- The Deacon’s Mom Wants to Die.
I always jokingly said to people that I grew up in “Mayberry.” Home was a typical Midwestern experience: working dad, stay at home mom, a brother and a dog. The boys grew up, went to college and moved on with families of their own. Mom and Dad often talked about moving on to other areas or even living on a boat but, in the end, they pretty much just decided to stay in the house that was their home for four decades. As my parents got older, my father’s role slowly morphed into taking more and more care of my mother. At one point my mother broke her hip. My father was there to take care of her, help her in and out of the car and to walk upstairs. After a few years Dad began to look very tired. Small strokes slowed him down and affected his speech. No one in the family wanted to admit it but, dad was dying. Dad himself knew something was wrong but the doctors couldn’t identify what it was.
One day, almost by surprise from our naivety, my dad started to hemorrhage. Their social worker insisted he go to the hospital. Later that night the doctors diagnosed a hole in his small intestine. A 4 a.m. family call led to a decision to try and operate and let Dad fight for his life. I drove two hours to take my mom to the hospital. She was great, though upset, and was mostly in control. Dad survived the operation, only to go into hospice a few days later. His small intestine was riddled with cancer.
My mother was losing her best friend and partner of 50 years and perhaps even worse, her caretaker. My parents were always fiercely independent. Mom [End Page 105] was going to stay this way. True to her upbringing, she was going to mourn for a year. Mom insisted she could take care of herself. She had people to take care of the house and a township social worker to help with food and cleaning. Her sister and her sons called often to check on her. For a long time we thought she was doing fine—she told us so often. Yet, Mom would often ask me regarding my dad, “Why did God take him first?” My answer was always the same, “to torture the rest of us Mom” and she would laugh.
One “chink in our Mayberry armor” was that Mom had a drinking problem. Some of our phone calls alluded to this. Even though we took all the alcohol out of the house after my father died, we were concerned she was drinking again. At times her speech was slurry during evening phone calls. She insisted she was not drinking again. Our fears were that she would fall and no one would be there to help her. This became a self–fulfilling prophecy. One evening when I could not get a hold of my mother, my wife and I drove two hours to the house and asked the police to break in. Mom was on the floor. Against her wishes we called for an ambulance. Mom was dehydrated and hallucinating. What we did not know at the time was that this was our first encounter with her attempt to voluntarily stopping of eating and drinking (VSED). After a short stay in the hospital, Mom insisted on returning home.
The one–year anniversary of my father’s death came and it was somber for us all. We knew Mom’s period of mourning could be over now. Mom, however, did not want anything to change. A month later, Thanksgiving came around and another fall for mom. The biggest issue for her bloodwork was that her sodium levels were extremely low. The doctors could not explain this. We knew Mom salted everything when she ate. With this fall and hospital stay Mom required rehab. We convinced her to come to a senior facility closer to our home so we could visit more often. We hoped that granddaughters visiting would help cheer her up. Mom...