When do you say goodbye?

(43 Posts)
Lilalulu Sat 27-Feb-21 00:56:06

Hi all, I'm hoping for some advice. My beloved mum is dying. She has metastatic cancer and advanced heart failure, and from diagnosis two months ago has now advanced to the stage of being bedridden, catheterised and unable to eat solid food. I'm living abroad (in the US) so I haven't been able to fly home see her since she was diagnosed a few months back. I was talking with her by telephone every day up until this week, but then she had a rapid decline and doesn't have enough energy or breath to speak on the telephone any more. I'm devastated that she's going through this, and to think I will likely never hear her voice again. I would like to write her a letter to say goodbye, but have I left it too late? I gather from my sister and brothers that she is groggy most of the time now from the strong drugs her palliative care team has prescribed, and doesn't have the energy to sit up, read or watch TV.
I don't know why but I thought I would have more warning that the end was near, but from chatting for an hour one day and then for our communication to be suddenly cut off is quite bewildering.
I've left it too late, haven't I?

OP’s posts: |
Workyticket Sat 27-Feb-21 00:58:13

No, I don't think you have. I'm so sorry you're having to go through this

Could you email uour thoughts to your sibling and ask them to read it to your mum?

HeelsHandbagPerfumeCoffee Sat 27-Feb-21 01:01:52

I’m sorry you’re mum is so v unwell. You say goodbye in your own meaningful way. There’s no script, there’s what you do in the situation you’re in
Some times events such as covid or travel prevent people being physically present. Doesn’t mean you’re not emotionally present
Saying goodbye is a process, it’s not a single act

Honeyroar Sat 27-Feb-21 01:05:35

I’m really sorry. It does sound like it could be very close to the end. It’s horrible how it is sudden like that. It must be so frustrating not having been able to travel. Could one of your siblings put you on speakerphone while they’re there? You could read your mum the letter yourself. Even if she’s sleepy she’ll be able to hear you.

Lilalulu Sat 27-Feb-21 01:06:52

Workyticket

No, I don't think you have. I'm so sorry you're having to go through this

Could you email uour thoughts to your sibling and ask them to read it to your mum?

Thank you. I could email a letter home, but my siblings would be very awkward about reading it to her (not out of bad intention, but they are embarrassed by sentiment).

OP’s posts: |
Lilalulu Sat 27-Feb-21 01:09:32

HeelsHandbagPerfumeCoffee

I’m sorry you’re mum is so v unwell. You say goodbye in your own meaningful way. There’s no script, there’s what you do in the situation you’re in
Some times events such as covid or travel prevent people being physically present. Doesn’t mean you’re not emotionally present
Saying goodbye is a process, it’s not a single act

Thank you for your thoughts. You are right about saying goodbye being a process, and I guess we have been doing that for many years now, as both my parents are very old. Every time I've seen them in the past few years we've been painfully aware it might be the last time.

OP’s posts: |
Bobcatbob Sat 27-Feb-21 01:12:16

I am sorry you are having such a tough time. Honeyroar’s suggestion of a speaker is lovely, if your siblings would be able to do that.

Lilalulu Sat 27-Feb-21 01:12:34

Honeyroar

I’m really sorry. It does sound like it could be very close to the end. It’s horrible how it is sudden like that. It must be so frustrating not having been able to travel. Could one of your siblings put you on speakerphone while they’re there? You could read your mum the letter yourself. Even if she’s sleepy she’ll be able to hear you.

It has been horrible and Mum and I have been pretending and talking as if we will see one another again, the whole time. She has always been so strong, I thought she could will herself to stay alive, but she is suffering so much now it just seems like a selfish wish on my part to see her again.
Thank you for the speakerphone suggestion but I know they don't have one of those, and Mum is hard of hearing so I think it would be very difficult even if they did. It was a lovely idea though.

OP’s posts: |
Monty27 Sat 27-Feb-21 01:13:56

Ask your siblings to call you from her bedside if that's possible. Ask them to let you say your goodbyes
I'm very sorry OP

VillaMia Sat 27-Feb-21 01:18:42

Lila, I’m so very sorry about your mum. An impossible situation made even harder because of the current circumstances.

I don’t think it’s too late for you to write the letter. You can post it or email it just as soon as you can. Your siblings don’t have to be the ones who read it to her...perhaps one of the carers will be able to do this for you. I’m a great believer in people still having an awareness, even if they are unconscious. If someone reads your words to her, I’m sure that your mother will hear them.

I also hold the belief that when we lose someone we love, we never fully say goodbye. We can hold them, their love and our memories with them in our hearts, as we find a way to live without them.

Take lots of care flowers

TryingNotToPanicOverCovid Sat 27-Feb-21 01:19:43

Speakerphone is just a setting on the phone - so you're able to hear the call without having it by your ear. Maybe it has another name?

I think for you it would be nice if someone could do that so you can talk to her.

So sorry you are going through this. A
especially now 😔

AcrossthePond55 Sat 27-Feb-21 01:30:27

I lost my mum to Covid at the beginning of the month. She had advanced dementia so in a sense I was unable to say a 'true' goodbye where you tell your loved one how much they've meant to you because she was beyond cognition.

But you know what....I did it anyway. We were allowed to see her once due to Covid and she was not conscious, but I stood there anyway and said everything I wanted to say. In my heart of hearts, I know that she heard and understood me, somehow.

If you don't think your mum would hear you over the phone or if your siblings would feel awkward to read her a letter, then go to a quiet and peaceful place, think deeply of your mum, and speak your feelings. Say everything you want to say to her out loud, just as if she was sitting next to you. Somehow, she will know.

LoveFall Sat 27-Feb-21 01:48:58

The one thing we did with my Dad was sing to him the songs we sang around campfires as a family years ago. He could not speak but he kept raising his eyebrows to say he heard and I am certain it comforted him.

You could record a message or song or reminiscences that are meaning full and have them played to her in a more lucid moment. You could also do this on the phone but a recording might give you more flexibility.

I am sorry you are going through this. Take care of yourself

Lilalulu Sat 27-Feb-21 16:08:53

Thank you all for your kind thoughts and your helpful suggestions—I am very touched.

I think I will write that letter. I have heard that some people can have a brief spell of great lucidity just before the end, and even if she doesn't get a chance to read the whole letter she will know I am thinking of her.

I'm going to conclude it with this excerpt from a song by Noel Coward:

"I'll see you again
Whenever spring breaks through again
Time may lie heavy between
But what has been
Will leave me never

Your dear memory
Will be a light that shines on me
Though the years my tears may dry
In my heart you will abide
I shall love you til I die
Goodbye."

OP’s posts: |
Lilalulu Sat 27-Feb-21 16:11:45

AcrossthePond55 So sorry to hear about your Mum. I'm sure you are right, and that she heard and understood those words you said to her.

OP’s posts: |
Lilalulu Sat 27-Feb-21 16:13:37

LoveFall That's a lovely idea—thank you. I have a whole list of songs I know Mum loves but her favourite is Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell… I think the lyrics really struck a chord with her. I think of her every time I hear it.

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Lilalulu Sat 27-Feb-21 16:14:50

LoveFall And my condolences on the loss of your Dad.

OP’s posts: |
SpongeBobJudgeyPants Sat 27-Feb-21 16:15:37

I would second your suggestion of a letter. My dad died of cancer, a long time ago. I was able to send him a card with Thank you for X, Y, & Z, and he was still able to read, so he got it, and it gave me some closure as well as him I think. Sorry for your situation flowers

OurChristmasMiracle Sat 27-Feb-21 16:18:38

Just a suggestion, could you read your mum the letter via voice message so that she can hear your voice even if you can’t hear hers? So that she can hear YOU say everything you want to?

Definitely write the letter though

Thoughts are with you and your family flowers

GreyBow Sat 27-Feb-21 16:22:27

Is there any way at all you can get a flight? I know in a few cases recently (sadly) quarantine to be relaxed in such serious circumstances.

I'd seriously be onto the embassy and airlines and try and just get here. If it ends up being "too late", at least you can be there for the funeral, although that's horrid to think about.

I happened to be in the same country as my Mum when I instinctively knew it was the end, although the other end. I got in my car and drove throughout and got there just in time. Hearing is the last thing to go, and my Mum wasn't one for great goodbyes, so wouldn't have liked a specific letter or phone call, so I just talked to her and held her.

Her sister flew from Canada but missed it, however her being there for the funeral was very healing.

Lilalulu Sat 27-Feb-21 20:46:25

Thanks all for your input. GreyBow I'm told I would have to quarantine for 10 days but it might be possible. I don't think the rules would be relaxed as my Dad is also vulnerable and I would be exposing all the carers that come in if I did have Covid. Thank you for the suggestion.

OP’s posts: |
SweatyBetty20 Sat 27-Feb-21 20:51:51

You’re right about lucidity - my mum had about a week of being zonked out on very strong drugs, including a day where she was convinced she owed my dad a fiver, despite not being out of bed for the last three months. A couple of hours before she died she opened her eyes and told me she couldn’t have wished for a better daughter. I think a letter or email for a cater to read out, or even a voice note sent to a carer or district nurse’s smart phone is a lovely idea.

GreyBow Sat 27-Feb-21 20:56:22

@Lilalulu there are exceptions. I know people who have sadly had to manage this recently. Please do consider contacting your embassy and being as difficult as possible about it.

Nith Sun 28-Feb-21 10:43:46

*Thank you. I could email a letter home, but my siblings would be very awkward about reading it to her8

Ask the hospital to get a nurse to read it to her?

user1936784158962 Sun 28-Feb-21 10:53:31

I'm so sorry for what you're going through.

Just a note of caution, my mum was incredibly distressed by people sending her explicit "goodbye" letters. It was too painful for her to be so bluntly reminded her life was being taken away from her. She said it felt like they were trying to get her to process their grief for them and treating her like she was already dead. Were they going to ignore her for the final days and weeks of her life now they'd got their goodbye off their chest?

When I make reference to having been able to say goodbye to my mum, I mean the moments of closeness and being present with her at the end of her life. I never literally said goodbye to her. It wasn't necessary and I didn't want her to have a single moment of panicking she was alone or feeling I had said goodbye and was abandoning her.

Which you have been doing, even if from afar. flowers

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