A Parent’s Journey Into Night

Mom and her grandson, Kevin and his family

Mom and her grandson, Kevin and his family

It was barely a month ago that my nephew and his family came for a visit and we took this picture with my mom.  She wasn’t jumping through hoops but she was paying attention to the children and even singing along with some of the family “classic” songs, like “Turkey Land.”

Still enjoying the Easter Bunny at age 99.

Still enjoying the Easter Bunny at age 99.

When my son and his children came up last week for a visit, things were much different.  She didn’t react much to them at all.  I was shocked at how much she had gone downhill in just a week.

Well, over the weekend I got a call from the  staff at her nursing home.  They wanted to let me know that Mom’s pain medication had been increased again because her pain was back despite the change to a pain patch.  Her doctor had also given orders for the administration of liquid morphine as needed.  Then the nurse added, “I guess Ellen talked to you about Hospice, right?”

Um, no she hadn’t.  I had seen Ellen, the resident social worker on the day I brought the kids to see Mom but I guess she didn’t want to bring up the subject and spoil what little visit we were having.  I appreciate that.  I would have gone to pieces on the spot.

At last year's picnic for residents

At last year’s picnic for residents

It was with a very heavy heart that I went to the nursing home today.  I knew that I had to talk with the social worker about bringing in Hospice.  I didn’t know in what state I’d find Mom.  It was very difficult.  When I walked into her room, she was lying in bed, her mouth slack and her eyes not focused on anything.  She didn’t respond to me or acknowledge my presence.  I sank into the chair beside her, held her hand and sobbed.  That’s where the social worker found me.

We went to her office and she briefed me on what to expect from Hospice care.  They provide additional care, as needed.  They visit with the patient.  This particular group will send a harpist over to play harp music in Mom’s room.  Mom always has loved music.  There are probably other things that they’ll do and I’ll find that out tomorrow when I meet with the hospice representative.

I went back to Mom’s room.  June, her roommate, was singing away at the top of her lungs.  There were no words to her song.  It was just a  2 or 3 measure tune sung over and over.  Occasionally June would tell me, “I always sing to her.  She likes that.  It comforts her.  Sometimes I read her scripture, too.”    It was sweet of her, even if I WAS trying to read to Mom over the “music.”

At one point, June told me, “I sing to my little grandson, too.  Oh, look…he’s fallen asleep.”  I guess that even in June’s dementia, she has found a purpose.  God bless her!

Linda, one of Mom’s favorite nurses, came in to sit with me for awhile.  We hugged and she held Mom’s hand and tried to sing her a song but she wasn’t having any more luck keeping her composure than I was.

I’ll be back tomorrow.  I don’t know what I’m supposed to do at this point.  This is all new territory to me.  I’ve never sat vigil next to someone who was dying, let alone a parent.  When my father and my grandmother died, I was living far away and just received a phone call after the fact.  That was painful enough.  This is something that Mom and I will have to feel our way through together.

The nurses came and got Mom up and into her wheelchair for lunch.  They are going to attempt to take her to meals and see if that’s feasible any longer.  I suspect it won’t be long before they abandon the pretense.  Mom doesn’t eat anymore.  I wheeled her into the dining room and propped her head up so that I could put her bib around her neck.  I read the lunch menu to her like I always do.  And then I kissed her and told her that I’d be back tomorrow.

“See you later, Alligator,” I told her.

She always says, “After while, Crocodile.”  There was no response today.

I bawled all the way down the hall and out the front door, the little girl inside me crying out in unspoken words, “Mama, don’t leave me.  I don’t want you to go.”



  • Oh, Dee–this is so hard! Our thoughts are with you. Your mom is very blessed to have you for a companion on her last stretch. May the rest of her journey be as peaceful as possible.

    • Dee Porterfield

      Thanks so much, Rebecca.

  • karyn hutchinson

    My heart goes out to you, Dee. I know how much you love your mom. This won’t be easy, I’m sure. Wish I could ease your pain, but at least I can talk to the One who can on your behalf. (((hugs))))

  • Judy

    Dee- This one of the hardest things life throws at us. Your mom touched many lives in her journey here,mine included. I won’t say that I know how you feel,that is too trite. I went through this with both my parents. You grieve, but when the time comes, you take her hand and tell her “It’s O.K. Now you can go home. Everyone will miss you, but we’ve got each other, and we’ll be fine. I love you. you were the best mom ever.”

  • Wow Dee, I am sorry that you are going through this but so glad that you are able to be with your mom to share these last moments with her and not far away.


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