Mom's Last Night

Keith Wiltse

I was a practicing funeral director for 12 years. I got great sense of being out of it by being able to help grieving families. I have not actively practiced for the past 10 years.

Mom had a history of ailments and would usually visit the hospital at least once a year. This past Saturday evening Dad called and said Mom had fainted at home and was now in the hospital. I have since learned that family usually gets sick at night. I figured rather than hearing Dad yell about not coming up at night that I would simply say I would meet him at the hospital on Sunday morning at 8:00AM. That was not meant to be. He called about 10 minutes later and asked if I could come up now. Met Dad and Mom in the E.R. Pulse and blood pressure were out of control. Mom was intubated due to breathing difficulty. Mom at this point was conscious. It was clear she wanted the tube out. We are lucky enough that Mom's surgeon/MD is a family friend. Upon speaking to the MD I asked the condition of Mom. I was advised grave. I asked if I should contact my sister on the Island. I was told yes. An issue that arose was the DNR order. Dad did not want to discuss this at all. Human nature makes us want to thing that a loved one will get better and that was what Dad was believing. I had to tell Dad to move closer to Mom and talk to her. They moved Mom to ICU and she coded there. They reintubated her, had legs elevated due to low blood pressure, 9 IV's and blood going into her. At this point for everybody's sake that might be reading this I will jump ahead several hours. It was now quite clear Mom was not going to pull through. My kid sister was now up from the island. I said to Dad and her that I needed some time with Mom. Mom now was unconscious. I held Mom's hand and told her how much I loved her. There was an increase in "gurgling" sounds and there was a faint grasp on my hand from Mom. I kissed her and told her how much I loved her. (Remember even though the person is unconscious it is quite possible that they still have their receptive skills). I then had my sister and Dad come in. This is a tough time for a man who has been married to a woman for 41 years. My sister and Dad naturally had a difficult time seeing Mom at this point. They both naturally had every excuse for Mom to get better and not die. They were yelling their wishes to her. I had to somehow explain to them that they needed to give Mom permission to die. Somehow they did. What was so "neat" when they did this Mom's expression on her face became relaxed and peaceful. Shortly after that by all accounts on the machines and monitors Mom was fading away. Once again Dad wanted to see heroic measures provided to "save" Mom. I had to explain to Dad that the machines, IV's were what was keeping Mom alive; and that the only other measures would be chest compressions. ( Mom 18 years ago had a lung, several ribs, and tissue removed due to cancer) I explained to Dad the chest compressions would hurt Mom due to the missing ribs, and fluids from the IV. Dad "admitted" at this point that Mom's heart was too weak. I said yes. Shortly after Mom passed away.

Please discuss DNR orders with loved ones long before they're needed.

Love ya Mom.


You can send email to Keith at: [email protected]
mail welcome

anniversary date January 1999
date of post 01-14-99

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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW