the torch to my sister. We hug goodbye, each silently struggling with “what’s next?”

It’s hard not to wonder why Mom has to suffer so much at this point in her life. There is no happy outcome. And yet, we have to move forward and make each decision as if she will recover.

But what does recovery look like for a woman of 97? She could barely walk before she fell, her bones soft, the pins uncertain – there cannot possibly be enough of a recovery for her to walk again. Or can there? We want to make the right choices in deciding her care. But what is the right choice? Should we minimize her suffering and not worry about rehabilitation? Or is that giving up? If we persist and act proactively could she have several years ahead of her? Or is it time?

In reality, it’s not our decision. It’s hers and it’s God’s – we can only walk beside her and hold her hand. She will do what she will do and we will love her to the end. We will take each step as if she will live forever, providing all the medical benefits available. She has not yet given up, so neither will we.

(Excerpt from “Caring for Mom”)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 9, 2010 6:28 pm

    What a touching story Dorothy. I thought it was today until I read that this was an excerpt from your book which I really want to read and will now move it to the top of my to do list. I’m afraid I don’t know whether your mother has already passed away or not. I am struggling with the impending end of my mother’s life now and wrote about it today in my blog at I’m 4000 miles away from my mother and can’t sit and hold her hand. When I called her this morning she wasn’t making any sense but she is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. I thank you for telling your story. I wasn’t going to post mine as I didn’t want to depress people who were happy on mother’s day but the end of life is something we will all face for both our parents and ourselves and this is meaningful work expressing it so well for all of us.

    • May 9, 2010 6:52 pm

      Dianne, you are in a difficult place ~ but there is little one can do but walk through it. There’s no perfect solution to the pain and discomfort of aging ~ it just is what it is and the only thing we can do is make the best choices we can each day to cope with it.

      I had to make decisions I did not want to make when my mother was failing. I wanted to bring her home to stay with me but my siblings wanted to keep her in the assisted living. I had to choose. I had to turn my back when my mother said to with tears in her eyes “take me home”. No one likes assisted living. It’s about what is manageable for the family and those responsible for a loved ones care. If it’s not possible to have them at home for whatever reason there is no other choice. Unfortunately we have to live in this awkward, uncomfortable, painful place throughout the dying process and do the best we can.

      You are grieving the loss of your mother as you knew her; you are grieving in anticipation of her death; that is as it should be. You need not pretend otherwise. It’s okay to cry and be sad ~ especially on this mother’s day. My heart and thoughts are with you. Thanks for your comments about my blog today.

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