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Waiting to die 

The process is not an easy one

I want my mom to die.

Even knowing I’m experiencing completely normal emotions, I marvel at the sheer power of these words as they connect to the paper. I’m experiencing every emotion she feels, every pain that engulfs her body, every thought that delves to work its way into the limited thought capacity that remains in her brain. My mom suffered a massive stroke approximately two years ago. Initially, she made significant strides in her rehabilitation process, but now her weak, fragile body is ready to be released from this world.

Somehow, we are never prepared to let our parents leave us. No matter our age, our successes, our security in living a happy home life with loving family and friends in the midst, the inevitable loss of a dying parent hurts like hell. Should I have not allowed myself to love this woman with every core of my being? Is that the answer? Do I love too much? What I do know is that I am elated to have loved to this capacity. Feeling such abundant love for another human being is a gift, and I embrace it.

Notably, the process is not an easy one. Mom has been there for me, unfailingly, through the ups and downs of my life from day one. Whether attending my baton performance as a child, helping me prepare for a science exam, or lending a hand with the care of my children, she was habitually at my side when I needed her. During the devastating loss of my child, the dissolution of my marriage, she never wavered—always present with a listening and compassionate ear.

For two lengthy, lingering years, I’ve been dealing with the inevitable loss of my mom as I knew her. She suffers from dysphasia, an impairment of the production of speech caused by damage to the brain, and during my weekly visits I observe the inescapable decline of her fatigued, weakening body. Her mobility continues to plummet, even with the assistance of a walker. No longer interested in television or reading a book, her limitations continue to become more pronounced on a daily basis. Living in a board and care assisted living facility in my hometown, she awaits the day for a release from her persistent struggles and depression. She is waiting to die, and if she had her wish, the time would be now. Now in her 89th year, she has lived a long and full life, complete with family and friends at her side. Attempting to share a heart-to-heart conversation in her present state of mind transforms into a struggling journey. I’m sure I can’t begin to fathom the frustration she experiences, endeavoring to assemble a word or two.

Because most of us thrive on scheduling, planning, and formulating our everyday existence, accepting the unknown becomes inconceivable. But accept it we must. Value each moment you spend together with your loved ones and focus in on each interaction, no matter how small, and you will receive momentous rewards. Recently, as I sat with my mom while thumbing through a magazine, I asked, “Would you like to look through this together?” She turned to her chair-side table, picked up a booklet, and opened to an article I had written several months prior. She replied, “I just read this one over and over.” Remarkable! For her to piece together a complete sentence with such heartfelt emotion and clarity gave me a glimpse back to a more gleeful and untroubled time. The tears we shared that day will live in my heart forever, and even though she is unable to comprehend the meaning of each word and idea, she once again professed her continual love for me.

Amazingly, observing her outside battles and agitations involving mobility, speech, boredom, and perpetual exhaustion, she still possesses that same, gentle, loving spirit that encompasses her soul. That inner being is what I hold on to. We can choose how we live our lives, but not how we meet our death. I long for the day she is released from her marred, earthly body, and can once again feel that inner peace she is so accustomed to giving.

I love you, Mom. ∆

Sue Scheel is a retired office administrator who wrote for New Times in August 2011 about difficult decisions facing children of elderly parents. She wrote this piece several months ago as an emotional release. Since that time, her Mom “has ended her journey on this earth, passing away in March of this year.” Send comments to the executive editor at rmiller@newtimesslo.com.

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