Thoughts from the dying about living

Catherine shares her thoughts

Her 81-year-old mother is in the palliative unit with stage 4 cancer.

This is a tough time for me and for my son, so we’re trying to write down messages from my mom. It’s trying to capture those pearls of wisdom. I’ve been fortunate to have my mom for 48 years, but my son is only five, so it’s about remembering things that are important to pass on. We have a good relationship so we are always talking.

I get more emotional when I talk about my son. We’re all just trying to figure this out, and there’s no right or wrong. There is this anticipatory grief knowing she isn’t going to be here one day, but on the other hand, I don’t want this last part to be being sad. I want it to be about spending time.

Time as a family is so important. It puts things into perspective, so other things don’t seem as important. You spend a lot of your time doing, doing, doing, doing. And suddenly, it’s not so important anymore. You realize in these [end of life] moments how precious time is and you don’t always realize how fast it all goes.

If you think logically as opposed to emotionally, you realize you have parents in their eighties, they are not going to live forever. I think the initial stressful part when my mom got sick was what are we going to do, where are we going to go and all that. Once those decisions were made, it was better. It’s hard to see her decline, but I’m grateful for the time we have, opposed to a sudden death situation.

And that’s it; we’ve been trying to focus on day-to-day stuff. I don’t want to come in everyday focusing on the grief process and what’s going to happen when, because those are questions you can’t answer. We’re just doing our best.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

» Learn about this project and view more perspectives