As Mom got older, it got harder to have those meaningful conversations that I remember having with her as a child. Death was no stranger in our house as I grew up–faith and spiritual beliefs that the soul is eternal were comforting and made conversations simple when faced with a death in the family. Those easy conversations got harder as she got older. She faced multiple diagnosis, and she was slowly losing that fierce independence that I admired, and she cherished.
She reconnected with her college sweetheart, and he became her live-in caregiver and fiancée. I tried many times to talk with Mom about what the future might look like, but it was not a topic she would willingly discuss particularly in front of her fiancée. His beliefs didn’t match with hers, and I think there was some denial and dementia, which made it a challenge to have a meaningful conversation.
In the year before her passing, Mom had changed her Advance Directive 3 times, and never shared her wishes with me. She changed her Health Care Agent each time, and according to her doctor, she had different wishes depending on who was in the room with her. It could’ve been a complete nightmare, but I was blessed that she did not lose her ability to guide her own care. When she appointed me her surrogate, I knew I would do whatever she wanted, since she still had the ability to communicate. While other loved ones had their own opinions about what she should do, I supported her completely with whatever she decided. Once she realized that I would honor her wishes, she started sharing with me that she was ready and just wanted to be peaceful and comfortable. She expressed concerns with me that I made sure to follow about who could visit and how long they could stay. She made sure to express her feelings about tube feeding and what made her happy. I made a poster with the pearls of wisdom about Mom’s care so that when she was no longer able to express herself, the nurses and staff would know what mattered to her if I was not there.
Mom passed peacefully while on hospice in a beautiful skilled nursing facility. The staff on shift came by to pay their respects and thank me for writing her wishes so that they were able to respect and honor her the way she wanted. I am so thankful that I was able to do that for her, but I do wish we had talked more when she was healthy and not during her time of crisis. Those conversations we were finally able to have helped to heal the relationship between a mother and daughter who didn’t always see eye-to-eye.
I am thankful that I was able to follow her wishes, but I am even more thankful that she was able to tell me those wishes, so I could honor her.