Other Posts Relating to Remembrances:
After a Parent’s Death: Writing a Remembrance, Part II, After an Aging Parent’s Death: Obituaries and Remembrances, Mother’s Memorial Service
When an elderly parent accumulates serious medical diagnoses, becomes weaker, and is sick more often than not, set aside time to review memories and talk about life. Engage in discussions, as a friend of ours suggested, while reflecting over photo albums, and consciously start conversations with “remember when” statements. Our friend’s advice was spot on, and my only suggestion to others is to begin these discussions as soon as possible.
We never addressed dying specifically because Mother did not want to go there, and there was no need. Instead, while she was still alert, though quite ill, we rambled through memories and recalled activities, favorite vacations, much-loved music, her granddaughter, favorite books, funny family stories, and so much more. Short but frequent conversations made us all marvel at her many well-lived years. Mother suffered from dementia, so pictures, photograph albums, and possessions like opening favorite books, served as conversation starters. Yet once we embarked on a topic, remarkable memories and rich details were often recalled, and more importantly, mother enjoyed herself.
Later on, after Mother died, these conversations comforted us, but they also enabled us to write warm tributes and remembrances that perfectly described parts of her life. Our discussions about Mother’s love of Broadway shows, her enjoyment of museums, and her love of New York City, helped us think less about the difficult last weeks of her life, and enabled us to write the following remembrance a few days after she died.
Mother especially loved to plan the family’s once or twice yearly trips from the midwest to New York City, and she did so with great zeal. Planning for the next trip began almost as soon as she returned home from a previous visit. She would begin by combing The New Yorker, Cue, Village Voice, New York Times, and later New York magazine, publications that all arrived regularly in her mailbox. Mother would then choose the plays, musicals, and museum exhibits that she wanted the family to see.
Starting with theatre events and concerts, she would pour over seating plans (she had somehow accumulated a seating chart for every New York theatre), making a first, second, and third seating choice for each performance. She would write a check for each seating option, attach a note requesting the theatre to kindly return the two checks for options that were not used to buy tickets, and mail an entire packet to each venue. Over a few months Mother went through the process several times, ensuring attendance at a variety of musicals, plays, and concerts, and amazingly, never losing a check in the twenty years she planned trips before people began using bank credit cards.