It has been less than thirty days since my mother died. She followed my father by a little over four months. The odd thing is that I wrote about the differences in their deaths several months before they happened and was strangely prophetic. In my post Death After Life I wrote about my fathers impending death from Parkinson’s Disease. Four months later he died just the way I thought and hoped he would.
Several months ago I wrote one titled Que Sera about the fear I had over how my mother would probably die. Those fears were realized when she passed away last month.
You would think that by knowing these events were looming that I would be prepared for the aftermath. In writing this I hope that I can help others know what to expect when faced with similar circumstances.
With my father it wasn’t the way he died that I had trouble dealing with. It was the fact that it was my decision to let him go. Although he had a living will that specified what was to be done, for months I wrestled with the guilt that it was I, his caregiver, that made the decision to stop feeding him and let him go.
This was what was stipulated in his living will. This was what he wanted and I knew that the guilt I was carrying from the irrational thought of I “killed” him was ridiculous yet it was there. As time crawled by rational thought returned.
We knew when Daddy was going to die almost to the day. It was a peaceful and glorious event to witness and I thank God that I was able to be a part of it. In turn we knew that Mom was going to die soon. My siblings and I actually spoke about it just days before to the extent that hospice was the topic.
We had worried that Mom was going to be a stroke victim and languish for months in a vegetative state. All the ingredients were there. Even Mom had told us that she wanted to die suddenly…” dead before I hit the floor” was the way she wanted to go.
Both my parents were devoted Christians and neither had any fear of death. Well she wasn’t dead before she hit the floor but it was close to it. For about fifteen minutes I struggled frantically to keep Mom alive and when she lost consciousness I just held her and prayed out loud…”Father THY will be done”…because it was then out of my hands.
Hear is the dilemma I now face. When we were at Mom’s doctor several months prior I had asked for every tool possible to keep Mom alive when the next attack occurred. One of those tools were Epi-Pens, an injection of epinephrine into the thigh as a last resort. The doctor told me then that the use of the Pen would either save her life or kill her.
Mom died just a few minutes after I gave her the injection.
So here I sit again. The same feelings of guilt. I know that rationally it was a situation wherein death was inevitable. I also know that if I had chose not to use the pen I would constantly believe that I failed to do everything in my power to save her. I even know that she was prepared and ready, maybe even wanted, to die.
But I was not prepared for the aftershocks. I was not prepared for the fact that since I had been their sole caregiver for seven years that in fifteen minutes my entire life would change. It’s not just mourning the loss of my parents. It is the loss of my way of life.
Every minute of every day was structured around their care and then immediately your purpose and function in life are gone. Again I knew that was going to be a problem. I had written before that being an end of life care giver was a temporary position.
When you are familial care giver you are never prepared for the day that comes when you realize you are done. The only thing you can do is deal with it and apparently that takes time.