Sixty Three

Today my mother is 63 years old. Since today is a weekday, we visited her yesterday (my parents live about midway between Ottawa and Montreal, near Cornwall, Ontario).

Unfortunately, she is not really doing terribly well. She is extremely weak, barely eats and has lost a fair bit of weight these past two weeks. She has run a fever of about 39C (102F) for the past two weeks and there is nothing to relieve it.

For the first time in the two years since she was diagnosed with cancer, she looked to me like she was dying. A person’s life can be in danger because of external threat, or the need for constant vigilance until strength returns. But this time there is no danger she can run away from or simply rest and wait until she gets stronger - her body is losing to the cancer.

Sitting with her, observing her, I could not help but feel she is close to death - despite being remarkably strong and active during the Christmas / New Year season. We saw her two weeks ago, just before she fell ill, and she looked very well.

Of course, this might all have to do with cliched ideas and imagery we often see in movies. I have little real experience with death and dying.

She lies quiet and still on the bed, sometimes emitting a weak dry cough. Her hearing is diminished and I have to speak more loudly than I did two weeks ago.. Her voice is weak and her words come slowly and she has difficulty concentrating - she even said, "Gosh, it is so hard to think." She is not on any medication and doesn't feel any pain, not even on some pretty nasty bruises she sustained from two fainting / collapsing incidents she had earlier. She could barely hold the birthday card the kids gave to her, and her hand shook so much that I had to hold it so she could read it. She wanted to sit up, and I had to hold her up because she didn’t have the strength to do so herself.

She is in definitely worse shape than I expected. I hoped seeing the kids would spur her to eat a little bit more (although she has some pretty wicked sores in her mouth and on her tongue).

She eat a little of the cake we brought (a strawberry flan) - if two small nibbles count as eating.

I told her to eat, so she can have strength, because the less she eats the weaker she will grow.

Prayers are welcome.

Comments

Richard, I really feel badly that you and your family are going through this illness with your mom. I feel that there's not really much someone can say that's truly comforting when you're going through this, but just know that someone in the U.S. is thinking of you and your family and saving a prayer for her.
Barbara said…
I am so sorry to hear about your mother. 63 sounds so young to me. I lost my own mother to this awful disease. It's so hard to watch someone die little by little. You and she are both in my prayers.
I'm so sorry you are all having to deal with this in your own ways now. It's going to be tough, especially since this is your first time. I am thinking of you and your family now and sending my prayers for all of you to get through this in the best way possible and with something to comfort you at this time. Gosh, she is only 10 years older than I am. God bless her.
Richard said…
run aroudn paris: don't save the prayer, say it.

barbara: thanks

MOI: now, 63 does not seem quite so old, but when I was a child, 63 seemed very old.

I intend to take part of the day off and visit my mother in teh hope of spurring her to take in some food.

I spoke briefly with her last night and she sounded even worse than Sunday night. I am not even sure she was fully cognizant of speaking with me. My dad told me she refused to speak with her sister yesterday.
KayMac said…
Praying for your mom and your family, my friend.
ghee said…
ohhh,thats sad Richard...
your mom and mine have the same age,my moms a year older,though...

shes still young,i may say...
hope she could recover...
ill pray for you and for her...
Sara said…
hi richard, i linked to your blog through kaymac. i am praying for your mom and your entire family today.
precious father; touch richard, his mom and all who love them. only you know your plans for her life. i ask you for mercy and grace for this time. continue to hold pain at bay and let her be cradled in peace. let her heart sing to you as her body quiets itself. be her strong tower. in your son's name. amen.
Jeez, what a dope I am...that "saving" should have been "saying." Sometimes my mind works faster than my fingers. Hope things are going well today.
Erin
Coffee fairy said…
I am saying a prayer for your mom and your family. God bless.
Colleen said…
sorry I haven't stopped in for a while. I was thinking of you and wanted to say hello. I am sorry to hear about your mom and I have already said a prayer for her. I lost my father to cancer and I know it is painful. Be thankful of the time you have spent with her and have no regrets.
Richard said…
kaymac: thank you.

ghee: it is very unlikely she will recover. The nurse said she will probably die in the next 2-4 days. At least she is dying at home, with her children around (except me, I was there yesterday and this morning - I can always be there in 1 hour, my brother and sister live much further away).
sara: thank you. My mother is not suffering.

run around paris: I assumed it was some sort of idiomatic expression. I took it to mean "reserve" instead of "hoard". Her eyes were opened and focused today. Yesterday, the one time I saw her eyes open, they were not focussed.

coffee fairy: thank you.

colleen: it has been a long time since I visited your blog as well. Thank you for your prayers. Fortunately, she is not in any pain (and she is not on any pain killers).

My mother is expected to die within the next few days. She is internally bleeding, hasn’t eaten in days and barely drinks. Today she is having difficulty swallowing. I managed to get her to take two very small sips of liquid - just enough to wet her lips and she did not want any more.

What surprises us all is how quickly she has degenerated. When I saw her Sunday, she was very weak, but it looked like a bit of rest would help her. When I spoke with he Monday, she seemed unaware of the conversation. When I saw her Tuesday, she didn’t move or talk, she only made small moans of groans to signal she was trying to communicate. The one time I saw her eyes open, they were blurry and unfocussed. This morning, her eyes were open and looked clear, she even spoke briefly to communicate requests.
I hope you're doing okay...was a lovely prayer that sara sent. My thoughts will be with you over the next little while.
Richard said…
MOI: I am fine. I had a good life with my mother and there are no regrets, nothing unsaid.
I am saddest (and my mother expressed on Sunday the same) for my kids.

Of course, it is also very hard to see my mother just lying there, dying; weak, unable to speak, to do anything for herself. Watching and waiting for the moment of death. I sat with her yesterday afternoon, holding her hand, stroking her. I did the same this morning. I will go and see her again tomorrow night and then on Friday and then weekend if necessary.

She is receiving (or should have received) Last Rites today.

She is peaceful and without pain. One thing I noticed about her expression is that it is not the typical expression of someone sleeping of resting. It has an odd look to it. I later realized it is similar to the expression newborns have. Even when she looks at you, opens her eyes, it is with the same look as a newborn.
tin-tin said…
my prayers are with her. keep the faith :)
I'm glad you're holding up so well. It does help when you know that she is not suffering in pain.
It is unfortunate for your kids to be without her. I was lucky to have mine until I was 28.

I'm sure she finds comfort that you have been with her as much as possible and that she is indeed to let go. Interesting that you say she has the look of a newborn...I guess I don't really know that look..maybe it is that circle of life coming back to beginnings....a completion thing....who knows, maybe she is ready to be reborn into the other realm.

You sound like you have been a great son to her.
Take care, Richard.
Richard said…
tin-tin thank you.

MOI: It is not literally like a new born, but it is more like a new born than I would have thought. Granted, I amy have spent too much time staring at and analyzing my own kids. The eyes are closed not to block out light, not screwed shut with effort, they are closed because that is their natural state. Yesterday, her eyes were brighter and clearer than they had been on Tuesday. The gaze was like a newborn's, not focussing on anything, seeing the world, but not terribly concerned about it - the eyes may alight on something and look at it.

How I manage to bear it depends on what I am doing. I can objectively state my mothers condition and coming death. However, I cannot describe her condition without being washed over in sorrow. I cannot think about my children, without being washed over in sorrow. Of course, then there are also moments when a thought may suddenly wash over me and fill me with sorrow. I will see how I do after she is dead.

One of the advantages of writing is that pauses are not so easily seen.

There is no question that knowing how to respond or interact with people who have some "serious" thing going on in their life (illness, death, job-loss, etc) is difficult. I suspect part of that is because people, in general, interact automatically. They respond and behave according to behaviours and interactions they have learned over the years. Dropping a major event into their lives, leaves them not knowing how to respond because they do not have the necessary protocol. (Now, in cultures were death is quite common, they have a protocol.)

From my point of view, just treat the person as a person. Treat it as an aspect of the person, like their hair colour. You wouldn’t focus on a person having red hair would you? Or do your best to avoid it?

My mother said that what she disliked most about having cancer was people coming and praying over her, or talking about nothing but cancer and the latest medical breakthroughs. (Incidentally, for all the money that has been spent on cancer research these past 35+ years - hundreds of billions - we have shockingly little progress to show for it ... but that is another rant)
You are probably right...she no longer has the need to be terribly concerned with the world now that she knows what is to come, so that becomes her natural state, eyes becoming more and more closed to this world. She is no doubt more accepting and at peace with her fate.

I suppose no one knows how they will deal with loss of a close one during or afterwards. We learn by experience and if we have none, (like me)we don't quite know how to respond. I suspect I'd be an openly emotional mess for quite awhile.

And it's so true, our culture doesn't know what to say or do. I think, by all accounts, that people who are very sick just want to be treated as they would before they got sick. They just want to feel normal for as long as possible.

Writing would let you write objectively and I know it would help me get used to the reality. It has taken me quite a bit of writing and talking to get it through my head that I have a major heart problem...it just seemed so surreal at first..but I guess...no,know it really happened.

You and your family will help each other deal with and assimilate all that's happened.

Take care of each other.
b said…
Richard, your mother is certainly in my thoughts and will continue to be, as will you and your family.

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