Journey’s end – Goodbyes

By November 24, 2014November 28th, 2014Caregiver, ePatient, Family man
My mom is saying goodbye. Goodbye to family, friends, and now peripheral health team members. She hates goodbyes, more than dogs. She’s been mortally afraid of dogs since a german shepherd jumped on her when she was in hiding more than 70 years ago. A deliberate end to the journey. She’s giving away her possessions, too. Mind sharp, energy flagging, pain surging. Yen for everything, yet eating mere morsels. The 8-year-old in her 62-year-old boy tells her to finish everything on her plate. Heart wrenching to hear her say goodbye to immediate family especially the guttural sobbing when they leave. I just left, going home across country, returning in 3 weeks when my oldest son comes.  She’s waiting for him. Then, she says, she’ll have had enough. I couldn’t say goodbye. I’m not ready. Makes sense that this fighter throws in the towel. A holocaust survivor, my mom was an expert denier. No denial now.  “I’m old. I wouldn’t survive chemo or surgery. Let’s call it a life.” Some end the journey suddenly – heart attack, trauma, aneurysm. Some fade with dementia. Mom is going to call it a life after her goodbyes.


  • Not all of us get to say “good bye” or “I love you.” One of the greatest gifts we can give a person is the opportunity to express themselves and fulfill how they want to die. My mom told me “no hospitals, no heroic interventions.” She chose palliative care from the beginning of her diagnosis of lung cancer. I became a patient advocate largely from the stories my dad told me about liberating a concentration camp in WWII. So, for your mom, this ending is even more special. It is on her terms—not some Nazi SS, that not only wanted to end life, but humiliate, and destroy the human spirit. It is obvious, they did not destroy her spirit, as she went on to live life. You are a reflection of that same spirit.

    It has been a year since I lost my mom. I cried every day, but it does get better. I look back and I feel good that I did everything my mom wanted. I was able to lay beside her and listen to her heart beat. I knew it was the first sound I ever heard. We put the music on that she enjoyed. And, even though my sons thought she was unresponsive, she suddenly began to hum.

    This is not the finale chapter. Aloha can mean good bye, but also hello.

  • Sue says:

    Danny, I’m so moved by what you are saying about your time with your Mom as she makes her way through her “Goodbyes,” and you make your way back and forth across the country bearing the grief of her approaching leave-taking. Sadly in our country the opportunity and will and grace to know how and when to accept that death is coming and it’s time to begin our goodbye’s is rare. Certainly none of my elders got or took the chance–which I think only increased all our suffering. Many blessings on this journey you are on with your mother and may all the love of your family help you through your grief.

  • And yet–what a gift to you and your family: she is saying goodbye, showing how death can be: no extraordinary means, just comfort and family, when the time is right. I wish you the comfort of family and friends as she and you all journey forward.

  • Louise says:

    I totally agree with Kathy. Sounds like your Mom has accepted her terminal status and is very bravely getting to say what she wants to say while she can. I admire her. It must be so difficult for you both. I hope you will get a chance to say your good byes also, as hard as it will be , many people never get that . Wishing you and your Mom peace on her journey.

  • Ronee says:

    Thank you for sharing this sad, incredible journey with the world.
    Blessings to you and yours.

  • K. Russell says:

    For all those journeying, another reason to advance Conversation Ready! The book “Its OK to Die”, written by physicians, is a wonderfully articulated treatise to help us support those important conversations. It is NOT about euthanasia. It helps those of us who are in healthcare professions, patients and their families, to ‘call it a life’. As Christians, we celebrate having ‘run the race’ and our home-going.

  • I salute your mom’s spirit, and hope that your deep love for each other sustains both of you during her final journey. Totally understand your inability to say goodbye yet. She sounds like quite a woman. Hugs across the miles.

  • Anya M. McCann says:

    thinking of you all in this difficult time. i think that as sad as it is for those who are left behind, it is wonderful that she can take control. and I’m glad to hear stories about people who care being able to go visit. ..a lucky opportunity for all. take care of one another, as I’m sure you are already doing.

  • tamar Schweppe says:

    Dear Danny, it’s so sad! I can’t imagine loosing my mother.
    I wish I was closer and could come and hug you.
    I miss you a lot!

  • Margie says:

    Danny, I haven’t check your blog for a while so I don’t know if you commented on the Ezekiel Emanuel article in the Atlantic issue of October. BUT It’s worth a read. Your mom’s awareness and presence is inspiring. I’m sorry for the family, but it sounds as if she is making her choices. I admire her from afar.

  • Danny says:

    Thanks Kathy

  • KathyPooler says:

    So bittersweet, Danny.We should all hope to say our goodbyes with the same dignity and grace as your Mom, coherent and in charge of her wishes. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. Sending hugs.

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