The sons and daughters drove to Indiana, Pennsylania for the Thanksgiving holiday to see our 86-year old mother and tell her how thankful we were that she is still with us. Our mother who now, rather suddenly, sits largely alone in her favorite chair and states simply that she wants to die. There are no histrionics or tears. She quietly and stoically explains that it is “that time” or at least she wants it to be. That she is tired of waiting and is more than ready to go. She admits that she prays for her end daily. We try to cope with this morbid lack of willingness or desire to engage in much of anything. This sad end of things as we’ve known them forever. The spirited woman who would cheer on everyone else to do whatever they needed to do in this world…is now out of energy, despondent, and resigned. Conversation must be initiated and goosed along. She no longer wants to read, listen to music, watch the tv, or go to her beloved church. She does not want to leave her private room in the personal care home (which thankfully is clean and quiet and pleasant enough — with caring staff). She used to talk anyone’s ear off – now she just looks at you and agrees or sighs. All the things that she was doing with gusto a relatively short time ago have no attraction for her now. She seems to just be waiting, and discouraged that the wait is so long. Her only prayer is to leave this realm and join her husband in heaven. But her physical health is so good that she does not expire. Although because she does not want to be very active at all..it is now harder for her to get out of her chair when she needs to. Her legs get weak and stiff from inactivity.
We try hard to animate and encourage and distract…we try to make her smile or even laugh…something she loved doing and was so easy for her. She would utilize her great sense of humor to make a room and everyone in it come to life. She did that for years in this very place when she would come to visit others. We don’t know how much of this is from medication and how much it is from feeling alone, although she does go three times a day to the dining room to be with others. And she does have a fair appetite still. Our frustration is how little medical personnel want to COMMUNICATE anything with anyone about these patients…we really have to push and plead. I want to try a period of decreasing or cutting entirely her antidepressants / anti-anxiety medications – something she never used or needed her entire life. They claim she needs these or she will worry excessively. As I’m seeing it, though, my mother could not be more out of it and disheartened than she is, so trying to wean from these is worth the experiment. That’s the latest thing we are nagging them about from afar. The latest little trial balloon for our mother in this final chapter of her life. We just would like for her to go out having a bit of fun…and savoring life the way she always did. We don’t want miracles…just a spark.