Thursday, 16 April 2015

My birthday. #atozchallenge Care for the carers.

Two days after her 73rd birthday my Mum took her final breath. She had Alzheimers and Motor neurone disease. For her final 3 months I was her main carer. A privilege I am grateful for and will cherish forever. This years #atozchallenge theme will focus on being a carer / care-giver.


Remember to care for the carers.  


My Birthday, not hers.




Mum and I are both born in January, thirty years apart.  I have often wondered if the closeness in our birthdates contributes to our empathic connection. 


On Christmas morning I was helping Mum get ready for the big day ahead. She was tired from Christmas Eve celebrations the night before. I wheeled her into the bathroom and as I started to brush her hair, she asked me "When can I go?"

I wanted to pretend she meant something like, 'When can I leave the bathroom? When can I go to the hairdressers? When can I go back to bed or sit on the lounge? But I knew exactly what she wanted to know and had to think quick.  

"Never" was not the answer she wanted to hear. She needed guidance, she needed permission to be able to let go. Holding on, even for Christmas, was getting too hard.

I kept brushing her hair, and answered quickly. "After your birthday." and the thought lingered for a while.

By New Years Eve it was obvious that Mum's days were numbered, there were no more months left, we were entering the single digit countdown. My birthday is soon after New Years day.



We shared cake.


I tried to get her to show her chocolate covered teeth smile.




We even managed a photo where we're both looking at the camera. 

From the moment I woke up on my Birthday, I wished her a Happy Birth-day too. I had decided it was to be our day. 

It was my gift to her. I sang Happy Birthday to her.  I wanted her to know that I wouldn't be disappointed in her if she couldn't hold on for her birthday - she could use mine. 

Everyone said, 'but it's not her birthday' - I didn't listen and wanted to make sure she could experience the celebration being about her, just in case, just one more time. I told them all that it was most definitely her birthday too.

It may be the day I was born but it was the day she gave birth to me so technically it was more her Birth-Day than mine... and I kissed her a lot and wished her a happy birthday many times.
  
Just before I left for the night to celebrate with some of my closest friends (that spoiled me with a seafood dinner and fine wines,) I gave Mum a kiss goodbye and whispered in her ear.  "Good night Mum, it wasn't really your birthday today, I was just pretending. See you in the morning.' 

No longer as brave as I had been during the day - I really hoped she believed me.

A few days after my birthday I thought we were going to lose her. Maybe 'her birthday' celebration had been enough for her?   

Unconscious most of the day I forced medicine, water and tiny amounts of food into her, one gentle drop at a time and she eventually pulled through another day. Before I put her to bed that night she said - "Thank God for you" - she wasn't ready to let go yet. 

A few weeks later and two days after her own birthday, she did just as she had been guided to do. She went to where she had wanted to go since Christmas day. 

Early in the morning, peacefully in her sleep. 


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3 comments:

  1. My birthday is two days after my mother's. I was supposed to have been born on her birthday, but I was late, as usual.

    Near the end, in her demented agitation, my mother kept asking "Where am I? How do I get out of here? How do I get home?" She was cocooning. She called for her mother. Much as I didn't want to lose her, I realized I already had and she was suffering. I sat next to her hospital bed in our living room, holding her hand, and told her it was OK to go. There was a shift in her demeanor after that, and she did soon leave, two months later.

    Thank you, Ida, for sharing this touching story.

    Samantha Mozart
    http://thescheherazadechronicles.org

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  2. So very sad. A terrifying disease. Bad enough to have one, dreadful to have two problems at once.

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    1. In a way you are right - but i think she suffered less with her mind and body going at the same time. Many MND sufferers know all too well what they are suffering... and many alzheimers sufferers don't know what to do with their bodies anymore... Mum went quickly and painlessly in comparison because everything slowly stopped working at the same time

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