This is a topic about which I’ve been thinking for some time, but dared not author a post about it until now.
I wanted Mom to die. When I saw her quality of life dissolve in a matter of 2 weeks, when I saw her bed bound, when she no longer could read a book, when she lost all independence and privacy, when I invaded her personal space by washing her and diapering her, I wanted her to die. When I knew she was conscious and oriented as to her surroundings and what was happening, I wanted her to die. When I had to hurt her pride by attaching an alarm to her so she wouldn’t attempt to get out of bed without my knowing, I wanted her to die. When I left the room, I’d hoped that she’d be gone when I returned. When on the day before her death, she struggled to lift her head from her pillow saying “I have to get up,” and I knew she never would again, I wanted her to die. During her last few hours, when her body was struggling to find oxygen, when her coloring was worsening, I wanted her to die; had her faith not condemned it, I would have considered measures to help her.
The conflicting emotions that this death wish causes are evident. But I’m reminded of Mom’s words when I initially confirmed her diagnosis with her doctor in early January. Mom had already decided to decline all treatment (it would have bought her a month, at best). I came out to see her, began to cry, and she asked gently: “Was that the doctor?” I said yes. She came to me, hugged me, asked if I’d conveyed to him the no-treatment decision. Her words – repeated frequently after that as well – were “You’d do the same thing I’m doing. You’d do exactly the same thing.” I know that if it had been me who was the patient, and Mom the caregiver, she, too, would have wanted me to die.
I know that my wish for her to die did not diminish my love and respect for her, and won’t lessen my pain now that she’s gone. But it’s not my bedridden Mom I miss. It’s my bridge-playing, Obama-loving, Lehrer Report-watching, bread & breadstick-baking Mom that I miss. And she died in mid-March.