The conversations I have with my mom these days are changing rapidly because her ability to speak is decreasing daily. We all in our own way wait for those moments to arrive when my mom’s personality is able to emerge through her illness and medication. All of us have different ways of being with her. My brother likes to make her laugh and hold her hand, one of my sisters works hard to make sure she is comfortable, my other sister made sure she was fed throughout the day and had lots of magazines to read when she was still home.
I don’t seem to be able to make my mom laugh and I’m not particularly good at care taking although I can do it. My speciality is to sit and hold her hand. Yesterday was a glorious day here in Ontario. My mom has a huge window in her room that looks out on trees that are changing colour. I sat and held her hand as we watched the wind blowing the leaves here and there, the birds gathering around the bird feeder. Autumn couldn’t have been more spectacular than it was at that moment.
Sometimes I can feel her press my hand a little harder or shake it when she hears music she loves. I press back to say that I really like that music too.
Just when we were both dozing off a volunteer came in and asked if either my mother or myself would like therapeutic touch. I asked my mom what she thought and she said, “Are you kidding me. I’m half dead. Too old for that nonsense.” I looked at Lynn and said I think my mom said no. I giggled because that is so typical of my mom. Then she looked at me and said in her almost non-existent voice, “Don’t you have anything else to wear?” Ahhh forever a mother.
Just as I was ready to leave for the night and I thought she was dead asleep she opened her eyes wide and said in Dutch, “You know what I feel like having?” and I said “What?” “An ice cream cone. Strawberry, chocolate AND vanilla.” Wow” I said, “well you haven’t eaten in a month so you must be hungry.”
So it comes down to this. And maybe this is what Morrie Schwartz was trying to say when he said that once you understand how to die you understand what it is to really live. Watching my mother die is as close to dying as I have ever been. And I think what he means is this. The apartment that my mom has loved so much for the last 40 years and all the lovely things she has collected to make it her home are now meaningless. The clothes she loved to buy no longer matter. The car she loved so much isn’t even thought of. The only thing I think she cares about are the people she loves and having them around her. She wants love. And love is the only thing that we can give her that matters.
Dorothy Ley Hospice to date has been an amazing experience. They understand that comfort and love is all that matters at this point in life. I don’t understand why the government would cut their funding…..