I asked my mom and dad which was worse- losing your parent suddenly or losing your parent slowly. Strangely, they had different answers. My dad, whose family is pictured above, lost his dad very suddenly when my dad was 19 and his dad was 53. They were going into work and his dad was on the other side of the glass doors, reaching up to unlock the doors so my dad and his grandpa could come into the store. Suddenly, he just keeled over, dead instantly of a heart attack while my dad watched. Now my dad watches as his mother dies, slowly. He had to make the decision to remove all her tubes last week because she's dying and isn't getting any better.
I would have said my dad would have said losing his dad suddenly was worse, but he said just the opposite. He said losing his mom slowly is much worse. And, when I think about it, it makes sense. His dad will always be young and (fairly) healthy in his mind. And when he lost his dad, it was very fast. It didn't go on and on like this has, and it's been a long, hard, slow process watching his mom grow weaker and weaker and sicker and sicker. So, I get that.
My mom, on the other hand, lost her dad slowly- he died of cirrhosis of the liver due to a genetic disease called hemachromatosis. She lost her mom suddenly- she had an undiagnosed colon blockage, and she was in the hospital less than 24 hours before she died, out of nowhere. Mom feels like with her dad, she had the chance to say goodbye and it was much more peaceful. She worries that her mother died with sudden, sharp pain. She worries that she didn't get to say everything she wanted to.
I've been around for all the deaths but the death of my dad's father. The worst for me, I originally thought, was losing my maternal grandma suddenly. But now I'm kind of with my dad, watching my paternal grandmother die slowly has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.
I think there's always some kind of guilt that is associated with death. When I lost my mom's mom, I felt guilty that I didn't go to the hospital to visit her before she died. I felt like maybe I didn't get to say everything I needed to say, and I thought perhaps I had been taking work more seriously than my family. My family's always been tight and close, but I had pulled back right before her death, concentrating on work and friends, and spending little time with them.
I thought that guilt was hard, but the guilt I'm feeling with my dad's mom is almost unbelievable. I feel guilty when I don't go to the hospital. I feel guilty when I do go to the hospital and I'm wishing I was literally anywhere but there. I feel guilty that I haven't done enough to get her right with God. I feel like maybe I'm pushing too hard and maybe she wants me to leave her alone about it, but there's no way to know, since she's hardly speaking.
The worst guilt, though, is the part where I just wish she'd go on and die. It feels awful, even typing that out. But this waiting is hard, I'm living in some weird kind of suspended state of half-life, wishing I had the strength to see her more and going out of duty, and hating every minute of it. I hate to be the sort of person that's like, "I hate hospitals," but I do hate hospitals. I really, really, really hate hospitals. I remember my first visit to a hospital, to visit my grandfather when he was dying. He was like a hollow wraith instead of my grandfather, a man I'd liked minimally at best to begin with. There began my hatred of hospitals and it continues to this day.
But I don't just wish she'd go on and die for the guilt aspect, but also because I know she must feel terrible, with pneumonia and her urosepsis and all. Dad says she's in no pain, but I'm not sure that I believe that. I just don't know.
I asked my uncle how he was doing, being up in Minnesota and all of us here in Tennessee and he not being able to visit. "I lost my mother a long time ago," he said. I understand that- with her dementia she's been a hollow shell of herself for years. Perhaps that's why I feel like I wish she'd just go on and die, because it's hardly her. But it's still her body, and her mind and soul are somewhere back there, and I just won't be able to get over all of this until it's finally over. I pray for peace.