Steve on the ADC site once recommended you may be a good person to talk to about this.
I have a lot of worries and anxieties still after 17 months about the interaction between my dear mother and myself before she passed and wondered if you could shed some light and tell me your thoughts on it.
My mother and I have always been very close and we had so much in common. Therefore, it seemed natural after our both divorces that we move in together and that's the way it stayed for the last 20 years or so! Seems strange, perhaps, but just the way things worked out. Anyway, as she became more seriously ill and started to lose so much weight, our relationship changed to one of arguments. Neither of us could talk about how we felt so ignored it but she changed from a very easy going person to an irritable person and I have always been quick tempered, I am ashamed to say, and so we argued a lot about nothing at all. I was becoming more and more worried about losing her but couldnt even face it even to myself so I buried it but it seemed to come out in other ways. For instance, each time she mentioned she had a new problem with her illness, I could hardly bear it, not because I couldnt be bothered with it but because the pain of adding a new illness to the mix was almost too much for me.
We went on like this until all of a sudden she was diagnosed with bowel cancer and told she must be operated on within 3 weeks. That was in March 06. Even then, although I spent hours trying to find a decent surgeon for her and looking into all aspects of the illness to try and help her, we couldnt talk about it between us. She couldnt spell out her worries about it too me and I couldnt tell her how anxious I felt about maybe losing her. So, to cut a long story short, she had the operation. I visited her every day in hospital but even then I didnt want to scare her with talking about dying or what might happen. I tried to be positive all the time and act normally. I didnt stay overnight in the hospital because I didnt know I could do. What was I thinking of? We had no help from the doctors or nurses about it. They acted as if it was "business as usual". I came and went and my mother became more frightened in the hospital and asked me to take her home. I told her it was normal for the recovery to be slow and not to worry and went home each night to feed my animals. It was a 400k round trip each day and I had to go home to feed them.
I didnt tell you, but something that worries me terribly also. On my birthday in January 06 she gave me my birthday card and she took it back hurriedly and said Oh Ive forgotten something and added to it "and thanks." I looked at it and said YOu dont have to thank me, Mum, and she said all hurriedly, Yes, I do, and changed the subject. That continues to worry me so much Ken. Was she thanking me for our lives together or for looking after her? Because it wasnt enough to just put "thanks" on the card. I would rather have had nothing. It wasnt necessary, anyway. Was it so hard for her to tell me how she felt? Had I made it so difficult for her to speak or was she always that way and I didnt realise it? I dont know what to think about thta card. Perhaps she was feeling so ill that one word was all she could say or was so frightened of leaving that she couldnt articulate it. I dont know.
Anyway, in the hospital, we never spoke about anything important. Only small talk except when she was asking me to go home. Then one day when I was leaving she told me that she would never have left HER mother in hospital like this. I drove home with the words echoing in mind and started proceedings to take her home but was told that while she was in ICU she couldt not be moved. We are in such a little town here and there are not much community health nurse supports and I thought she was better staying there. Never did I consider that she wouldnt make it, even then, although I was petrified about what was happening.
Then the day before she passed, I received a call to say she was at last taking small amounts of food and her bowel had started to work so she had turned a corner. I was overjoyed and drove down on the Thursday morning full of optimism and happiness. I ran into the ward and was greeted by my sister crying. Her bowel had blocked and the surgeon had said another operation is out of the aquestion and to prepare ourselves for the worst.
It was so terrible, Ken. The memory of it rips me open all the time. I stood there by her side all day holding her hand and smoothing her brow but saying nothing. She said nothing. She was on morphine and I thought she was unconscious. Then I managed to tell her that I would look after her little Pinky, a parrot she had had a long time and loved, and she said quite strongly I know you will! I was shocked that I had stood there all that time thinking she couldnt be spoken to and then her voice sounded strong! But did I then start to tell her how I felt? No, I stood there like a great ninny all the rest of the afternoon with my mind in chaos, numbed by the awfulness of what was happening.
Then they took away her supports and she was in pain so I asked if she could have something for the pain and the nurse said she would give her another dose of the morphine but did I realise that it would further depress her breathing? I said yes because I wanted her to be comfortable and she had still not said a word or opened her eyes. They gave it to her and within minutes she had slipped away. The nurse said I could stay with her for as long as I liked but I said no. Why did I say no? I didnt know what I was doing. I should have sat with her and not left her on her own. I didnt tell her how I felt about her or say goodbye. I could have done. Why didnt I speak to her?
Ken, if you could give me any of your wise insights about all this, I would appreciate it. I toss it over in my mind every night. It is a terrible burden.