Dying at home is not the norm in our community, so this is unexplored territory for us, but we’re keeping mom at home.
Dying at Home
Years ago, I made a promise to my parents. At the time, I didn’t understand exactly how that would play out, but now dad and I are learning what dying at home looks like.
I’m not gonna lie. It’s not always not scary. Certainly not always comfortable. But this feels right for us.
This is not a virtue signal. We’re no angels. We’re not even a little great. The situation simply came together for us.
For one, dad and I have freedom and flexibility that many families don’t, thanks in part to the benefits dad invested in years ago and thanks also to the flexibility that my freelance job affords me.
Secondly, mom’s the ideal patient. She’s not a danger to herself or to others, and she has no physical conditions that require constant medical attention.
In sum, dad and I have the benefit of nearly round-the-clock sitters, scheduling flexibility, and the ideal patient.
Freedom from Virtue
If you have lingering doubts about signals and virtue, a visit will disabuse you of that notion. At the farm, you’ll discover that dad and I are far from altruistic. We’re living our mostly normal lives.
- Dad spends most of his days fussing at his computer, repairing the last thing that broke, or taking an ax to pieces of fallen tree trunks.
- I squeeze all the writing, work, and movement I can from a day, twelve or more hours a day at the computer, most of the rest walking, biking, or sleeping. During the week, I rarely spend more than a couple of hours a day with mom.
On a visit to the farm, you’ll also meet Priscilla and Mary, mom’s sitters. They not only do the tasks mom used to manage (meals, dishes, laundry), but, now that mom is no longer mobile, they also take care of dressing, feeding, and cleaning mom. Sure, dad and I pitch in, but the angels that see mom through each day are Priscilla and Mary, not us.
If you visit, you might also meet one of the nurses or aids who visit mom to check her vitals, hygiene, and meds. We are blessed with helpers.
That said, dad and I have made adjustments. Me? I’m here at the farm for the duration (which, honestly, isn’t a huge sacrifice). And dad, except for the nights I give him a break, he sleeps on the sofa next to mom and manages the piles of paperwork that having all these benefits requires. But our lives are mostly normal.
We’re not virtuous. We’re blessed.
Visits Are Good.
Lately, we’re receiving more visits.
One of the missionary families that mom and dad support came by with a couple of friends. We had a house full! There were smiles, prayers, shaking heads, laughter. And dad lured some of the children to the wood pile where they spent over an hour splitting firewood.
See! We’re not virtuous! We’re industrious!
Last week, we received a visit from a couple who attend mom and dad’s church. We sang a couple of hymns, talked, ate pie, and prayed.
My ex visits regularly, prepares meals that dad can eat during the week, visits, dotes on mom. I’ve received visits from friends who drive 90 miles to spend time with mom and (I know they’re doing it) check up on me and dad. I bask in the friendships as we roll mom out for lovely walks in the sunshine and fresh air.
Mom has called for family. She called her brother and my brother by name. My uncle, aunt, and cousin came for a long weekend of meals, honeymoon stories, puzzles, and love. The next weekend, my brother and niece visited. My brother managed to tease out several smiles and a “Stop, dad-blame-it!” from mom. I know the family visits filled a space in mom’s heart.
Visits are good. I even received a visitor the last time I spent the night with mom. Might have been a dream, but I felt that tap on my shoulder and that silhouette of my dad’s dad sure looked real.
Dying at home is not the norm in our country. Dying and death are sanitized, masked in makeup, and mollified with chemicals. It’s understandable that after decades of this, most of us are creeped out by the notion of dying at home.
I hope sharing our experience contributes to normalizing life around death and comfort with the dying. I hope to encourage visitors, not just for mom, but for others who are in our situation and can take visits.
For the record, mom enjoys visits. How do I know? There are smiles, efforts to communicate, hand holding. She likes a stroll in the sunshine. She might not say much, but she’ll try. And if she holds your hand, she might draw it to her lips for a kiss.
We welcome visits, but please call ahead and come healthy (we don’t want to complicate mom’s last days with flu or cold).
©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2022