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Ian Lind • Online daily from Kaaawa, Hawaii

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My mother writes her own obit

January 20th, 2013 · 27 Comments

It could be a little quiet here at iLind.net over the next couple of days. “Could” is the operative word, because I still don’t know what we’ll be facing and how I’ll be coping. If this page isn’t updated for several days, please send along good thoughts.

Here’s the story.

Meda and I cut our Maui weekend short and returned to Honolulu yesterday just hours before a planned early birthday party was to begin. The steaks were in the refrigerator, the cake (“Happy Birthday, Meda” in red letters) on the kitchen counter, when we got word my mother’s condition had taken a dramatic turn for the worse.

My mom fell several days ago when she slid off the side of her bed while returning from the bathroom. It left her with a skinned forearm and a sore back. More than sore. Very painful, probably a broken rib, they say.

The upshot is that it’s a race against time to reach a proper balance of pain medications so that the pain is under control but she’s not left “out of this world”.

My sister, Bonnie, has been at ground zero. She has described the situation in heart-rending detail on her Going on Alone blog.

My mom, who has consistently stated to all who would listen, “I am not dying.” announced yesterday, “I am dying. I cannot do anything.” Pointing to her head she added, “There is nothing there.”

No hearing? No memories? Nothing what?

“Call the doctor. Tell him I cannot do anything. Ask him what to do.”
Had already done that. Doing all we can. Now it is a matter of willingness. Willingness to fight. Willingness to die.

Bonnie said almost all there is to say. I defer to her.

We went directly to the house in Kahala from the airport last night.

Soon after our arrival, Bonnie had my mom sitting up in bed, trying to get her to swallow the next pill in the pain-control arsenal. My mother looked up.

“I’m dead,” she declared.

“No,” Bonnie replied. “You can’t be dead. We’re all here with you.”

But dying had clearly been on my mother’s mind before this latest setback. She recently wrote and then rewrote her own obituary, which we found in a stack of papers on a small folding table that sits in front of her regular chair in the living room.

Born Honolulu. Graduate, Kamehameha School for Girls (before co-ed) and UH Manoa. Former instructor in Food Science, UH Manoa. Also former Secretary, Hawaiian Historical Society.

And so on.

With the obit, her personal instructions on what to do when she dies (“don’t make a big fuss”).

I refer to this area, including her regular chair and its surroundings, as her cockpit. She sits down, mentally straps in, and until just a few days ago, would go to work. The day’s incoming mail is stacked in one spot. Bills to be paid are in another. Piles of ongoing genealogical research notes or references are strewn across another small end table on the right side of the chair. Stacks tend to get out of control, spilling in random directions. Newspapers are shoved down on the floor to the left as they are read. Christmas cards still being savored, notes of things to do, bills with “paid” and the date in my mother’s handwriting, the latest I saw dated January 13. A lauhala basket for papers destined for the trash.

She had one previous episode several months ago when a similar issue of pain management brought her down, but she was able to bounce back. This time, we just don’t know if that rebound is going to occur. As Bonnie says, much of this depends on her decision.

A willingness to fight, and live. Or a willingness to die.

Tough choices just four months short of her 99th birthday.

Tags: Aging & dementia · Health

27 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Curtis // Jan 20, 2013 at 10:02 am

    Thoughts and prayers with much Aloha.

  • 2 aikea808 // Jan 20, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Sorry to hear of this latest setback, Ian. Thoughts & prayers from me, too.

    Pain, and especially pain meds, do have a tendency to make one not want to fight & deal with it. It gets very tiring. Btw, there is a liquid versions of certain pain meds if she is having a hard time swallowing. My mom had to use it. Have Bonnie call me if she has any questions.

  • 3 t // Jan 20, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    all of our hearts go out to you, Ian. thank you for letting us know.

  • 4 gigi-hawaii // Jan 20, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Terrible and very sad. She will be missed if she goes.

  • 5 Don Graf // Jan 20, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Sorry to read of this, Ian. Best wishes.

  • 6 Lloyd Odell // Jan 20, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    Tough time my friend… my heart goes out to you… peace.

  • 7 LikaNui // Jan 20, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    My thoughts and prayers go out to your Mom, you, Meda, Bonnie and any other family. I sure this turns out well for all of you.

  • 8 Sandra May // Jan 20, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    Tough times for sure. Sending you and the family love. hugs for all.

  • 9 Patty // Jan 20, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    I am glad that she is surrounded by a loving family.

  • 10 Kat // Jan 20, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    I am saddened that your Mom is in pain, Ian. My experience is that people in her situation decide,
    Love and peace to you, Meda and Bonnie. May you all enjoy your time together. Henry and I wrap you all in our loving embrace.

  • 11 Hugh Clark // Jan 20, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    Ian, parents have a way of guiding their exit.

    Our mom sensed her end , wrote a hand-written codicil to her will that we duly respected; expressed her views of what to do with her remains and told us of her religious wishes. We honored it all and we were (and are) for thankful for knowing what she wanted.

    I do not interpret this as as negative in any way. Good wishes as life take its course.

  • 12 ohiaforest3400 // Jan 20, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Written as if speaking of my own parent, now in a similar situation. We can but love and support, hope and accept.

  • 13 ohiaforest3400 // Jan 20, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    Meant to add that my Dad has written, revised, and circulated his obituary. And the script for his memorial. He’s also been asking what each of us wants from his house. He says it’s preparation, I’m thinking it’s surrender, which is his every right. Still hard.

  • 14 matsu // Jan 20, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    Sending you and your family positive thoughts, prayers, and Aloha.

  • 15 Ian Lind // Jan 20, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    Much appreciated, Hugh!

  • 16 hipoli // Jan 20, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    Sending loads of Aloha to your mom and all of her loving family. Keep Fighting!

  • 17 Raleigh // Jan 20, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    You may need to give your dad more credit. He is actually doing you a favor in that you will not have to do that after he is gone. I went through this with my parents not long ago. They started to give things of value (monetary and sentimental) to children and grandchildren more than ten years before. At the end there was no family squabbling over the leavings. Just three or four boxes of clothing and other odd and ends to go to the thrift store.

  • 18 Raleigh // Jan 20, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    Sorry to hear that your Mother is having another bad time. I am sure that many of your readers feel that they know her, just a little, from your postings and we are interested in how she is doing.

  • 19 Owner of dog n cat // Jan 20, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    Your mother is a wonderful person and an inspiration. It’s so hard to accept a parent’s illness in that generation. They did not grow up with hospitals, and don’t deal well with them now. But it sounds like your mother had her family help her navigate the health care system, and has done remarkably well. That’s been a testimant to the love from you and your sister. Take care Ian.

  • 20 Jay Robertson // Jan 21, 2013 at 7:11 am

    Thoughts are with your Mom, you and your family.

  • 21 Denby Fawcett // Jan 21, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Ian and Meda,
    I am sorry. You must feel helpless as you listen to your mother talk about already being dead when she clearly isn’t. Her pain sounds terrible. I hope it subsides soon.

  • 22 charles // Jan 21, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    Life is a journey that begins at birth, an event none of us have any control over.

    But we do have some control over our end. And that is the only certainty in life. . . that there is an end.

    When my dad passed away, it was a time of sadness, to be sure. But it also seemed like it was the natural order of life; after all, no parents would want their child to go before them.

    It’s not an easy time for you just as it wasn’t an easy time when your dad passed away. And it may very well not be your mom’s time.

    But the time will come.

    That it will.

    My thoughts are with you.

  • 23 Jim Loomis // Jan 21, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Aloha. Can’t say or mean anything more than that, can we? So … aloha.

  • 24 Damon // Jan 21, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    My condolences Ian.

    I lost my mother last month and still have troubles getting over it at times.

    My mom always said “When the pain exceeds the pleasure…. it’s time to push on”.

    I believe our parents are having a great time wherever they may be now.

  • 25 Ulu // Jan 21, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    May peace be with you all.

  • 26 Ulu // Jan 21, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    Losing a parent is lie an earthquake, the aftershocks of grief can go on for months before they settle down eventually to smiles of remembrance. Bt it sounds like you has a strong mother. Then again most of them are.

  • 27 Tracey // Jan 22, 2013 at 10:35 am

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. When my father was dying of pancreatic cancer I found a book that helped me understand the process of dying. The book is written by 2 hospic nurses: Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying, by Maggie Calanan and Patricia Kelley.

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