Thursday, March 5, 2015

The End

My mother was finally able to die on Wednesday night, Day 17. I had called to check in and when nobody answered the phone, I suspected something must have happened. My father called a little while later to tell me that the end had come at last.

When I called and no one picked up the phone, it was my mother's voice on the answering machine.

Thanks to everybody for all your kind comments on the first post. There are a lot of private family things we have to do in the next days, but I will be back at this blog next week to document more of what happened while it is still very fresh in my memory, and then to continue my education on this topic. For now, here is some more about what happened in an earlier post.

My mother loved cats (she hallucinated about seeing cats at the end), and she was a fan of all the LOLCats, both Latin and Shakespearean. Here is one with a line from Macbeth:

Let me enfold thee and hold thee to my heart.


  1. Laura,

    I wanted to wait until I could be fully with you here before making contact. As I struggle with my own health that has been difficult in the last while, but I am here today.

    I read your posts and the thing that keeps ringing in my ears is: she deserved better than this. I have seen my own dear aunty starve herself to death and a very dear friend also only 3 months ago. They deserved better than this. In the case of my friend, doctors kept treating until he demanded that treatment stopped. At least he had his mind intact to demand, as did my aunty.

    I praise your courage in thinking about educating yourself about issues of dying with dignity as a response to your pain. It is enough we have to deal with our grief in loss, something can be done about unnecessary suffering and so often it is not.

    I belong to a charity here in the UK called Friends at the End that campaigns for a change in legislation to support assisted dying. I also am a member of Dignitas in Switzerland. I have what we call here in the UK an Advance Decision drafted to ensure my wishes are respected should I not be in a position express them. I have a welfare power of attorney appointed legally for the same purposes. The charity I belong to helps people set all this up. The sad part is that, even with all of that in place, healthcare professionals often do not respect he dying person's wishes. At least not here in the UK.

    I lost my first husband in my late 20s. Life made me aware very early about all of these issues. A great taboo in our culture: talking openly about how we want to die and supporting our loved ones in dying as they would wish. Here we now have something emerging called Death Cafes - places where people can come and openly talk about all these issues. There is such a thing a death midwifes - non-religious people who help people die. I have a page in Scoop it where I collect material for my charity. It may offer something to support your grief:

    May we all be free from pain and suffering. You are in my thoughts.

    1. Oh Mariana, THANK YOU for all this information. Once again, you are teaching me so much. One of the very good things about hospice was the way that they very much want to help with both the spiritual and the physical aspects of dying, helping people who are not ready to go (although my mother was very ready), and also helping people who are not ready to let go (this was very hard for my father). I had never heard of Death Cafes before, so I will keep an eye out for that or anything like it as I embark on my new self-education.

  2. Laura, I've tried to impress upon my children and Rob what I want to be done for me (DNR, no embalming, organ donation, cremation, ashes divided and done with as the recipient chooses). I hope that my loved ones would have enough love for me that you have have for your mother. You allowed her so much autonomy in this and I can only hope for the same for myself should it come to that.

    1. My mother made that easy with her own strength of will, that's for sure. We'll never know exactly why my mother chose just the day that she did to stop eating, but she was absolutely and completely clear about that choice, and given all the medical hardship she had faced over the years, I don't think anyone questioned her decision. Their very sweet housekeeper was the only one who found it very hard to understand, and she even went and bought some Ensure and brought it to the house, hoping that it could help make my mother better. After a while, though, she also realized that my mother was going to die, and they had some very tender moments together at the end; it meant a lot to my mother knowing that she was going to keep on being there to help my dad with the house. In all those ways, I was really glad we were able to reassure my mother that we were all okay, that we loved her so much and would miss her so much, but that she didn't have to worry, that we were all okay.

  3. I am so sorry Laura, my heart goes out to you. I am not sure that I can ever read everything that you wrote about it but I think I know how you feel. My mother died two years ago and while the memory of the last days is still very difficult, I am so grateful that I was able to be there for her.