Anne’s Story – The end

Anne in 2009, age 87

Anne in 2009, age 87

On January 12, I wrote a post about the tedium and demands of care giving to a dying mother, and how I went out for three brisk 30-minute walks that day (to get fresh air and exercise but not leave her for longer periods), and how I did stretching exercises while waiting for her to do her business in the bathroom. I then removed the post because it might seem frivolous or insensitive. [I have now restored it.]

Mom’s pain (both physical and psychic) had eased a lot since the worst disillusionment of a few weeks ago. However, Sunday evening she was not coherent or settled for the night, and sleep was out of the question for me. I put on a dressing gown and sat on the wheelchair beside her bed, my feet up on the seat of her nearby walker. I held her hand and watched home renovation programs on TV. Her breathing was shallow and rhythmic with odd noise patterns. There were occasional lucid moments and more frequent incoherent comments (she asked “Is that program all about sex?” I answered: “No, it is some people renovating their basement.”)

Quite often she would urgently ask “What’s next? What do I have to do next?” It was impossible to know if she was asking about the next hour, or whether she was catching glimpses of deserts of vast eternity. [The epitaph on my father’s gravestone, soon to be hers, is part of a quotation I found on a scrap of paper in my father’s wallet after his death.]

But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
[Andrew Marvell,1621-1678]

I despaired about how I could keep this up without sleep for unknown days, weeks or even months to come. A person more experienced with dying would have known, at this point, that it wouldn’t be long. At 6:34 a.m. I texted my sister (whose time zone is 4 hours later) “This has to end soon. I’ve been at bedside pretty much all night. She has very labored breathing and is incoherent. Somewhat agitated and fiddling incessantly with bed covers. I need nurse’s visit today.”

Her breathing had begun to slow down. I started counting the seconds between breaths and hoped that each breath would be the last.

At 6:39 a.m. it was.

“And yonder all before us lie, deserts of vast eternity”

For earlier chapters, click on”Anne’s story” in the menu at the top of my home page.

12 thoughts on “Anne’s Story – The end

  1. Sad, yet wonderful that at the end you could return some of the love and care she gave you at your beginning. A lesson for each of us as we approach our own eternity.

  2. Bless. I read your post that you subsequently deleted and found it honest and a help to those who might be in a similar position and struggling with the guilt. I feel you should post it.
    Thankfully she died with the peace that comes with knowing she was close to deep love. You gave her the greatest gift.

    • Thanks for the encouragement. I thought the post would be fine if we had a bit of time before the end, but I suspected that she was so near the end that I was uncomfortable with it. Maybe I will re-post it after things settle down a bit.

  3. I have always appreciated your frankness and honesty. And even more so in the care of your Mom. I am so glad you were with her. You gave her the best gift of all….your love and your time.
    When my Mom passed away from BC at age 50, I found my first reaction was profound relief. Relief that she wasn’t suffering. Death was easier to bear that the suffering. I felt guilty about that. Now, I don’t.

    • You would have been so young when your mother died, and needing to focusing on your own life, that it MUST have been a huge relief. I feel that I can now plan my retirement, which is kind of scary because I am only 26 years behind her.

  4. This post brought a tear to my eye. Thank you for writing about all the chapters of your mother’s story, happy and dismal, and for adding your own frank and often humorous reflections on life and death. Well done, under difficult circumstances!

    • Our family has always felt that Mom’s story deserved documentation, and I am happy to have done this small version over the last couple of years. She really enjoyed reading my blog and we had many debates about whether blogging is necessarily a trivialization of stories. Her concern for accuracy and truth sometimes conflicted with the need to edit out a lot of mundane details. We have miles and miles of her journals to sort through.

  5. Clare,
    I’m sorry you have lost your mother, nothing in my life has been sadder than the day my mother passed. You have written a beautiful tribute to Anne, thank you for sharing it with me.

    • Thanks for your comment. I am pleased that people who don’t know us in person can glean something from my story.

      I feel that the death of a 91-year-old is a time for sentimentality but not real sadness. My 3 siblings have flown in and we are having a great time reminiscing, arguing and laughing while we sort through her vast and carefully-organized collections of trivia, treasure and recylables. We would probably offend many people (or at least puzzle them) but we are reveling (definitely not wallowing) in our family quirks.

      – Clare

  6. Clare, I’m late in reading this but send my condolences. I read your previous post and went through all the same feelings with my mother. I loved and miss my mother but would not bring her back to the life she was living. Enjoy your family and remember the good times. Love, Diane

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