Sunday, January 25, 2009



painting by Rolf Harris

Today I had coffee with a girl who used to be one of my customers, and who is starting up a business as a long term care provider. She has been looking after her own mother for years, who suffers from diabetes and just last year, had both her legs amputated. I know her mom too, and in the last three years she's gone from 300 lbs down to about 115, and you can tell how sick she is. My new friend is hoping that her mom will not need dialysis, because she feels that that will just send her over the edge and she will not survive.

Other than talking business (we're going to do some networking) we also talked about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which she has as well. Since most of my triggers seem to stem from guilt, I asked her what her biggest emotional issues would be if her mom were to pass away. Looking back at my own, I thought she might struggle with the failure to keep her alive, as many caregivers do.

What surprised me was that she said she knows she's done everything she can - she does a lot of special cooking for her mom, she takes her shopping, she bathes her and makes sure she's taking her meds. She's her mom's best friend and confidante, and says her Bachelor's degree in Psychology has come in handy now that her mom is starting to feel the end is near and needs to do a lot of unloading. What she will struggle the most with, is the fact that her father has never acknowledged her commitment and sacrifice.

The relationship between her mother and father has developed into something superficial. When he gets home from working away, he wants to take his wife out to dinner and think positively. He closes himself off from anything to do with the subject of her illnesses or dying, which also closes himself off from his daughter, who has readily taken on this role.

After Dale passed away, a few friends expressed to me that my caring for him at the end was compassionate and loving, but not one person from his family ever said thank you or acknowledged what I'd done in any way. In fact, they thought I brought on his death prematurely. I have accepted that this just is what it is, and don't expect anything from them now. But my heart goes out to this woman who will always have to deal with the fact that her own father won't say the words, and even though she will eventually let it go, it would be nice to have him say I appreciate what you've been doing. Thank you.


  1. If she looks into her dad's heart, do you think maybe he feels thankful, but doesn't know how to say/show it? Lots of guys are uncomfortable with things like that. God bless her (and you) for taking care of people in need. (Thank you) Hugs.

  2. Hi Xanadu!
    Based on what she's said, she knows he feels thankful, but that's not what it's about. It is that something this profound is still NOT ENOUGH to encourage him to let down that guard.
    Thanks for stopping in. Have a good Sunday!

  3. I had an uncle who completely closed off everyone after his wife, my mom's sister, died. She had been sick for a couple of years, and after she died, he made no secret of the fact that he didn't want anything to do with her siblings. Sometimes the pain makes people do things that they think are protective, but which only baffle and hurt their friends and family. So sad. I am glad that your friend is able to see that she's doing a monumental job well, even if her dad never comes around to it.

  4. we can't stop death. we'll all die sometime. we need to learn to let go. here's one of my favorite emily dickinson's poem on the subject:

    Because I could not stop for Death –
    He kindly stopped for me –
    The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
    And Immortality.

    We slowly drove – He knew no haste
    And I had put away
    My labor and my leisure too,
    For His Civility –

    We passed the School, where Children strove
    At Recess – in the Ring –
    We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
    We passed the Setting Sun –

    Or rather – He passed us –
    The Dews drew quivering and chill –
    For only Gossamer, my Gown –
    My Tippet – only Tulle –

    We paused before a House that seemed
    A Swelling of the Ground –
    The Roof was scarcely visible –
    The Cornice – in the Ground –

    Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet
    Feels shorter than the Day
    I first surmised the Horses' Heads
    Were toward Eternity –

  5. Maybe for her dad, acknowledging his daughter's help is acknowledging aloud that his wife is sick and possibly dying. Maybe he just can't accept that yet.

  6. jennicki - I suppose. My husband said the same thing, but when I thought of that, I thought of all the family that couldn't accept that Dale was dying and therefore did not say the words they could have said, even when he was asking for them.
    I know that men are different, but sometimes it can't be all about them.

  7. Oops! I meant to say that their own fear kept them away from Dale when he needed them most.

    Mary - sorry to hear about your Uncle. That is sad.

    Plaridel - I know that one. Thanks for posting it again.

  8. I can totally relate. I, along with my mom, was my dads caregiver for the better part of his last year of life. I could list a million things I did for my parents but that isn't the point is my sister and brother not acknowledging my part in facilitating my father being able to die at home that had become the issue. I was accused of manipulation and later after my mom died I got more of the same.

    It used to really be a raw emotion for me. It sat in my throat like a big lump that was hard to swallow. But really has nothing to do with me and more about their pain, guilt and regret.

    I have great memories of the relationship I had with both my dad and my mom. I was a good daughter ...I was a good friend and even though my mom died suddenly words were ever left unsaid. I have no regrets, or guilt and I no longer carry the pain for those that do.

  9. it seems to be what is called denial. You hear so much about it, and it comes in so many forms. Your poor friend... it's so hard to see a loved one suffer, as you well know. {hugs}

  10. We have walked many of out loved ones to the gates of death and for the most part it is as you describe.

    Not too many thank yous.

    Look at yourself in the mirror. You can smile because you know you did everything you could.

    No regrets Kate.


  11. why would you have borught his death prematurely....

  12. Dorrie - I think for many people, it's a cop-out. Peaople might say she's strong, but she needs support from her dad, and sometimes that means acknowledging what she's doing no matter what your own hangups are.

    Bobby - thank you.

    paulafrances - she thought I should have forced him into the hospital, where they could treat him. Big time denial on that one...

  13. I've seen the same thing a couple of times in my extended family lines. My mom took care of her mother's husband when he was dying - for 5 years he did that. The man's own family only visited him once while he was on his death bed, but then showed up after he passed and wanted everything. My mother basically put her life on hold for 5 long years and this man's family comes out of the woodwork to claim everything, when they didn't lift a finger to help him while he was alive? For me - it was sweet justice that he didn't leave his own family a single dime but, instead, left almost everything to my mom.
    I don't know what it is about death and dying that effects people to act the way they do, I've just accepted it as part of the process.