Is Mom Afraid to Die?

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I often wonder why Mom is fighting so hard for so long, 15 years now. It dawned on me that she may literally have the "fear of God."

Brought up a strict Catholic, attending Catholic school was not a pleasant experience for Mom. I remember her telling the story how she was suspended for refusing to put her hands out for a Nun to hit her with a ruler. Back in the 50's, according to Mom, it was common to instill the fear of God in the teachings of the Catholic Church.

For these reasons we (her three daughters) went to public school. We did attend Mass every Sunday, went to CCD classes and made all of our sacraments. Despite Mom's unpleasant experience with school, she remained a devout Catholic. Alzheimer's eventually prevented her from going to Sunday Mass. Mom can barely put a sentence together but, to my amazement, can still site the Lord's Prayer.

I started to wonder: Is Mom afraid to die?

I asked the facility if they could have a priest come and speak with her. I was hoping this might in some way ease her mind. I also realized I could lose Mom in an instant and wanted her to receive her last Sacrament, the Sacrament of the Sick. I know this would be her wish.

(Mark 6:13). In his epistle, James says, "Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven" (Jas. 5:14–15)

The facility has a non-denominational service every Sunday but the disease no longer allows Mom to participate. They had no luck finding a priest, so I made several calls and eventually spoke to a very nice priest. After explaining Mom's situation he agreed to meet me at the facility. He felt the Sacrament itself would ease Mom's soul, as she cannot communicate but for a few short sentences. He was also sensitive in assuring Mom he was not their because she was dying.

To the priest's surprise, together we said the Lord's prayer and when he forgave her she said "this is nice." A very powerful experience.

I don't know if Mom will live another year (or five) or if we will lose her overnight, but I am at peace knowing she has received the sacrament, and believe it gave her peace, as well...

Editor’s Note: Michele’s journey as a caregiver for her mother with Alzheimer’s was chronicled in “Fade to Blank: Life Inside Alzheimer’s,” an in-depth look at the real lives of families impacted by the Alzheimer’s epidemic. Her story continues on her personal blog on AgingCare.com.


Growing up in a close family, Michele DeSocio learned about the power of love at a very young age and still maintains that she is happiest when with her loved ones. In 1999, she became caregiver to her mom Jean DelCampo. Michele found her voice as an advocate volunteering for Memory People, an online support and awareness group for dementia.

Memory People

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10 Comments

Your comments resonated with me. My MIL is 90 and fights to stay alive and in total denial of the aging process. She accuses me of making things up rather than admit her memory problems and is almost pathologically needy when it comes to having someone to talk at (not to, there is little interest in finding out about others.) She was also raised Catholic and attended church for years but, after marrying a non-Catholic, her spiritual life became less important to her (I'm assuming here because she stopped going to Mass.) In the last 10 years that she's lived with us, there has been no desire on her part to attend Mass with us, pray at meals or pray for others. Her lack of spiritual life extends to a real lack of compassion when it comes to the plight of others; maybe 90 is a place of self-involvement to a significant degree. Anyway, I see the fear of God/dying in her, too. It's her journey but her fear is draining us. We wait and pray. Best wishes to you.
This is a very good article. It reminds us that although our parent may have slacked off religious-wise, but when they become 'sickly', their thoughts must also automatically think about that ultimate time when they will face their creator. I think having your religious leader come in and just reassure them spiritually must be a great relief for them. We didn't even think of this when we knew mom was dying. Only afterwards, did my family who are Catholics realized they forgot to contact the priest to say this last Sacrament. I think it must be important because older sis felt sooo awful about it. (I'm not of the same religion as my family.)
Mmmm not sure about this but i was raised catholic and am not afraid of death? Normally we are led to believe this is a new life etc......... maybe she has alot of regrets i know my mum has? Maybe ask her? my mum wont even go there but like i say she has alot of regrets?