Living with mortality (part two)

Laura Wiebe
Laura Wiebe

In my last post I talked mostly about losing my Dad.

In writing these posts I don't mean in any way to claim that my encounters with death and experiences of grief are unusual or somehow more significant than anyone else's. I am, or try to be, aware of my privilege and I realize I have quite a bit. It's just that now, finally, I feel like writing about all this is helping me. So really, I'm writing for myself here, and if anyone else finds it interesting or helpful, then great. If not, then that's just fine too.

From one loss to another

It has been more than three years now since my father passed away, right in front of me. I grieved for him, and still do, but I dealt with Dad's death fairly well, I think.

(Mind you, I have been on two different meds for anxiety and depression, and I'm sure that the degree to which I have been able to deal reasonably well with death and grief owes much to my medication.)

That said, my Dad dying brought my Mom's mortality into focus. Yes, she was eight years younger, but she had long been and was visibly the less healthy of our parents. On top of that, Mom had been in a more rapid physical decline for several years – and this following a slower decline since she broke her femur several years before that. 

Age, disability and a pandemic

Three years ago, my Mom was living about an hour away from me and I was visiting her about once a week, on one of my non-teaching days if it was during the school semester. Sometimes I'd be taking her to a medical appointment, or to pick up a few groceries, but one of her favourite things was going out for eggs and toast. Mom was a big fan of all day breakfast places.

Then came COVID-19 and the lockdown

After we entered a global pandemic, I never really knew what was the right thing to do about visiting my mother. Knowing how best to support those who need you, knowing how much to visit, knowing how to sustain and preserve yourself - these are never easy. But add on a pandemic…

Mom lived alone, but I wasn't needed for basic care. She had PSWs visiting daily and, while I was an hour away, one of my sisters lived very close. I'd sometimes think, once the virus got loose, that it might be safer if only one of her three daughters visited regularly. But that would have been so much to put on one woman's shoulders, and Mom wanted to see us all anyway.

And speaking of "safety," whose safety were we most worried about? We were worried about Mom, because she was elderly and in poor health, but she was worried about us.

I paused my visits for a few weeks at the beginning of the shutdown and a few other times of particularly high case numbers. I mostly visited on my regular schedule, while trying to take the extra recommended precautions.

Once it became clear this was no temporary situation, we did like most folks and readjusted as well as we could.

And another end

Things never got better. Mom died in hospital on July 2, 2021.

In a surreal turn of events, I’m now a hospital patient myself.