I am writing this today, the day after Tony Nicklinson died. I don’t know his family, but I do understand how brave they are. To see your loved one suffer is so very hard to bear. We knew that Mom’s struggle would be months, not years as in Tony’s case. Still, our family was exhausted by our efforts to maintain her dignity and comfort at all times.
Mom knew when it was her time to go. Of course, she knew she had terminal cancer and treatment had been withdrawn. Her metabolism was slowing down, she needed little food and only small sips of water. Her eyesight was almost gone. Her right arm badly affected by the tumours growing in her chest. We drew each other close and talked about everything. It was a warm summer, and her beautiful garden was just a few tantalising steps from her bed.
Mom declined any medication which would sedate her in her last days. She accepted medication to help her breathe easier, but she wouldn’t accept any increase in her pain medication. She didn’t need it, as her body slowly, quietly went to sleep.
On that last Saturday morning in August, the nurses came to the house to prepare Dad for Mom’s death. She was drifting in and out of consciousness, but when it was suggested that the morphine be increased she protested. Mom said her final good-byes and she died within an hour. Peaceful.
I have written about Mom’s determination to die at home, with as little intervention as possible. We had all prepared for her death, we had talked at length about her wishes. We had done all the practical things. We had said our good-byes and given Mom permission to die when she was ready. In her own mind, she knew that her struggle was over. Her body took over and in its own time, began to shut down, bit by bit, until there was nothing left.
For more information and support to talk about dying, see Dying Matters.