Two days before my dad died, my mom finally asked for help. His hospice nurse recommended a recliner for him so that he could elevate his feet and legs, which were causing him excruciating pain.
I had visited them that day before the nurse arrived, and Dad couldn't get comfortable. When my mom helped him shift his legs, he yelped. He said, "I need Mom to move my legs more, but it's going to make me scream. I'm going to scream!"
Was he warning me? Or asking permission? I said, "Dad, screaming is good. Get it out. It's okay."
Later that day, when D and I brought over the chair, it was terribly hard to move him into the new chair. Despite the morphine, the pain just shot through him. But immediately upon landing in the chair, he felt some relief. He was in shock and exhausted from the effort. He said, "Please don't laugh at me. Please don't laugh at me. Please don't laugh at me."
"Dad, there's no laughing happening here. Just loving." I went behind the chair and put my hand softly over his heart. I was avoiding hugging him because hugs were making him angry. But I put my hand on his heart -- from behind, so that he didn't have to see me.
He died yesterday afternoon. In the wheelchair that they brought over for him Wednesday. My mother wouldn't let my brother or me come up to be with her. She kept saying, "He died in the wheelchair. It doesn't look happy. I don't think you want to see this."
I wasn't worried about what I would see. I wanted to be there for her.
Later, my brother had a last phone call with her -- after the funeral people came to pick up his body. She told him again that she wanted to be alone. She said that my dad died in a peaceful moment when there weren't people fussing over him, and she was grateful for that.
I'm not sure what I feel. Part of me has grieved enough -- for a long time -- so I'm feeling some ease that his struggle is over.
It does make me very sad to witness how difficult it is to show love in my family. My parents' pride has made this journey very lonely for all of us. But recently I became aware of how foundational their pride and stubborness really is. There would be no melting of it. Even in his last days, they were ever more vigilant in doing it all themselves and not allowing us kids (44 and 41) to see any pain or mess.
This morning my mother said, "You can come over today, Cathy, but I need to warn you that I am not at my best."
When is it going to be okay to just be? To feel feelings? To just accept what's going on and be in the middle of it without shame? My mother truly would prefer to just be alone for the rest of her life, I think. It's painful for her to be near people who love her. It's painful when things aren't perfect and the house is messy. She can't handle having any one help.
Should I stay away so that I don't cause her any more pain? Or do I go up and just be with her because I want to?