Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I have two friends with dying mothers. Each went into hospital for
something minor and had an “event” occur which seemed terminal.
One went home did all the filial things, and has returned her mother is
going to live, as it turns out. The other’s mother is almost definitely
dying (kidneys and lungs working only with big assists). The husband
is sure of her wishes, in accordance with her medical advance
directive. But my friend is totally resistant to visiting and saying
goodbye. Yes it is cross-country, but I have offered air miles. She is a
running list of excuses and rationalizations from work responsibilities
to “She won’t know” why it’s not only okay not to go but why it’s even
better. Clearly it is better for her, but am I being old-fashioned
thinking there is just something that matters about being present for
the last breaths and honoring the relationship? They did, btw, seem to
have a decent mother-daughter dialogue. No overt fighting or running
battles. I’ve tried to tell her she’ll be sorry later, but she is a stone
Dear Dutiful Daughter:
I’m with you. I was there when my mother died and while it is very
difficult to articulate in words, it meant a lot to me to be there when
she passed. She surprised the doctors by how long she lived after
being taken off the respirator. The human will to survive is pretty
amazing. Interestingly, studies have shown that often people die when
the meshpochah have left the room to go get a cup of coffee or a
nosh. There’s something about all the hovering that keeps souls tied,
when sometimes it’s better to say, It’s okay. You can let go.
If your friend is as much of a rationalizer as you describe, she might
be able to stay in denial for a long time, at least on the public level.
But we only get two parents, and losing one of them is a big deal. If
she has the chance and doesn’t go, I suspect she will regret it on the
inside, and there’s no do-over. I recommend having a one-on- one, in person not phone, and tell her one last time all the reasons you think
she should go, from being supportive of her father to future regrets. If
she still chooses not to go, shut up about it. But I wouldn’t rely on her
too hard if you get sick and need some help.