Walking Mama Home

Walking Mama Home January 13, 2015

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

My mother is slipping away.

Last week, she asked me, “Are we sisters, or cousins, or what?”

The week before, she looked at me vaguely and said, “What are you to me? Are we related?”

Last night, she decided to “cook” a frozen dinner in the microwave and evidently set it for a lllloooonnnnggggg time. It “cooked” until it caught fire.

I was up with her all night long one night last week. We have a doctor’s appointment today, for which her doctor is graciously sacrificing her lunch time to work Mama into her schedule. The purpose? To see if sleeping pills, which I’ve avoided, or anti-depressants, or something will help her sleep through the night so that I can sleep, as well.

Every time I write a post about Mama, a few sick souls comment that situations like this are a fine argument for euthanasia. I almost always delete these things, but they trouble me, just the same.

What is wrong with someone that they could look at a frail elderly person and their first thought is to kill them?

I start stammering when I try to formulate a response to this. Kill my mother? That’s their advice?

Everyday it seems that I am hit with another proof that certain segments of our population are lost souls. Nothing convinces me of this more than these offensive comments about my mother.

We live in a world where the first solution that we offer to human problems is increasingly becoming a demand that we kill the person who is being a problem. We even label one entire group of humans — the unborn — a “problem pregnancy” rather than a human being, and then use this designation as a justification for killing them at will.

The same thing is happening to anyone who has an illness that makes them a ‘burden.” We are moving toward a world where the only people who will have a legal right to life are those who have sufficient wits, energy and means to defend their right to be alive in a court of law.

The Terry Shiavo case demonstrated quite clearly that it is not enough to have people who will advocate for your life in a court of law. The person doing the advocating must be the correct one. Killing someone by taking away their water and food and then letting them die of thirst and starvation could hardly be called “merciful.”

My mother is slipping away. Caring for her is hard. But it is also — and I never hear about this aspect of it — a blessing. Seeing Mama home is a privilege. This long goodbye has a sweetness to it that I never knew existed until I began walking this walk with her.

As for those poor loveless folks who think that the solution to human suffering is to kill the suffering human, I pray for you. Because you are in far worse shape than my Mama will ever be.

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57 responses to “Walking Mama Home”

  1. Rebecca, my prayers are with you and your mother; I cherish the last few weeks my sister and I shared with my 89 year old mother as she began her own journey home. Knowing your mom is nearing her eternal life brings many blessings that the world cannot understand. May she be surrounded by angels in the coming days. St. Joseph, patron of departing souls, pray for us.

  2. God bless you for your courage in not eviscerating the people who say such evil things. Your love for your mother is felt by her, even when her memory fails. My Mom and Dad cared for my Grandpa when he began his walk home. He was a Lieutenant Colnel in the US Army Air Corps, a war hero, but a gentleman and a very pious Baptist man. His alzheimers didn’t dehumanize him, even though there are those who would use it as an excuse. I am glad for the time I got to spend with him, I know my parents are too.

    I just offered an Ave for you.

  3. Dear, dear Rebecca, It is indeed a privilege, a grace, and a challenge to care for one’s parents as they “walk home”. Both of my parents spent their last years with me. I was given the opportunity and the blessing: to thank them for the sacrifices they made for my siblings and me; to thank them for teaching me about our precious faith, for teaching me my prayers; for teaching me the value of hard work, and for honesty in all we do; for teaching me that life is not about “me”, but rather for family and others; and for teaching me that there are always others less fortunate than we who deserve our love and charity.

    There were days when my dad, too, did not recognize me. He’d call for me and I reminded him I was therein front of him. He would have moments of great anxirty when he would scream instructions to a pilot helping him make a safe landing. He would scream instructions to others to arrange for more boats, wagons, cars to help rescue the poor from the terror of their homelands. Other times he would worry about children not having sufficient clothing for warmth. He’s ask me to find more sweaters for the children. And he and mama would smile as they looked in the upper corner of their room enjoying the sweet singing of children (where there were none). Dad would clap softly and thank them.

    Rebecca, God has given you the beautiful gift of memories.

    By the way, antidepressants could help your mom get that much needed rest and sleep. TRy some beautiful, soft classical music, that may help. Dad didn’t really know who Pavarotti was, but he “sure did like that guy!”

    Scripture has a passage just for you, Rebecca, a gift to a faithful daughter from our precious Father (Sirach 3:12-15):

    My son, be steadfast in honoring your father;
    do not grieve him as long as he lives.
    Even if his mind fails, be considerate of him;
    do not revile him because you are in your prime.
    Kindness to a father will not be forgotten;
    it will serve as a sin offering—it will take lasting root.
    In time of trouble it will be recalled to your advantage,
    like warmth upon frost it will melt away your sins.

    Peace, Rebecca

  4. My thoughts are with you, Rebecca. Your mother is still in there, she just can’t get it out all the time, as I’m sure you know. I’m learning that daily with my husband. She knows you love her whether she consciously knows who you are all the time. Hopefully the doctor was able to help with the sleep situation. As to those who don’t understand love and devotion to a loved one who is failing—-I sincerely hope they don’t need someone in the future to take care of them. They may not have that in their lives when it is needed.

  5. Thank you Pagansister. The doc certainly gave us her full attention. I ended up crying in her office. She’s referring Mama to a specialist. Hopefully, there will be something we can do to slow the progress of the dementia.

  6. May God bless you and your precious mama, Rebecca. It is lovely to see the love and care you have for her. She must be a wonderful mother.

  7. I just lost my daddy a few months ago. Your mama is still there, and she will have days yet to come that you will cherish. Keep up the good fight. What I wouldn’t give for another day with my daddy, whether he knew me or not. God bless !

  8. Rebecca,

    Thank you so much for this! I am in a similar situation with my mother. Right now we’re in the ER because she got dehydrated and confused because of wha I thought was a bit of a stomach bug. She’s in the middle of six weeks of non-weight bearing after a manor ankle fracture and I feel as if she just got clear of the post-anesthesia confusion. Sigh.

    Prayers for both of you.

  9. I hope there is something too, that can slow the progress. My husband is on 2 medications, but honestly I’m not sure they are helping, but then I don’t know what it would be like if he wasn’t taking them. It sounds like you have a very caring doctor and that too is important. Believe me when I tell you I understand the tears. I live on the edge of them almost daily.

  10. Hang in there Rebecca. My mom and I are a few. Steps behind you. It’s tough but so many incredible moments of grace. I have learned so much and seen Christ in her and our experiences–it’s a rich quality of life. I feel sorry for those that can’t see.

  11. Rebecca, you and your sweet mom continue to be in my weekly prayers. “Walking home with Mama” — I just love how you put that and am bookmarking this for the future.

  12. Rebecca, My heart aches for you. Your mother is still beautiful, just look into her eyes. There is a a lifetime, her life and every life is a scared thing. Please I beg you, do not listen to the idiots that talk about ending a life, because idiot knows no bounds. There is only one- God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Ghost and I am pretty sure they have this covered, idiots need not apply.
    Love your mother, she is a gift for you now, as you are to her. You are in my prayers, as well as your mom and your family.
    Lisa Rose

  13. Your description of the long walk is beautiful. May it be a blessing. I know it is to your mom.
    Do get some help, especially with the sleeping. You do want to be able to enjoy your mom now and it is really hard if you are exhausted and sleep deprived.
    Blessings and prayers.

  14. Rebecca, you have my prayers and sympathy. My father slid slowly into dementia over a 5 year period from a stroke caused by a fall some 12 years before he died. He spent the last 2 years of his life with me. During that period, he confused me with his dead mother (who had died in 1955), his brother (who had died during WWII), my sister and any other name that came into his mind. The slide was gradual and painless to him, and most of the time to me. The hardest part was the physical problems, as I was his sole caregiver. During that time, he went into the hospice program as he was declining; he stopped walking, couldn’t feed himself, and was completely incontinent. He had in effect become my child. Once I realized and accepted that, it became much easier to deal with his physical and mental challenges. He lived in his own private world, and once in a while, it was the same as mine. I took him to church every Sunday, and he received communion until he couldn’t swallow easily. We went on drives; he loved to be in the car, and we took walks with his wheelchair. I think I was closer to him then we ever were before. One memory that made me laugh at the time, and I still smile about, is we had gotten home, and pulled into the garage and he turned to me and politely thanked me for taking him home. Then he asked me who I was. I smiled as I told him my name. And laughed when we got into the house and he greeted our chihuahua by name. Despite the difficulty of caring for him, I still lost him too soon. He came down with MERSA, an infection that will kill healthy adults. By then, he had no physical resources to survive it; I took him home from the hospice center and he was gone within a month. The end was quiet and painless. He received last rites a couple of days before, though he was unaware of what was happening. He had been sleeping quietly for days, and I held his hand and watched as he slowly stopped breathing.
    Enjoy the time with your mother as much as you can. Accept hospice when her doctor recommends it; it makes life easier. And keep her at home as long as you can. When my parents started to decline, I vowed that they would die at home with me and not at an impersonal hospital or center. While it was hard at times, I have never regretted it. God bless you, your mother and family.

  15. Pagansister I am so sorry you have to go through this walk so soon. My prayers for you and your husband. With my mom I’ve prayed for healing and if not at least a slow down of memory loss. Wish you all the best.

  16. It has seemed to me that it is so so so hard to recognize both that your Mama is walking home and going to God and when she gets all the way home that will be a beautiful and wonderful thing — and also that the journey of getting there is important and not in our hands. We want to either hurry up the process with an overdose of morphine (horrible) or try desperately to keep our loved ones here the writing is on the wall and it’s time to let the natural processes happen and fall into the arms of God (also horrible). Walking Mama home is a beautiful image but goodness it’s so so hard and it’s so easy to stumble in either direction.

  17. Thank you, peggy-o. I do appreciate your prayers. My thoughts for you and your mom. It seems there are many of us in the same or similar situations here, parents or spouses who are declining memory wise as they age. It is hard and sometimes very hard to continue but I won’t give up and I know you (and Rebecca) won’t either. Blessings.

  18. Just went through a year long process of the same thing. God bless you, get some rest if you can. Your Mom looks like a great lady.

  19. Wally makes a really good point. When my father died about three months ago, I held his hand as he slipped away. I thought I was doing something for him at the time, but two weeks later I realized he was still teaching me as he lay dying. Your mother is taking you home, giving you a wonderful lesson on how to make this journey. God bless you both, and know y’all are in my prayers.

  20. When I was living with my grandfather, on multiple occasions we visited family members who were suffering from Alzheimer’s. I won’t presume that the small glimpse I had of family members suffering from this condition, either being cared for by relatives or in a nursing home, comes anywhere near to making me comprehend what you and others in your situation are going through.

    The thought of euthanasia, as an alternative to caring for an ailing parent, didn’t even enter my mind back then, and I’m not going to either start considering or recommending it now.

    However, not every situation is the same. A while back, another patheos blogger wrote an interesting piece about the Brittany Maynard case:


    Of course, both her circumstances and motivations are substantially different than what people in your position are experiencing. I guess my take on this subject is that like most matters regarding life and death, its not all clear-cut, black and white, good vs evil.

    I realize that this is a deeply personal issue for you, so I want to reiterate that in no way, shape or form am I trying to suggest or imply that you should go down that path.

    I respect and admire your deep well of patience, fortitude, dedication and above all, love, that shines through while caring for your mother during these difficult times.

    I wish you the best during the time you have left together, however long that may be.

  21. I saw the article you link to, but I haven’t read it. In my opinion, these “thoughtful” articles and posts are selling medical murder. It’s the trendy idea, right now. The better way is to be “thoughtful” about how we can help people through their walk home. Dying is a part of life. It will always be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be terrible.

  22. Thanks Fred. Exhaustion is becoming a problem for me. Any ideas about how to handle it would be greatly appreciated.

  23. What it is an argument for is better services, better support networks, more empathy, and more options for getting care or assistance with care. I have one parent with stage iv cancer and the other with vision loss. I live 65 miles away and my husband and I cannot move closer. I am unable to work full time because I have to manage their care and there are very few support services available for people who are not in dire poverty. Our entire lives are on hold and our economic stability now and in the future is being compromised. And in the midst of all of that, I am told by “friends” that I have no stress in my life because we do not have children, that caring for parents is “probably easy” (as my parents’ difficulties have come early and my friends have not yet walked this road) by comparison, that managing their schedules from 65 miles away is easy compared to taking a kid to soccer. I am a substitute teacher–a sporadic job with unpredictable income– because even potential part time employers are clear that there is no flexibility allowed for caring for aging or ill parents. I doubt that most people give serious thought to euthanasia when dealing with the needs of aging parents, but I know that many people walk my path and we can do better.

  24. I loved reading this. I remember walking my dad and then my mom home. Such a beautiful experience. It brought all of our family together over the years it lasted.

    I really love Wally Noons thought. That is so true! Touches my mom-heart.

    Also, I must say that there certainly is an answer to sleep for you and your mom.

    A favorite homeopath of mine, Joette Calabrese, has some lovely approaches for the elderly and their families. It is gentle and wholesome.

    You might consider some of what she has written about Alzeimers, Sleep problems and much more:


  25. Yes, I agree. When you look back on these days, you will find great consolation in them. You may laugh and smile through your tears and begin to see the treasured moments when you thought you might drop from lack of sleep.

    My sister-in-law lost her mama to the same process. Mrs. W went from a vibrant woman and mother, to someone who would look at us all with a blank stare and ask my sister-in-law who we were. She could no longer recognize the many grandchildren she loved and would only smile.

    Now, my sister-in-law has fond memories even when she too, had to go and walk her mama home.

    My prayers for you and your dear mama, Rebecca.

  26. “Don’t pay any heed to euthanasia jerks. May God bless your mom. Your love for her is so admirable.”
    Why so hard on them Manny? They simply want to talk about “IT” and make themselves feel better.

  27. Is it really fair to dismiss and emit judgement on an article without reading it first? I would say that the author, a Christian himself, is trying to be thoughtful in the way you recommend.

    He basically argues that Brittany Maynard’s death shouldn’t be considered a suicide because she didn’t reject life; her circumstances took that choice away from her.

    That’s what these kind of issues boil down to really: choice. Its about what choices we allow, which ones we restrict and which ones we can live with, both as individuals and as a society.

    However, regardless of which side of the issue they find themselves on, anybody who gives you a hard time about your situation with your mother has absolutely no moral ground to stand on.

    The concept of choice works both ways. By their own standards, they have no justification to give you grief for deciding to uphold your own values and beliefs and doing what’s best for yourself and your family.

  28. We’re not going there. This blog is not a forum for apologists for legalized murder. You simply used this article as a sideways method to do what has been done repeatedly before: Attach euthanasia to a discussion about me and my elderly mother. I allowed it, but I knew what it was at the time. Now, you’re trying to drag the conversation down into the gutter of justifying murdering the elderly and disabled. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  29. I am glad to post just about anything you advance Ken. I want to caution readers though: We discuss and will discuss euthanasia on this blog. However, I will not allow discussions of that ilk to be attached to my mother and her dementia. In other words, no euthanasia talk on this post.

  30. While I breached the subject because it was alluded to in the original blog post, at no point did I say or imply that it was a viable alternative for the elderly and disabled.

    Nevertheless, it was not my intention to offend and I apologize for causing undue stress.

  31. Hi, Rebecca, I just read this comment. This is really tough. I’ve been through it. I’m just glad you have so much time with your mom.
    Regarding the exhaustion, you need to be off duty at least one night out of 3. Two would be better. Have you considered getting an attendant a couple nights a week, in the home? There are some very good hospice organizations that might be able to help, some are faithful Catholic, even. Because of your mom’s age and condition that would apply. No intervention, just support and attention for her so you can get some rest. I’ve been amazed at how compassionate some attendants are and how much their “charges” like them.
    My sister refused any help for my mom when she had a progressive neurological disease. She was cognizant, but unable to communicate or care for herself. My sister refused help and made some very unfortunate decisions and there was nothing I could do. It shortened my mom’s life.
    I hope you can consider it.

  32. Thanks Anne. I’m looking into it now. First, I’ve got to sell some property to get the $ to pay for it. I’m hoping to get someone who can help me with Mama here at the house.

  33. Mama was in hospice for a while but they kicked her out for being too healthy. We’ve done visiting nurse, as well, but, again, she got healthy. We take good care of her, and these folks have told us that’s why she does this. 🙂

  34. At home is best. With patients I saw some ho were really confused in the hospital, but in their homes, they cold discuss current politics and economics with a historical perspective.
    Btw, I think Medicare covers some help with Hospice and she qualifies because she isn’t going to get better with the dementia.

  35. We took care of my Mom when she had Alzheimer’s. I know what you are going through. This book helped us and will probably help you: “Learning to Speak Alzheimers” by Joanne Koenig Coste. It has many useful tips and practical advice from someone who did it herself and developed therapies that are now used in many nursing homes as well as by families. God bless you for your care and devotion!

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