Aging Parents: Asking Questions After a Death

A friend whose mother is seriously ill asked, “What do you think about after your parent is gone, the services are over, and you are moving on with life, but without the person?”

My In-Law's Wedding, 1942 -- A Memory Shared


My answer? We share memories and we ask questions.

The memories are easy, because they come to us. No matter what we are doing, we remember something about my husband’s mother. In many ways the memories are concrete.

The questions are more abstract. We keep looking back trying to put together puzzle pieces from the last years of life. I gather from chatting with ministers and with people from hospice that this type of introspection is common. Over the past two months, since Mother’s death, we have asked ourselves the following questions.

  • Did we do all we could to ensure she was comfortable?
  • Did we successfully respect and carry out her end-of-life wishes?
  • Did we learn enough about her medical conditions and problems to be educated consumers and caregivers as well as her advocates?

The answer to all of these questions is “yes.”  In fact we exhausted ourselves doing so, ensuring that she stayed, with caregivers, in her apartment in a familiar environment, encountering people she knew and liked and who appreciated her. Mother would be pleased by how careful we were to observe her wishes. And we were lucky to have such an extended support system. Good medical support was always accessible. However, extensive coordination of Mother’s life and ours was required.

But those answers do not keep us from examining and re-examining events of the multi-year period that we spent providing care for Mother. In particular, the last question sometimes consumes us as we try to understand the different medical conditions that were present, how they interacted with one another and how we coordinated it all.

She was, after all, almost 91, and she had a range of serious medical conditions.

Perhaps by considering past events now, we are in a way, preparing ourselves to be more confident the next time decisions of this magnitude are required. Maybe, in a curious sort of way, these questions have a purpose.

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