Letting Go of Your Mother
“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.”
― Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
“How are you?” I asked.
“Oh, fine, fine,” she said. Then: “Old. Old and brittle. Too old,” grimacing.
Though a screen cannot compare to personal contact, I could tell something had changed. There was something in her eyes that hadn’t been there before. A quiet despair. Just for a moment, then it was gone.
I recognized my mother again, with her — often inappropriate — flippant way.
“Well, it comes to us all, right?” she shrugged, “What can you do?”
I nodded, unsure what to say when she added: “I want to talk to you about euthanasia.”
For a moment, I felt winded.
Outside, the wind picked up.
I like to think I listened. Nodded at the right moments. Registered the message. Took it seriously. And felt relief when she said: “Not yet.”
“You will tell me, right?” I asked, “When you feel the time has come? You know I’ll be there.”
“And sit at my bedside for two weeks watching me die?” she scoffed. “You really don’t have to.”
“Still,” I said, “I’d like to know.”
“Our mothers always remain the strangest, craziest people we’ve ever met.”
― Marguerite Duras
We had a pleasantly light conversation after that. I could tell she enjoyed it and so did I. I told myself — and her — once again that I’d do better, and reach out more often, realizing I might not have that much time left.
After we’d signed off, I set myself to my work, but had some trouble concentrating. Husband came in. We sat down with coffee and the news.
Before we’d become too engulfed in the troubles of the world, I had to share my feelings with the one person I knew would understand how I felt. Though our mothers and their situations weren’t the same, I knew he could relate.
How do you cope when your mother contemplates having her life ended?
You need to be supportive and you want to be, but there’s a nagging feeling as well, an unwillingness to part with someone who has long been the most important person in your life. (The threat of) Losing your mother changes your life forever.
Somehow, you expect your mother to live forever — a selfish thought. Indeed, I know better. When my mother-in-law died, a part of my Husband died with her. I can very well imagine. His mother was an amazing woman who always saw the sunny side of life and knew how to enjoy it, unlike anyone I ever met. She was a good friend — my additional mother. I miss her as well. Learning to cope with her loss has proven to be quite a process both of us seem to have started only recently.
I can barely imagine a life without my mother.
Though we have seen little of each other lately because of our move to the North and because of COVID-19 limitations, I find comfort in the knowledge she’s there. We’ve had quite the ride together. We’ve been each other’s crutches and each other’s best friends. Yet though we’re similar, we couldn’t be more different. I see much of her face in my mirror nowadays.
We’ve said our goodbyes three times now — on two occasions her heart failed her and once she ended the hospital treatment, that wasn’t helping her anymore. It was emotional, hearing the doctors explain that from now on, they could only keep her ‘comfortable’. We moved her into a hospice at her request and prepared for the end. She outstayed her hospice period and moved into a care facility, somehow more resilient than ever. The lack of medication actually improved her health. There were a few minor scares, but that’s all they were. It has been 5 Christmases and 5 birthdays since her first heart failure. She never expected to live this long.
It’s not that she doesn’t want to go on living.
With her heart functioning at 50% she’s fitter than ever, going out every day, doing most of her own shopping, using her rollator for balance. My mother finds distraction in Netflix, books and puzzles. There are people looking out for her. She learned to be digital and communicate with me through her own senior’s tablet, which she loves. She watches YouTube videos, marvelling at how they know what she likes. I gifted her an online subscription to The Guardian. She reads it more thoroughly than I do and often points out interesting articles to me.
But she’s getting older. She would like to just slip away quietly in her sleep. She certainly deserved it.
I know at some point I am going to have to let her go. I just dread the day when I have to.
How are you supposed to feel about impending loss?
I don’t have an answer.
Comforted by Husband (“I know exactly how you feel”), I had a little cry. He gave me tissues.
Outside, storm Eunice raged, mirroring my emotions.