Any of us whose parents live to be elderly are likely to experience their long, sad decline at the end of life. I’ve had both extremes–Daddy died suddenly at a relatively young age, of a heart attack, while Mother spent a couple of decades with heart failure and then strokes. Even when you’ve had lots of time to prepare it always comes as a shock. How can they be gone? How will my life go on?
Scott Simon, an NPR host and former Today show weekend host, went through this with his mother in Chicago. He tweeted throughout her time in the ICU, until she died, and after, an online journal of his thoughts and feelings in 180 characters per message. If you haven’t read them, here is a link: https://twitter.com/nprscottsimon
I’m a bit disturbed by the concept of typing on a smartphone while your mother is dying, but his writing and emotions disarm that. He held her in his arms, sang to her, listened to her while she could still talk.
When I worked for a hospice agency I was told the most important things to say when you’re saying goodbye are: I love you, please forgive me, I forgive you, thank you. Sometimes a parent needs to hear you say, “It’s okay for you to go, I will be all right.” Mothers are still mothers, even on their deathbeds. One nurse told me that sometimes the mother will wait to die until the children are out of her room. “I think some of them want to spare the children, right to the end, ” she said.
It’s important to know when to let go, and to get the help you and your parent need. Facing the end is terrible, but anyone who has mourned a dying person knows the truth: we’re not mourning for them, we’re mourning for us and our loss.