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A Wish for Mother's Day

This Mother's Day I'll wish for something a tad unusual: I'll hope for my mother to die. She would want it that way.

I recognize this wish is unusual, and most people don't understand it. I certainly don't speak this wish aloud very often, though I think it nearly every day. That's because my mother has been on the verge of dying for years. She has progressive multiple sclerosis and suffers from dementia. The last time I spoke with her, she was completely unintelligible. Her body is contorted in an odd shape and she's unable to move; her mind doesn't remember those who love her. And yet, she hangs on in a nursing home, under the care of hospice, eating or sipping one to two bites of food a day -- enough to keep her body alive. No one can say for sure when D-Day will come.

In her younger days, she would tell me often how she wanted to die. She wanted it quick. She didn't want to suffer from a long disease or to be kept alive like her ill mother had been. She supported euthanasia, and had it been legal in her state of residence, I've got no doubt that she would have gone that way. Instead, she languishes, and I'm unable to fulfill her wish. It seemed so simple when I was a teen and she'd talk about dying. Who knew at the time that a DNR would not be enough? Who knew that we should have spelled out every medicine she could be given and whether she wanted it or not? Who knew how difficult, expensive and impractical it would be to let her die at home?

Other moms celebrating today will also have such bittersweet moments. Maybe their mother has Alzheimer's or another debilitating disease. Maybe their mother has died. So, when my kids give me their homemade presents and give me their wonderful hugs, I'll feel like the luckiest mom. And I'll wish my mom could have seen what terrific grandkids she has.

What about you? Is Mother's Day all joy or bittersweet?

Recall: Evenflo Embrace Car Seat Is a Fall Hazard

By Stacey Garfinkle |  May 11, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Relationships
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The night my father passed away, after a long battle with terminal cancer, I prayed that he would die. It's so hard to watch someone you love suffer, especially when there's nothing you can do. You feel helpless.

Happy Mother's Day, Stacey. Here's hoping your wish comes true.

Posted by: Mike | May 11, 2007 8:49 AM | Report abuse

This blog brought tears to my eyes. I hope that you and your mom get your wish. I feel for both of you. We wouldn't let a pet suffer that way, yet we force people to "live" in that agony. It's my parents' fear too.

Posted by: Vienna | May 11, 2007 8:53 AM | Report abuse

hear hear.
I know just what you are saying. What immense hypocrisy--we let animals die peacefully, but if you have the misfortune of being some semblance of a human you must suffer.
Hopefully your mother is sufficiently impaired at this point that she does not really "know" what's happening to her.

Posted by: aging mom | May 11, 2007 9:24 AM | Report abuse hard as it is, try to remember the good times as I'm sure your Mom would want. I too hope your wishes come true and that your mom's suffering ends soon. Happy Mother's Day to you!

Posted by: HappyDad | May 11, 2007 9:28 AM | Report abuse

I really understand your mother's day wish as I am in an identical situation. My mother's health deteriorates even as her mental faculties are sharp. She has given up all her possessions and is ready to depart. It is painful for me to watch as she waits for the end and I pray everyday for her end to be swift and painless. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: Prema | May 11, 2007 9:31 AM | Report abuse

It was a shock to read the opening sentence of your blog today, mainly because this has been my prayer for almost six years. My mother has been locked inside of her body almost that long. She is partially paralyzed, bed ridden, fed through a stomach tube, aphasic, and living in a nursing home. The cruelest thing is that her mind still functions. I know this because of the clarity of understanding in her eyes and facial expressions. Always a beautiful woman, she is still lovely at 80. My mother was a woman who could talk on the phone for hours, now she cannot form a simple sentence. Thankfully she is not angry or bitter about her condition. She smiles and participates in every visit as much as she can. Momma was a diva before the word was coined. The littlest ache or pain and she was dying. Daddy used to call her Betty -- as in Betty Davis! After Daddy's death -- more than 20 years before her stroke -- dying was in her daily conversation. Unfortunately we do not die until God is ready for us, so she lives on. The nursing home staff has told me that she has defied all records insofar as length of time in a nursing home is concerned. She receives remarkable care from people who feel like family. I too hope to celebrate Mother's Day receiving homemade gifts and hugs and kisses from my husband, our son, his wife, and our three granddaughters. I will also visit my mother and tell her how much I love her. Maybe this will be the year when God will be ready for her.

Posted by: RPStew | May 11, 2007 9:40 AM | Report abuse

My mother died suddenly 30 years ago, in a car crash while she was returning home. My father, myself and my younger brother were finally contacted (we were away from the phone on another part of the farm) and rushed to the hospital. She was writhing in agony (broken back, internal injuries) while the doctors and staff tried to stabilize her.

The doctors decided to transfer her to a better hospital 30 miles away, and my father rode with her in the ambulance while I drove my brother back home (I was 16).

And we waited. Waited for the phone to ring, not knowing if it would be good news or bad.

It was bad. My father, sounding centuries older than he was, told us she had died on the way to the hospital and they could not revive her. He asked me to call her parents and his brothers, and my two grown siblings, and tell them the news.

I did it. I don't know how I managed, but I called 8 different times, and told them each time that my mother had died just hours before.

My wife also had her mother die suddenly last year from a ruptured colon. She got a call around 8:00 pm that she was in the hospital, then another call at 10:00 pm that she was in critical condition (at which time we began making emergency plans to fly to her), and at midnight got a call that she had died.

Her father wasted away in a nursing home, and while my wife had time to see him before he died, she felt the same way Stacey does about her mother, that it would be best if he just went ahead and died. Eventually he did, in his sleep.

Posted by: John L | May 11, 2007 9:51 AM | Report abuse

I hate mother's day. 4 miscarriages, 1 live premature birth after which my baby died. 1 failed ivf. 1 big failure -- me.

I should be happy that my own mother is alive and well. I'm trying to find the good side.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 11, 2007 10:41 AM | Report abuse

to 10:41 - you are not a failure. You are NOT a failure. You are NOT A FAILURE.


Posted by: dlm79 | May 11, 2007 11:00 AM | Report abuse

I hate mother's day. 4 miscarriages, 1 live premature birth after which my baby died. 1 failed ivf. 1 big failure -- me.

Posted by: | May 11, 2007 10:41 AM

Well, it sounds like you're trying everything you can and doing everything in your power. It's a little harsh to call yourself a failure, no?

Posted by: Bob | May 11, 2007 11:03 AM | Report abuse

To 10:41 AM
I hope that you are healing. Even though I don't know you, I can pray for you.

Me, I'm adopted. Sometimes on Mother's Day, I get sad too. I wonder where my birthmother is, what she is like, and if she's even still alive. I wish I could have met her.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 11, 2007 11:23 AM | Report abuse

I hate mother's day. 4 miscarriages, 1 live premature birth after which my baby died. 1 failed ivf. 1 big failure -- me.

I should be happy that my own mother is alive and well. I'm trying to find the good side.

YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE!" I don't know you so it may be meaningless coming from me but you aren't. Good luck!

Posted by: pATRICK | May 11, 2007 11:31 AM | Report abuse

"I'm trying to find the good side."

What is the purpose of suffering?

Like when I held my daughter for hours as she screamed - they called it collic. If I could have given her a pill to end it, I would have.
Like every women suffers through the birth, delivery and recovery of their children.

The good is that it gives us a greater capacity to love, and in loving others, we discover the meaning of life.

Posted by: Father of 4 | May 11, 2007 11:48 AM | Report abuse

As my mom watched her mother die slowly from Alzheimers--it took nearly 20 years, of which 15 years in a vegetative state--mom made me promise her she wouldn't suffer the same fate.

And she won't, should it come to that. Laws be damned. I've done all my research from the Hemlock Society. You should too.

Posted by: Phillyfilly | May 11, 2007 11:49 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: Michael M | May 11, 2007 12:16 PM | Report abuse

My mom's final hours were tough - but we all knew it was coming (ovarian cancer). the end was quick though.

My DH and I have signed medical powers of attorney (health directives?) that indicate we want to die rather than live in a vegetative state/hooked up to tubes, etc.

That's about all one can do...

Posted by: atlmom | May 11, 2007 1:44 PM | Report abuse

My day with my sons will be wonderful. It always is, and they are the greatest joy in my life.

To the anonymous 10:41 post - I'm so sorry for your situation. I spent 10 years trying for the first baby, and the second took *only* five years. At least when my miscarriage happened it was after my sons' births.

It is really, REALLY hard to want a baby and not be able to have one.

Yes, I'm ignoring my own mother... Sigh. Physically, she's incredibly healthy, and will probably live even longer than her own mother, who turned 100 in January. But I wish my mother would die too. She's bipolar (or schizophrenic - pick your doctor and diagnosis) and she's just plain mean. My father, sisters and brother, and our families would all have more fun together, and see each other much more often if we didn't have to be around her.

Posted by: Sue | May 11, 2007 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Interesting take on Mother's Day, but I do understand it and completely agree that we should be able to choose to die.

Mothers Day is amusing and bitter sweet. I saw a lot of confused dads in the grocery store last week and was sadly amused that they couldn't be expected to do it as a regular thing.

I love my mom and will hate it when she dies, but I still take our time for granted.

Posted by: Liz D | May 14, 2007 4:21 PM | Report abuse

I know what you mean. My father had multi-infarct dementia and the person who was my dad was gone 2 years before he died of complications of Parkinson's, after being bed-bound for 2-1/2 years. It was terrible watching him at the times that he was aware that he had lost so much of himself to the dementia, to see how frightened and angry he was. Mom and I were joint care-takers and he spent all but his last week at home. But, when Mom decided to have a feeding tube inserted about a year before he died, I really, really wished she hadn't. It was important to her to keep her husband's body alive, but for me, my dad had been gone a long time.
I agree, we should have the right to choose in some circumstances, as with Oregon's present law. I have talked with my sons about this issue several times, and I surely don't want them to think keeping a body alive without the person inside is important. I think they have mixed feelings, and I know we'll have to talk about this again, as I am now approaching 70 and the issues are sure to arise.

Posted by: klipvm | May 15, 2007 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Stacey I understand what you are saying. While I can't experience you are feeling my husband and I prayed every morning and every evening for two years that his mom would not live through the day or the night. She was not able to voice her needs, she spoke only when spoken to--even by the parrott, didn't know who anyone was including my husband who had been her caregiver for 9 years, and had many diseases. This once proud, delightful, nurturing mom would never have wanted her life to end over the length of time that it did. We felt sadness, but mostly joy, when she died.
My mom, on the other hand, died very suddenly of a heart attack, her first, on the day that she retired. She had a checkup on Tuesday, was fine, and Thursday at noon she was dead, not sick, just sitting on a couch and died. She was young, 61, and the feelings were the opposite of those we experienced with mom-in-law.
I have also experienced 4 miscarriages, one alone at 16, one on my 24th birthday, and a set of twins six days apart onChristmas Day and New Year's Eve. I would wake and hear babies crying in the night over and over for years. After years of testing and trying, we found I had two uteruses (uteri?) which an OB/GYN doc reconstructed into one, and I safely delivered 3 children. YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE-YOU ARE FULLY HUMAN AND FEELING IT.
Yeah, Mother's Day is bittersweet. I enjoy my 3 live children, but I MISS SO MUCH that I ache ( and cry once in while) for MY mom, Bill's mom before she got sick, and for my children who I refer to as "the children of my heart."
I believe in Heaven and I have the hope of reunion again some day.

Posted by: OklahomaMom | May 15, 2007 11:00 AM | Report abuse

What a great lesson you gave others on this list. A DNR is NOT enough, there must also be a living will with durable power of attorney appointed, and most who deal with these on a daily basis will tell people to spell out exactly what they want and do not want, including food, water, IV's, medicines, and disease treated or not to be.
I'm 51 and I have had one since I was 40. I have worked intensive care over 20 years and what happens there is sickening sometimes.

Posted by: Gratefultoyou | May 15, 2007 11:09 AM | Report abuse

I understand totally- my 86 year old mother in law has dementia- she doesn't appear to recognize anyone or speak intelligently. Add to this diabetes which she developed at the age of 85 and a broken pelvis (her bones were so weak that she broke it rolling over in bed) that will not heal and surgery is not an option because her bones are so weak. We are not doing anything extrordinary- but how long can this go on?

Posted by: Chicago | May 16, 2007 12:29 AM | Report abuse

My mother has been seriously handicapped her entire life and with one arm to use (and not much of it at that). The last ten years have been rough in terms of her mobility but she's been able to manage a dozen steps. Last year she fell and broke her leg. After that, not even a step is possible.

The day my mother fell, I sank into a depression from which I have not come out. She spent 2 months in rehab after the fall, trying to walk unsuccessfully. A nursing home to my mother is like Africa to an Eskimo. The best nursing home, the most wonderful staff - it's still not home; no privacy, no dignity and your needs are barely met - at their convenience.

She moved home after 2 months in an electric wheelchair and I barely slept in the following months, waiting for the call that she'd fallen again.

I prayed a million times that she would die.

In September I got a gift. My mother was diagnosed with end-stage cancer. She may have a few more months to go yet, but thankfully she will never have to live in a nursing home. She will just die. We should all be that lucky.

Posted by: H. Breashears | May 28, 2007 8:56 PM | Report abuse

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