Dying With Grace: What Does That Look Like? – Vol 423, Sept. 28, 2017
It is the summer of 1996 and I am brought to meet my first elder client. Her name is Rose, and she is ninety years old. She lives in a split level home, beautiful upstairs, yet she is no longer allowed to occupy that floor. Her caregivers feel it is unsafe for her, not putting her at risk of falling down the stairs. Instead, she is forced to live on the lower level, which is much darker, with a drab feeling to it. It is clear that Rose is unhappy living in this part of the house.
I was told by my boss, that I am the tenth home health aid to work with Rose and if it didn’t work out, she would no longer have one. I took this information in and went inside to be introduced to Rose. She was an overweight woman, sitting in her chair with a bun of gray hair piled on her head. Her mangy dog was sitting by her side as I was told what my duties were to be and Rose was told how she was expected to work with me. Off went my boss, leaving me to do the job.
I saw Rose every Monday and Wednesday for the next three months. I found out why it was that she was so argumentative and angry, merely by asking her one day after she yelled at me one time too many. She had told me of her daughter who made it clear that she didn’t want her sons to spend any time with their grandmother. Rose had no idea why this was the case. However, I did find out that there was one grandson who came every month to help Rose to pay her bills and spend a bit of time with her.
There was one day when we were talking in Rose’s bedroom when she told me that she saw a mouse in her fireplace. The fireplace was painted fire engine red and there was some paint that had peeled off it leaving a white area. This is what Rose perceived to be the mouse.
The next Monday, I went to her home as I always did, to find that the door was still locked. The door was always left open, after she let her dog out, around 5:30 in the morning. I knew that Rose was in trouble, perhaps maybe had even passed away. I went to the Seven-Eleven down the street to make a call to my boss who wouldn’t send the police to break in the back door as the grandson told her that he didn’t want this done. So, I drove back to Rose’s house to find the Visiting Nurses had the police break in the back door. They found that Rose had tried to get up to let her dog out, but fell back on the bed laying on the narrow side, feet aimed toward the floor. She had died, right there.
Her grandson told me that though he knew it was coming, one can never fully be prepared for a loved one’s death. I told him that Rose had told me that his mother had told her that she didn’t want him or his brother spending time with Rose. I asked him why he had helped her out? He said, that she had always been there for him, so of course, he would be there for her.
So, when I received the email from my sister who was Power of Attorney for my mother telling the sisters that the nurse at the nursing home wanted to place mom under hospice care so she could receive extra time to get from her bed to the wheelchair, extra time for her showers, to eat, etc, I was not concerned that she was indeed dying at all. What I did know was that she had dropped 40 pounds going from 170 pounds to 130 pounds on a 4’10” frame. What I did not know was that she had been starving herself, unwilling to eat enough calories to keep her body functioning. That, I found out when I arrived at the nursing home and spoke to the nurse on duty there.
The next ten days were filled with my traveling to see my clients, and then trying to make it to see mom in the two-hour window I had when she was up for lunch before she would be back in bed, sleeping away the pain she was ravaged by from her Rheumatoid Arthritis. She was always cold, not eating enough calories to warm herself up. It was a very hard situation to be in, because it really was my mother’s decision to take control of the only thing she could, by no longer eating. She made it clear to me that she didn’t know what else to do, and just wanted to be done with feeling all this pain.
Now, here is the beautiful learning: Though my mother was a person who had to deal with multiple mental health issues, life was more difficult for her than many because of them, she had no recollection of any of the anger, rage or upset from her previous life. That was all gone. She was termed as having dementia, unable to remember the things from her present, though she did have recollections from many years ago. This is normal with dementia.
The folks at the nursing home, the caregivers as well as the residents loved my mother. She had her hair dyed a light strawberry blond color, having grown it down to her shoulders. She always had a smile on her face and was very gracious for anything anyone did to help her out. That is not to say that she couldn’t at times be a bit snarky if she did not get what she wanted. I saw this on a few occasions during my ten days of being with her. Overall, she was a pleasant and intelligent person to be with based on all the concerns from the staff and residents who just wanted to see her eat enough to continue living.
When we were called in to see mom, the nurses had made the assessment that she was now unresponsive and on her way out of her physical body, I could recall what she said to me the previous day when I visited her. She said that she had two happy marriages and had fun raising her five daughters. That was all she had as memories, leaving all the hurts, physical and emotional pain out of her current observations.
The reason that this is so important is that my mother taught me another learning at her bedside. It really doesn’t matter what turmoil we have lived through during our lives, because in the end, perhaps it is our Creator’s design to allow us to only remember that which was meaningful and happy after all. Maybe all those claims of seeing your life go before your eyes, having to reconcile all the negative things that you did during your life is a bunch of garbage. Perhaps the only truth being, that when one is on their way to leaving this world as we know it, the only memories had are the wonderful ones. And, to be sure those two marriages mom was speaking of, one for 31 years and the other for 19 and raising her kids, the eldest now 62, covers her entire adult life, from the age of twenty-one. There was never a mention of her earlier life, all that mattered was her marriages and her children.
So, if you are a human being as mom was, who has gone through some difficult times, feel great in knowing that when your time comes, this is the gift that you have waiting for you – contentment and peace, as you allow yourself to exit this world as you knew it.
Learnings From My Journey: Suzannisms For the Mind and Soul
Learnings From My Journey: Suzannisms for the Mind and Soul is a book of essays based on the wisdom gained through those who have touched me through my own journey in life. Purchase an inspiring copy today from the Dawning Visions Hypnosis Store.Learnings From My Journey: Suzannisms For the Mind and Soul
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