From some of the comments I received on my latest post, “The Greatest Gift My Mom Gave Me: Dying Before She Became A ‘Burden,‘” you would think that the published title had been “I’m Rejoicing Over The Death of My Mom.”
Here are a few of the reactions I received when the piece was posted on the BA50 Facebook Page:
“I think you are a selfish child.”
“Enjoy your parent free life.”
“And when she was taking care of you, that was no burden, right? Well at least your family knows where you stand if they get sick.”
“… Your husband needs to know that he’s gonna have to off himself if he ever gets sick. Anyone ever use the word narcissistic concerning you? Just a thought.”
I read that last one to my husband. He did not seem particularly worried.
“They don’t get it, do they?” was his only comment, and then he proceeded to go out and fix something in the garage.
“No, they don’t,” I trailed after him. “But did you just cough? I thought I heard a cough. Where’s the gun?”
He didn’t even look up. Because Mike knows, as my mother-in-law knows (I hope), that I am not going to “off” a loved one when they are sick or need care. I will be there. I will do what needs to be done with loving kindness. Just because I believe it was a gift that I didn’t have to take care of my mother, doesn’t mean I wouldn’t care for a loved one who needed me. If I do end up being a caretaker, I will probably be honest about how difficult care-taking is, I will somehow find the humor in it, as well as some satisfaction, bitterness, frustration, joy and sadness, and if I have the time and the energy, I will probably write all about it.
But most of all, when the time comes, I will respect my loved ones wishes about end of life, and dying with dignity.
I read the many comments on my post with fascination. A woman who cared for her mother for six years after a stroke left her paralyzed and voiceless said that care-taking was the hardest thing she ever did but she’d do it again “in a heartbeat.”
Another woman who described her life as “non-existent” because she cares 24/7 for her husband. She said, “one doesn’t dare bring this up, people outside the circle have no idea what it’s like.”
Another woman commented that if you loved someone, and it is really love, they were “never a burden.”
Another woman commented that caring for her mom was not a “burden,” but “painful and very taxing mentally and physically.” (So perhaps it’s all just semantics, after all.)
There were plenty of positive reactions to my piece as well:
“I’m so glad someone said what I have felt for years, but have never said aloud…”
“I am watching my own mother in the end stages of Parkinson’s disease/Lewy Body dementia, and it is like watching your loved one falling off a cliff in slow motion, knowing there is nothing you can do…”
“As a society, we treat death like it’s the most awful thing ever…and while in certain cases it can be, it is a natural part of life and should be treated with respect and dignity. This is a life affirming, respectful way of looking at death. Thank you.”
“All four of our parents lived long and mostly happy lives but the ends were difficult for them and even more so for us. I’ve thought often about this and I think there is a huge disconnect between a meaningful old age and the invasivesness/pervasiveness of medical technology. I also think of the wise words of my own mother, at 91, saying, ‘When people wish for a long life, what they really want is a longer youth.’”
“I have to applaud the braveness of this honesty…I don’t believe this writer is rejoicing in her parents deaths -if my family had the choice over my father having several less years rather than the nightmare he lived in the end I know what we would choose.”
The personal attacks on me were probably not justified, but if that is the cost of opening up a discussion about end of life, I accept being attacked.
My point was not that I was glad my mother was dead. Obviously, I am not. I was very close to my mother, and I can say with certainty that she would agree with my article, 100 percent.
My point was that my mother was lucky to have been in a position to stop her life-saving treatments before she became someone she did not want to be.
My point was that my mother was lucky enough to know what she wanted–to die when she was totally independent—and to be really, really clear with her children about what she wanted.
Obviously, not everyone got the point, and that’s ok. And it’s certainly ok to “get it” and disagree with it as well. Over the past few years, I’ve grown some pretty big kahunas.
End of life is all about respecting personal choice. It is about talking to your loved ones about what they want and really listening to what they say. And it about opening up discussion about how difficult it is to be a caretaker.
At least in that last respect, I was successful. As always, feel free to comment.