the hard things we do

Posted: July 1, 2008 at 8:26 pm

i am going to tell you something that we sometimes want to keep hidden. it has to do with the dying of those we love and caring for them each day. there are times when it gets too hard, when the responsibility becomes too great….when you are asked to be bigger and greater and kinder and softer and smarter and stronger than even superman. and there are moments when you just want it to end, you want the end to rush quicker to wipe out both of your suffering and fear, you and the one that you care for.

i felt like that when my mother was dying, i felt it again while caring for wee hopeful bug… i have felt it over the past couple of weeks with jeanette, wanting the hope to stop, wanting to just give up and say…it is over, for both of us now.
i sometimes have this discussion with the families who are near the end of their rope…they love the person dying so very much and they secretly wish for them to just die. i tell them the story of when my mom was dying and i had been up with her all night long..it was late afternoon and i thought her pain was finally under control and i had fallen asleep on the couch a few feet away from her. in my sleep i heard her start to moan, i couldn’t get up to help her…her moaning got stronger and more frequent and that terrible thought sliced thru my brain. i jumped up right away and i helped her, i was so sick at myself for wishing her to die. i have never forgotten i felt that and i watch for other caregiving families who are feeling the guilty same shame…and i tell them that i felt like that when my mother was dying and i didn’t mean it, i just wanted her and me to finally be at peace….i wanted both of our suffering to end.
i am going to ask the vets to come tomorrow morning and give jeanette another IV pain med…i am not sure if she needs it but i am not taking the chance that she has pain breaking thru the oral bute, it is a burden of possibility that neither of us has to bear…they can come and give her a really good pain dose so i don’t have to worry about that anymore. i wish i knew then when i was caring for my mother what i know today…part of loving them and giving them everything you have inside you when they are most vulnerable, means stripping yourself absolutely bare, pulling out all the stops and finding that everything happening to you and to them is just so much bigger than any human can easily bear.

my utmost respect to all end of life caregivers, esp. family members who deeply love…the journey is exhausting and brutal and fraught with human frailties and fears but what an absolute gift for the one at the end of life….sharing the journey with someone who loves them standing right at their side.

i thought i would share this in case someone ever feels the same way…we are not uncaring or unkind or evil for feeling this sometimes, we are just powerless humans trying our best to help a loved one pass peacefully away from this life….it is a huge responsibility and it is also incredibly hard.

7 Comments on "the hard things we do"

  • Jenine says

    Love you Carol!!!!

  • Deb says

    When I was a kid, I loved and was loved by the most divine lady I have ever met, before and since. I was 8 when she was 86. Her name was Lydia Mae, but everyone called her Gram Roscoe, including me.
    Gram was a lady whose life had not always been easy. I was a kid who wished for death many, many times.
    I met Gram via her daughter, who, at 65 or 66, befriended me, knowing that there were some serious problems in my life, that she couldn’t fix them, but she could make me feel wanted by someone.
    As we both got older, Gram began to suffer some of the ailments, illnesses and diseases of the aged. She spent more time in her bed or in the rocking chair of her screened in porch. Gram was an artist, creating beautiful watercolors and oil paintings. Rheumatoid Arthritis stole her ability to hold a brush, but we talked about her favorite places , the spots that were her muses. She created such beautiful descriptions with words that I could see, in my mind’s eye, the places she loved. She sang beautifully, a clear, sweet soprano. When I asked her how she found so much splendor during a lifetime that had included a great deal of pain, suffering and heartache, she always said the same thing. You are never given a burden heavier than you can carry.
    Gram was deeply religious, her mother taught her how to read using the St. James Bible, and Gram memorized the entire book, she could, and did, quote chapter and verse. Her favorite story was about the 90 and 9, a flock of sheep missing one member, just one, but the Shepherd would not leave until the lost sheep was found. I sobbed my way through that story during her funeral, and it makes me cry now.
    Gram’s daughter could not leave her alone, ever, not even to go to the post office or corner store. I was always more than willing to be with Gram, be it for twenty minutes, two hours or two weeks. Her other adult children were scattered, and Gram’s grandchildren found her to be a burden. I never understood that. Being with Gram was very much like being wrapped up in a warm blanket on a cold day. Gram’s daughter and I cared for her, a privilege and a pleasure, until the end.
    The end was awful. Gram had developed Alzheimer’s Disease, although I’m not sure it had been given that name yet, in her early nineties. She sometimes knew people, sometimes didn’t, but she never forgot every word of the Bible. She had beaten cancer twice, but it returned when she was in her late nineties. She had made her daughter promise that she would die at home, surrounded by familiar things. Many of her contemporaries had been placed in nursing homes and extended care facilities, and that was Gram’s one big fear. She didn’t fear death, she was ready and waiting, she didn’t fear pain, she was not a stranger to pain. Gram did not spend one night in hospital, although there were moments when the agony her daughter felt almost made us break the promise that had been made.
    It took a long time for Gram to die. Far too long, given that she wanted to go. She became so shrunken and frail. Every touch left a bruise. Her skin would tear if we didn’t wear gloves, but she became agitated if we did wear gloves, so she had torn skin. We had someone holding her hand 24/7 for nearly 3 weeks, as she struggled to die and her doctor struggled to keep her alive, as he felt it was his job to do.
    So, Carol, my friend, I do understand how hard this is. I was 21 when Gram died at 90 and 9, and it was not her death that broke my heart, but the fact that she was not allowed a good death. Gram Roscoe and her daughter were the two people who shaped any goodness that lives inside my soul. I learned how to live through a woman who was dying.

  • Beverly says

    That was a beautiful story Deb!

    Carol you are an amazing person! I wish you all a smooth & peaceful time spoiling Jeanette. Give her a big scratch from me 🙂

  • Heidi says

    Wow Deb and Carol-you have me crying! Thank you both for sharing. Wishing Jeanette a peaceful journey.

  • jane says

    i did volunteering with home hospice and helped my mother and a beloved friend to die and i understand.

    the release, the letting go…these are beauty, too.

    feelingly,
    jane

  • Deb says

    I can’t stop thinking about you, Carol. Your huge, tender heart has had too many bruises inflicted on it recently. Please, if you need anything, and you are able to do it, ask for help from those of us who care. This is a burden you can carry on your own strong shoulders, but what if it drives you to your knees?

    ((((Carol))))
    You are loved.

  • The death of the most angelic woman I ever met. My mother. Christmas Eve 1955. My mother had had a terrible time trying to deliver my youngest sister. She ended up having a c-section on the 17th of Dec. Her recovery was terrible, her hair went from brown to snow white in those few days. She started bleeding internally and they missed it for several days. Christmas Eve the supervisor that was on went by my mother’s room and heard her moaning and went in to find her in terrible trouble. She was bleeding profusely internally. She was rushed to the operating room and bled to death in the operating room. My sister survived, she weighed 10 lbs 11 ounces. My mother was 35 years old. There were 9 of us and my father was 39 years old. He was now alone with 9 children, between the ages of newborn and 17. The second to the last born had down syndrome.

    We had not been allowed to see our mother so it was very difficult to believe that she had died. I had nightmares for a very long time following and my eldest sister would come in and wake me up, as I would be screaming or moaning. Of course we would be afraid that I would wake the younger kids. I was always grateful that she woke me up. Unexpected death can be heart wrenching too. I was 12 yrs old. It was as if my mother knew what was going to happen as she bought us all a individual gift from her. How I found out about my mother’s death was many years later I worked in Victoria General hosp. in urology. My supervisor was Mrs.Guelpa, the supervisor that was on the night my mother died in Prince Rupert. She told me exactly how my mother died. I no longer had the particular nightmare that I had after my Mom died as I now knew how she died and why. Eva

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