Losing a Loved One

Losing a loved one is never easy—now, it's even harder.

This has been a difficult month....for all of us. Some of us have lost jobs. Others, like me, have lost loved ones. My mom passed away the beginning of April of natural causes. She was 93. It was a peaceful death, and I was kind of expecting it. Mom had stopped eating and didn't even want her customary daily martini. She had lost a lot of weight and was growing weaker every day.

When the self-isolate orders were imposed, my mom was on lockdown at her retirement community. Only her health care aides could come in and care for her. Mom's hearing wasn't good, so it was hard to talk to her by phone. I dropped off letters and notes along with a few groceries. I ordered food sent to her apartment. When her aides said she hadn't eaten in days, I received permission from the retirement community to visit my mom.

It was bittersweet the first evening I came, the Saturday before she died. She looked so sad and so small. I came every evening that week and sat with her and tried to interest her in eating. She just didn't want to. Somewhere I read that you have to look at it this way: When a person stops eating, she isn't dying because she's not eating. She's not eating because she's dying.

Even though the coronavirus wasn't the reason she passed away, I believe it contributed. My mom loved to be around people. Her daily ritual was going down to the Bistro around 4 p.m. for her daily martini. The servers brought it to her without her even asking. Mom would sit and and smile and wave at people. Some would stop by and chat with her. She always said she loved the Bistro. Being there connected her with humanity.

Early in the crisis the Bistro closed. Mom had to stay in her apartment 24/7. Her only company was the aide that came each morning to help her with bathing, dressing, cooking, and laundry. She missed her family and friends. That was when she stopped eating.

In a way she was also a victim of the coronavirus, and there are many others experiencing a sense of futility brought about by separation and isolation. Those of you with elderly parents in retirement communities and nursing homes know exactly how hard this is on our loved ones—and on us.

Mom's aide found her Thursday, April 2nd, breathing but unresponsive. She was taken to the ER, where no immediate cause was found for her condition. Mom had a DNR order (Do Not Resuscitate), so the ER doctor let her be brought to my house, where a hospice bed awaited. She died that evening with my brother and me and our spouses at her side. She never regained consciousness.

Our minister called and prayed for her on the speaker phone 15 minutes before she took her last breath. It was almost as if she waited for his prayer. I am still getting used to the idea that she is no longer around. I was very wrapped up in her care for the past 15 years. Her death leaves a void in my life.

I'd like to dedicate this issue of Tidewater Women to my mom, Phyllis Elaine McMillan Heberling. Rest in peace, Mom.

Peggy Sijswerda

Tidewater Women Magazine, Editor & Co-Publisher.

Website: www.peggysijswerda.com
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