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My own mother is doing quite well, but someone close to me is helping to care for someone who might be in a state of decline. I am wondering if there are serious questions or topics that we will wish we had talked about during the lucid moments. Thanks for your ideas.

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I was very fortunate to have loving parents who expressed their love both verbally and physically. I am an only child, and there was never a doubt about how proud my parents were of me. I was almost 50 when my Dad passed away, and he still called me, "Baby." The evening before he passed away, he began talking to me about the past. I sensed what he was trying to do and asked him to wait til Mom could hear him, too. The three of us talked for a long time. He felt he had not been good enough as a father and husband. We assured him that we wouldn't be at his side if that were true. That was the last time he was able to speak, and I am so glad Mom and I stopped what we were doing and listened to him. When my Mom was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins (sp. ?)lymphoma, stage four, the doctor more or less told her she had about six months to live. We were always close and could talk, although I ended up in counseling to save my sanity when she became so demanding of me, extra money and "things," and my time. I devoted many years to doing whatever she wanted of me, to the point that I ignored my husband and home (which I regret...I almost lost my husband and my marriage). After therapy and learning how to have "tough love" when necessary and after the doctor's diagnosis, my Mom and I knew our time was limited. They started her on chemo, but her blood count was so low every other week that she had to have blood transfusions in order to be strong enough for the next treatment. After a month of that, she told the doctor she did not want to continue with her treatment. She told him she did not want to spend the last months of her life going back and forth between the chemo treatments and blood transfusions; she wanted to spend them with her daughter. I still marvel at the strength it took for her to make that decision. As I said, I was very fortunate. We went to every restaurant she enjoyed and to see every live Mariachi Band's performance we could find! The last movie we saw was, Beverly Hills Chihuahua; and, I can still see her face and remember how much she enjoyed it. We went to the nail salon together and always had lunch afterward. We spent many hours in her room talking about everything under the sun. I asked her everything I could think of and wrote many of them down. I am not sure you would call it singing, but we make a "joyful noise" while singing along with our favorite gospel CDs. One day she told me which dress she wanted to be buried in, and I was sure that she sensed the end was nearing. I don't know if you saw the movie, The Apostle,,,but there is a song in it about the person's feet growing wearier each day and her having leaving on her mind...her one regret would be leaving the other person behind...but she would be waiting on the other side of Jordan...and meet her (me!) with a shout, etc... If you haven't seen the movie, at least listen to the soundtrack. She was perfectly healthy when we saw the movie together; and, as we left, I told her she just heard one of the songs that would be sung at her funeral. We laughed and went immediately to get copies of the soundtrack, I had seen what a wise decision Mom had made by making pre-arrangements for my Dad. So, exactly one month before her death, I made pre-arrangements, right down to the music and pictures to be displayed, with the funeral home. That is the only time I wished I had siblings. I felt so alone in making those decisions, but I knew she would have approved of them. One day, out of nowhere, after one of our singing sessions, she asked me if I had made any arrangements for her funeral. As I said, we were very open and honest with each other, so I told her I had. The next day she asked if I would tell her what I had decided. I thought that was rather strange; but, as I said, she was the strongest woman I have ever known. So, I told her the details as she listened intently and seriously. Everything was very matter-of-fact until I told her which pictures of her and of her and my Dad were going to be displayed. My favorite picture of her was taken when she was about ten. She has an obviously unhappy pout on her face and one curl on her forehead. When I told her that was one of my choices of pictures, she at first said, "Oh, no, Sharon!" I just grinned, and before you know it we were both laughing. So many parents don't want to discuss their wishes with their children. I will be forever grateful that we were able to talk about such things. It really made it easier on me. So, my first response to your question would be no, I didn't have any regrets. On second thought, though, I wish I had gathered all of her recipes together and gone through them with her, writing down her special touches to the ones I really liked. By all means, my advice to you and to the other person, is to please try your best to be open with your feelings and affection! Spend time with your mothers and do things with them that make them happy. Forget the past and value the only time you will have left with your mothers. Consciously write down the things you don't know and what to ask her. My mother and I greeted each other with a hug and "I love you," and I never left her without doing the same things...even if she were asleep. It was very difficult to mourn her passing and to try to save my marriage during the first year after she was gone. Now I can look back and laugh at some of the things we said and did. We made many precious memories, and I consider them her gifts to me. No matter how you were brought up or how you feel about being affectionate, overcome them. Don't forget to write down the recipes! Try to make the time left as positive as possible, and I am sure you will have no regrets or unanswered questions. My heart goes out to you and to the other lady. I hope something I have said helps you to be at peace with yourself both now and when the time comes.
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I hope this doesn't get removed because it is a religious thought, but it IS my opinion. If it's not your way of thinking, you can just dismiss it, but the very most important thing to me is knowing that they will spend eternity in heaven rather than hell so that I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that they will 'rest in peace'. I think that's the greatest gift you can give anyone. It's the only one that leaves you yourself in peace, knowing that you'll see them again one day. And when one is close to death, they are much more willing to be open to give their lives to the Lord so they can be at peace during the time left here, knowing what is ahead. Next, I think, is geneology, as mentioned above, if you have any questions about it. They may be the only ones left in the family to know certain facts about family history. I am currently trying to type everything I can remember into a document on the computer so my son will have that information when I go. I taped a conversation with my mom's mom who was from Ireland before she died - partly to know sometime about her life growing up in a castle in Ireland, and partly just to get her cute Irish accent on tape to always remember. You could could ask them if they had any questions themselves about you that they have wondered about. And, most importantly, they need to know that you love them and that they did a good job of raising you (most everyone just does the best that they know how to do), and that you are so glad that they are your parent. In the end, love and appreciation for all they've done for you means more than anything else. Even if they are ornery, or cranky, or cold, hard people themselves - deep down they want to know this.
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Ok...fair warning. This is going to be long and possibly rambling at points. I hope you will understand how difficult this question is for some of us.

My family appeared from the outside to be normal and happy, but on the inside, we were anything but that. I won't go into the details, but I'm sure you'll get the idea by the time I'm done. I will say that my mother should have left my father when I was 10 and told her what was happening in our house, to all of us kids, under her nose. I was the only one that would tell her - my siblings were afraid to, because they'd been told it would break up the family...and divorce was still a somewhat taboo subject in those days - especially for devout Catholics like our family was supposed to be. She didn't leave. She stayed with him, and because she did, all 4 of us kids were dragged along wtih her. Amazingly, we learned to forgive our father for something he should have gone to prison for, and even to love him again, to some extent - but that doesn't mean we ever forgot, or ever put ourselves or him in a position where the problems could start again. He and Mom stayed together, but I learned many years later that they slept in separate beds for the rest of their marriage, and she never, ever let him forget what he did. She told me once that she stayed with him because she knew if she did, he'd never do anything like that again, because he'd know she was always watching him. But another time, she told me she fought to keep our family together, because it was the right thing to do...which totally confuses me. I sometimes wonder if she stayed because she was afraid to try and make it on her own with 4 kids to support, because she'd always been a housewife, or worked part time jobs like housekeeping or cleaning.

All of us married very young and got out of the house at the first possible opportunity, which ended badly a couple of us. We have become professionals at masking pain, hiding our feelings, and making believe everything is ok, when it's not. Because our mom chose to stay with Dad, we were all forced into this farce of a happy family, pretending that nothing ever happened. We compartmentalized the pain and trauma of the past and went on with our lives. There are dreams, nightmares and flashbacks - but for the most part, we just don't talk "about Dad" - that's our code phrase for the whole mess of our early childhood - "it's about Dad", or "I didn't tell them 'about Dad'".

When Dad died last year, all of us were left with a huge list of unanswered questions - and now we'll never get the answers. I don't know that we would have gotten the answers even when he was alive. We all went through some therapy/counseling years ago, but the questions were never fully answered. We have our theories, but without confirmation, they're just that - theories. We all know that Dad's actions will never be repeated by any of us - that cycle of abuse died with him.

His death hurt more than we ever thought it would, because in spite of what he did to us in our childhood years, there were some very good times - camping, fishing, trips to our grandparents' homes in the summer, holidays...and the knowledge the man had was incredible. He knew every bird by name and could name them just by hearing their calls - and could imitate those calls flawlessly. Squirrels and chipmunks would eat out of his hands. He could build incredible things with those hands - he made building signs and crafts out of wood that were amazing. Each of us girls has a cedar hope chest he made by hand out of scraps of wood he got from local businesses and contractors. The concrete floor of the garage made his back hurt when he stood on it for too long, so he took those same scraps of wood, and pieced them together like a jigsaw puzzle to make a wood floor for the garage. He knew everything about cars, how to make homemade paint, how to build a treehouse....and how to destroy a child's confidence and sense of self. I have good memories of my childhood, but I also have a lot of missing memories, or shaded memories that haunt my thoughts like an old television caught between stations - I can see images and hear words, but not all of them, and it's kind of fuzzy. I can't tell you how many times Mom has said, "You remember when we went to (insert place name here)?" - and I have to tell her I have no recollection at all of being in that place, because for some reason, my mind has blocked that memory out.

Now that I am in charge of the house and caring for Mom, the questions are endless. Where is the deed to the house? Dad was a meticulous record-keeper, but the deed is missing. I had to go to the county clerk to get a copy. Where is their marriage license? I can't find that either - another trip to the county office. Why does the furnace make that noise? Should I buy this van to transport Mom around, or that one? How often should the water softener salt be delivered? And most of all...WHY?? Why did you twist our childhood into something that had to be hidden, pushed under the rug, not talked about? Was this same abuse perpetrated against you as a child, and you didn't know anything different?

Sorry, I know this was long (I warned you ahead of time..lol), but this question just struck a chord for me. Sometimes our relationships with our parents are such complicated things...and their passing only makes things worse. You'd think that the passing of an abuser would be a relief - like a weight lifted - but for us, it's just left so many things unsaid. We forgave Dad long ago, and told him so, but it just doesn't seem to be enough.
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I asked and recorded a lot of things once I noticed my dad was forgetting a lot. My dad was not the best dad so we had talked about the things he had done while we were young. I wanted him to know that I had forgiven him. The only thing I wish I had done a little differently is that I wish I had hid my frustration at times. He felt like he was a burden to me and when he saw me frustrated I think it made him feel bad. I know he knew that I loved him but I am not sure he knew how much and I wish I had explained it to him rather than just telling him that I loved him. I miss him deeply.
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My mom and I are very close. She is in a nursing home and just began hospice care. We just started a "game" called "What if you only had 3 weeks to live". Some of her requests have surprised me. Who she would want to see, who she does not want to spend time with, a movie or two she would like to see again, a couple songs she wants to listen to, a few foods she wants to taste again, etc. Some of her wishes have been very easy to satisfy. On the people she wants to see I can only put out the request but some have emailed video messages I can play for her. People she does not want to see is a bit more difficult to convey so I am trying to figure that one out. It is a "safe" way to ask a lot of questions I want answers to since it is " only a game."
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My dad will be gone 3 years this June, I miss him every day and know I will for the rest of my life. He was my everything, I am one of 5 children and the only daughter. My marriage was not good, husband drank and had violent outbursts so when my kids were young my marriage ended and my ex pretty much walked away. My parents were there for me every day and Dad did everything he could to be a positive role model for my two children. I believe they are who they are today because of the love and support of their grandparents and I will forever be grateful to my parents for that love and support. I saw my parents everyday and still see Mom every day. Dad would also call me numerous times a day just to call, some calls would be about something, others were just to say hi and joke around. Dad and Mom would have been married 65 years the year he passed away, they had a wonderful relationship, she was his everything, he lived for her. Their love for each other was so beautiful to see and we saw it everyday. Growing up we never heard an angry word between them, they just loved and respected each other so much. Dad could do anything, his knowledge was amazing, he could fix cars, build anything, renovate anything. He was our go to guy, he had a all the answers and we knew and appreciated what a great mind he had. He was never sick, he worked hard and he enjoyed life to the fullest. He was diagnosed with lung cancer (found during an x-ray of his stomach) in 2006 (age 81) and had surgery to remove the lobe the cancer was in. It didn't show up in any lymph nodes so he didn't need any chemo or radiation. He recovered quickly and was dancing at my niece's wedding two week later. He continued with his active life until he was diagnosed with Non Hodgkins lymphoma in 2008. His face swelled up and he went through so much before they determined it was cancer in his lymph tissue in his sinus, he never lost his spirit though or his love of life. He went through 6 rounds of chemo, and was declared cancer free. He handled the chemo great and was never sick or had any side effects except for neuropathy. Life went on and Dad did great, 6 months after his treatment finished he proudly walked my daughter down the isle at her wedding. We had 3 great years, he welcomed my daughter's first child into the family and he got to do all the things he loved to do. In December of 2010 he started feeling different, he couldn't taste food and his sinuses were blocked. We went to see his oncologist out of concern the cancer was back but insurance denied the doctor's request to do a pet scan or MRI saying it was acting like a sinus infections so it needed to be treated as one, so he was put on antibiotics, three different ones and none helped but by this time he was weak and had lost a lot of his zest for life. Long story short the cancer was back and by the time the insurance would allow a pet scan it was at the brain stem. He went through 25 radiation treatments, treatments that eventually killed him. We were never told what those treatments would do to his throat, saliva glands or anything else. Everything was down played, he was just a number to to them, not human. In the end Dad gave up, he made the ultimate sacrifice to stop all treatment, he didn't want to be a burden to his family and he didn't want us to remember him ill, when we thought of him he wanted us to see him happy, cooking or building things and he knew if he got the feeding tube or allowed any more treatment he would never be that person again and would have to depend on us for the rest of his life so he made the decision to let go. We brought him home and took care of him. We loved him and spent time with him and most important we took care of Mom because through all that he went through his main concern was for our mother, he needed to know that we were there taking care of her and that we would continue to care for her the way he did once he was gone. Do I have guilt, yes I do, I feel like I failed him, I should have researched what radiation does to a person, my Dad was terrified of having radiation, he did it for his family and I feel so bad that he felt he had to do that for us. I feel like I disappointed him in the end. I never see signs that he is around me and I so want to see one so I know he is okay. I feel like I should have done more and that maybe, even though I didn't think he was suffering at the end that he was and I should have given him more morphine and adavan, he seemed peaceful though so I though he was okay. I've read so many stories about how wonderful Hospice was for people, we did not have that, the hospice we had really did nothng, they weren't supportive, they weren't any of the things I have read here but we didn't know, we had never gone through this so we thought they were doing what they were supposed to do, it wasn't until after when I read what so many got from Hospice that I realized what a real Hospice does for the ill person and their family. It was okay in terms of Dad's care though because we took care of him, we did everything we could to keep him comfortable and to show him how much we all loved him. We gave him permission to let go, it was so hard but we, especially Mom and I knew he needed to hear it from us and that we would be okay. The last conversation I had with Dad was about his burial, he wanted to be creamated and his remains kept until our Mother passed away, he then wants to be put in her casket with her, he didn't want to be buried beside her, he wanted to be with her so he could hold her hand forever. I will honor that wish and I have a very small urn of his remains that when my Mom dies I will be put in her hand so they can hold hands forever and the remainder of his remains will be laid in her casket with her. We did bury a small urn at the cemetary with his approval so we would have a place to go to visit him and talk to him, as my brother said, he didn't want to come to my house and talk to Dad on my mantle so it was important that we have a place where we could all go and visit with him. Death is a funny thing, well not funny, its hard to put into words and until you have experienced a loss you have no idea what people go through. I never cried after my Dad died, not at his wake, funeral or even when they played Taps and handed my Mom his flag, I haven't cried anytime after either except for a couple of minutes on the first Father's Day after he died. I cried a lot before he passed away, those last couple of weeks I was crying all the time. I was grieving my loss before he was gone. I believe I was numb after he passed and to some degree I think I still am, I go through life and realize life does go on but I am really stuck in that moment that I lost him, time passes so slowly but it is also speeding by me. I can't believe he has been gone for almost 3 years, I feel like it just happened yesterday. I am a different person now, when Dad died, he took a part of me with him. I have learned a lot about life and love and will forever be greatful for my family and that I got to be a part of my Dad's final journey, It was sad but it was beautiful and I will forever treasure that time with him.
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There are many topics you think of later. One idea concerns genealogy: trying to find out as many details as possible about your ancestors. Your loved one is a great source of information for ancestors and knowing your family tree helps after they have passed.
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I agree about telling your loved one he or she is important and loved. I am very shy about that, and so am working on it. Somehow I feel awkward kissing and hugging, but it is important, and once started should continue, especially in front of other loved ones. Just a hug and a kiss,,,,and to say I Love You..So try doing it now....time is flying by and for me, I don't want any guilt feelings....
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I grew up with a strict and cold hearted father, but a loving and good mother. I was sort of afraid of my dad, although he never hurt me. He just had such a hard life that he tried to run our lives to meet his ideas. He especially was hard on my brother. My dad didn't believe in college..his idea was to go straight to work from high school and build up status...but my brother and I both attended college and my mother struggled to pay for it. It was later that I really came to appreciate her and love her more....
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After losing both my parents in the last 3 years, there are things I wish I would have done differently. Being a nurse, I was their caregiver. Being an only daughter, I was their best friend. Being the only sibling nearby, I was the housekeeper, pet keeper, grocery shopper, taxi,etc.
Looking back, those roles took time from me that I should have spent sitting and holding each of my parent's hands. I regret letting the nurse in me think that dad was hallucinating rather than talking with angels and loved ones that already passed. He even asked me once, "Who is that guy standing in the corner?" I should have asked him, "Does he look like a familiar face?", rather than stating, "There is no one there dad."
Because I was grieving before my dad was even dead, I spent my 50th birthday at home, alone, instead of going to their home, because the thought of this birthday being the last with my dad at my side, was too hard to accept. He died 13 days later.
In my dad's last minutes of his life, my kids were all at grandpa's side holding his hand, but I was on the phone talking to a sibling who was asking what was going on because he had gotten a message from Hospice, but continued to be in denial. Since none of my siblings were of any help through this dying process, I should have just hung up the phone after telling him to communicate with Hospice. I didn't get to say,"I'll be okay dad, go be in peace. I love you and will see you again."
I did better with my mom when she was in her last days. I did tell her she was a great mom and told her to "go be with dad, he's waiting for you". They were married for 55 years. Once again, siblings refused to accept her imminent death, were in denial, and caused turmoil.But, I didn't let it shake me this time. I realized it was THEIR feelings of guilt, not mine. I had to daily remind myself that I did the best I could, in the roles that my parent's asked of me. They were awesome parents! I miss them daily but I am so happy my kids, husband and myself spent so much time with them in their last years.
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