Saying Goodbye For the Last Time

My mother died peacefully at the age of 96 on February 5th. It wasn’t unexpected. In fact, we thought we would lose her before Christmas. Between the end of October and mid-December, she’d fought off a mild case of COVID and three bouts of pneumonia. The body can only take so much punishment.

Growing old is a privilege denied to many, but growing old is also difficult. After my father passed suddenly following a fall in 2019, my sister and I realized that Mom wasn’t coping well. She was acting strange, saying stuff that made no sense, and becoming paranoid. My sister, a nurse, suspected there was something more at play. She was right.

A visit to the Emergency Room revealed that Mom had a serious bladder infection. According to medical experts, “a UTI places stress on the body and any type of stress, physical or emotional, can cause an older adult to become confused. For those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, a UTI can make dementia temporarily worse.” I wasn’t aware of the fact that infections in the elderly affected their minds. But, as the days passed, I realized that not only did my mother have a UTI, she was suffering from delusions and hallucinations that only got worse over time. Not only had I lost my father, I was losing my mother one day at a time.

After the UTI was treted, she seemed fine and went home, but it wasn’t long before we realized that while her body had healed, her mind hadn’t. Shs made up fantastic, completely fasle stories about the neighbors, even called 911 once, claiming the neighbor’s house was on fire and he’d locked the family inside–all in her mind. Then, she started to hear voices speaking to her on an imaginary line, music that nevert stopped, and noises that we could neither find nor resolve. Then, she started fearing for her life. My sister suspected the worse, and we were back in the ER. The UTI was back with a vengeance. Sadly, that was the beginning of the end.

Mom’s delusions grew worse, and she became violent, accusing people of trying to kill her, trying to assault her, trying to steal from her. We knew she couldn’t go home in that state, so we managed to find an emergency placement in a retirement home. Her mind continued its downward spiral. She wouldn’t leave the room, didn’t want to eat, and a gereatric psychiatrist was called in. Testing revealed that she was no longer compitent to take care of herself. Her delusional world had taken control of her reality.

Having had heart issues for years, because she wouldn’t walk or get out of the chair, her ankles ballooned and then she got fluid in her lungs and aroud her heart. Another trip to the ER and admission to deal with her physical symptoms. They started medication for the mental issues, but those meds were slow acting. When we visited each day, we never knew whether she would be angry, agitated, or calm. I went to see her one morning, and in her mind, my eldest son had died. I had a hard time telling her he was fine, but the delusion was strong. Even after they video chatted, she wasn’t convinced.

It was apparent that she needed more than a retirement home. On the day that COVID shut everything down, she was transferred to a nursing home in a small village 40 minutes away from where I live. At first, we could only visit using the phone while she sat behind glass. That Christas and Easter, we all visited from the park under her window.

As time passed, we were able to visit with her outside. Her mind didn’t improve, but while her delusions continued, they were passive–other than the fact that people had blown up her house because she’d informed on them to the police. One problem solved. If you believe your house is gone, you stop wanting to go home.

She gradually settled into the routine of the home, developing a fondness for BINGO and painting. We would visit twice a week, and once she could go out, she would go to my sister’s for Sunday dinner each week as well. That was the pattern we followed until this week. Some visits, she was good, her mind sharp, at others she was in la-la land, making up stoiries, usually involving self-delusions of grandeur. It was hard to watch her go farther and farther down the rabbit hole. I can’t count the number of times she had me dead or at death’s door.

This last year was the hardest. It seems each time we saw her, she was losing ground. Eating became difficult, chewing and swalloing too much effort, so she lost weight, which resulted in her getting more frail. She slept most of the time, even when we were there. Each time I went, I wondered how much longer she could endure the loss of dignity and vitality. In her right mind, she would never have wanted that.

On Friday when we went to the home, the writig was on the wall. Once more, she was deeply aslepp, but she wasn’t waking up this time. The doctor deemed her palliative and put the necessary orders in place for her comfort. The priest was called and she was givine the last rites. The bedside vigil began with everyone who coud come to see her doing so.

This time, when I I said goodbye, I knew she wouldn’t respond. I bent and kissed her warm cheek. She was in a better place, with my father. It was hard knowing that I wouldn’t see her again, but it was also a relief, knowing that her ordeal was over.

This is the way I want to reemeber her. Happy and smiling, thrilled with the publication of my first book, Mom was a lady in every sense of the word. Losing her and my father has left a void in my life, one I intend to fill with my writing. I always thought my imagination was something I’d inherited from my father, but I think some of it may have come from her. I intend to use snippets of some of her stories in the books I’ll write this year. What better tribute could I give her?

Don’t forget to check out the ABB’s book bundles including Unforgettable Guardians: Bodyguards and Defenders. We couldn’t let her read that one. LOL She’d have thehome crawling with vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, and whatever else I’d incorpoared in The Guardian.

Memories of better times bring comfort. Fortunately, I have many good memories of both of my parents. Goodbye, Mom. You will be missed.

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About Susanne Matthews

I'm a retired high school English teacher turned author. I'm Canadian. My husband and I have been married 48 years and have 3 children and 5 grandchildren, as well as 2 step-grandchildren.  I enjoy traveling, especially somewhere warm in winter.

3 Replies to “Saying Goodbye For the Last Time”

  1. Susanne, I am deeply sorry that your mom passed and that she had such sad problems at the end of her life. I had a similar experience and recall the helplessness a daughter and the rest of the family felt at the end.
    I love your mom’s smiling photo and it made me smile too. She was a beautiful woman.
    Sending heartfelt hugs.

    • Thanks, Susan. People who haven’t had to go through it don’t know how hard it is. My sister and I did the best we could for her. Just happy that she’s now in a better place..

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