Death of Parent Who Is Older
The death of a parent who is older is not any easier to deal with than a parent who is cut down when they are younger. As a matter of fact, the death of an older parent can sometimes be more challenging because you share that many more memories together. This, in no way, minimizes the tragic death of a younger parent or of a parent who has suffered a long illness, because losing a parent is always difficult.
This past November, I lost my mother who was in her 80's. She was always a very high-energy and high-spirited individual, who loved to visit friends and relatives. She loved to travel. go out to dinner, go to the movies, and always found time to exercise in the neighborhood gym. She was an extremely independent woman who was a leader among her peers.It was this independence and strong-willed, choleric personality that eventually contributed to her death.
My father died over 30 years ago and left my mother by herself, to support three school-aged children. My father was a veteran of WWII and had been an airplane mechanic for 20 years when cancer took his life. My mom was left with no pension and a minimal amount of benefits from my dad, due to situations beyond her control. Yet she raised three children singlehandedly while going back to work as a full-charged bookkeeper. She would not allow circumstances to ever defeat her, and one of her favorite sayings was: "God never gives us anything we can't handle". She repeated this phrase several days before she died.
About 12 years ago my mom was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, which caused her white blood cell count to multiply and mutate. Over these past 12 years, she handled the disease very well and never complained about any pain. She only complained about doctors who insisted on treating her with an overabundance of medication and chemotherapy. She insisted that there was no need to take everything they gave her. Most recently she was diagnosed with another illness, that my brothers and I were not aware of. It was this illness that she refused to admit she had, which eventually ended her life. It was Congestive Heart Failure..
Last November, she mentioned that she was not sleeping well and experiencing stomach cramps. She thought that this was a complication of her GERD (Gastro esophageal reflux disease). She was also experiencing nose bleeds and heart palpitations and decided to call an ambulance to check into a hospital and find out what was wrong. Because my mom didn't like hospitals or trust doctors, I knew that the situation was serious. True to form when the ambulance drivers arrived, my mom started to argue with them about driving her to a particular hospital. She won the argument. They brought her to a very good cancer and heart hospital in the NY metropolitan area called Winthrop University hospital.
When my mom checked into the hospital, her doctor put her on intravenous diuretics, because her legs had swollen, and her kidneys were failing. However, when she found out that she was on diuretics she insisted on removing them. When I visited her, to my shock, her doctor told her something that haunts me to this day. He said that she must stay on the diuretics because, her kidneys were failing and she has heart failure, both of which will kill her. My mom was frightened by the doctor's diagnosis, but brushed it off as, just another doctor who didn't know what he was talking about. She mentioned that in another situation many years ago, diuretics were prescribed to her for high blood pressure, and she had a bad reaction to them. She asked the doctor if he could assure her that these diuretics would cure her situation. He could not give this assurance, and I did not have the power legally to force her to take these diuretics. The doctor had one last hand to play, to try and save my mom. He sent in a psychiatrist to confirm that my mom was making sound decisions. If they concluded that the decisions were made due to the coronary condition, the diuretics would have been started again. It was agreed that she was of sound mind, and the illness was not affecting her thought process. After the doctor's visit, mom insisted that she could not sleep in the hospital anymore and wanted to go home, concluding that she would be more comfortable there. The doctors, feeling they had no other alternative agreed with this decision. The next day, while preparing to go home my mom suffered a severe cardiac arrhythmia and arrest. She was moved to a telemetry unit with a machine that was shocking her heart, to keep it going. I knew that this was not what my mom wanted, so we removed her from the machine, and she died several hours later.
My mother was a strong-willed woman, who lived the way that she wanted to, up until the end. As difficult as she was to deal with at times, I loved my mom. She was always a good parent, and always there for us, and I will miss her. The death of an older parent can be painful, but it teaches you to remember good experiences that you lived while growing up, rather than relive the difficult memories.