My mother passed away two days shy of her 73rd birthday, on June 18th, 2001. She had emphysema for years and was extremely careful to avoid crowds in general and sick people in particular. She had caught a cold in mid-May and a few days later asked me if I could take her to see her doctor because she was feeling short of breath. After he examined her he told her he thought she should be admitted to the hospital as a precaution. She was admitted into a regular ward on Friday but by Sunday her breathing was so labored she was transferred into the intensive care unit. She had been admitted into the hospital for infections before but never gone into intensive care and that was the first moment I actually felt fearful. Despite agressive treatment, she showed little improvement. They requested my permission to perform a test to look into her lungs to try to determine why she was not getting better and I reluctantly agreed (they couldn't get a legible signature from her). After the procedure she could not swallow and her speech was slurred.
The doctor thought she might have had a stroke or suffered nerve damage. She was suffering terribly and did not want to continue treatment. They suggested putting her on a ventilator, but she did not want to prolong her life that way, and she refused. After much discussion, her doctor agreed to stop all medication and put her on a morphine drip so she could die peacefully, without pain. I'm grateful I had some time with her in the hospital to say the things I wanted to say - to tell her how much I loved her, let her know what a great mom she was and what a good friend she was - and be able to hear the same things in return. I have never doubted that she made the right decision for herself, and I am immensely grateful to her physician for supporting her decision to die; I would not have wanted to prolong her suffering but I feel such a loss that she is no longer with me.
My mother was always my staunchest supporter and my best friend (besides my husband.) We were very close, speaking on the phone almost every day and seeing each other every few days. After she died, I thought I was "getting over" my grief quite well. My father (who has dementia and is in a nursing home) needed my support, I have two children (college age) who I am close to, a good marriage and a loving husband, and a job I enjoy. I threw myself into everything else and went about the business of getting past this grieving thing. Imagine my surprise, three months later, when I found myself having to pull over the car to the side of the road because I was sobbing and yelling so hysterically that I couldn't drive. Or hearing that my son was accepted into the college of his choice and absent-mindedly calling my mother's number to share the news only to hear 'The number you have dialed is no longer in service..." I've never lost anyone close to me before and I'm not sure if what I feel is typical or not. Grief seems to come in waves.
Days will go by with only the dimmest of thoughts about my mom and then something will happen and I'll feel devastated once again. My husband has lost both of his parents and he is supportive and understanding, which helps, but I guess there are some parts of grief we need to carry alone.