This is one of the most challenging things I have ever done-taking care of my mother in the last stages of a terminal illness. My husband and I were planning to be in Florida for several months when my mother called to say that she had an inoperable brain tumour and would I please travel up to North Carolina to visit her? Of course!
When I arrived, the lovely family doctor came to visit us and sat on the porch for a chat and a time of prayer. This is the Bible belt of America, and very much a culture of its own. This is the south, and so my sister and I sat on the porch with Dr B and held hands with mom and prayed. Then Dr B turned to my mother and lovingly looked right into her eyes.
"Libby," she said, "you taught these girls, and their brother, how to live. Now...you are going to teach them how to die. To die with dignity, in peace and with your loved ones around you. I will make sure you are in no pain, but for the emotional side of this life on earth, you will teach them God's way of passing on."
It was only later that we could make jokes and remind ourselves that no one says "dying" here...people just "pass."
At the moment each moment is precious and while we have everything anyone could need at this beautiful "independent/assisted/ nursing care" living space for the elderly that I now call "Assisted Camping" due to all the extended family BBQ's we have at the back of mom's cottage...these are moments of personal care for a mother saying good-bye to her family. It's the late nights, the midnight "runs" to the loo, notes back to England saying I won't be "home" this summer and then early morning assistance that mom needs. It's twenty-four seven, as they say in America.