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Do we leave my MIL who is dying of cancer alone for Christmas?

(101 Posts)
PTFsWife Thu 19-Dec-13 15:12:28

My MIL will turn 86 on Christmas day. She has terminal cancer (mouth). My SIL recently moved to Portugal and the plan for Christmas was for MIL, my DH, me and kids to fly together to Portugal so that we could celebrate what is probably going to be her last Christmas and birthday together.

We are due to fly out on Sunday. Today MIL rang and said that she is full of cold and there is no way she can manage to go to Portugal. I think it is more than this. I think she is scared of travelling, scared something might go wrong while she is out there, doesn't want to eat in front of other people as it's messy due to the growth in her mouth, her mouth is hurting her more than she will admit, she can only eat soft things like soup/boiled egg and generally doesn't want to 'be a burden'.

So I said that we will then all stay behind so that she is not alone. She can come to our house and we will have a quiet Christmas together. Her house isn't really suitable for us all to go there. She can eat what she can manage and alone if she would prefer not to eat in front of us, but at least she will have company.

She insists that she would rather be on her own in her own home and that we MUST go to Portugal without her. She will be deeply upset if we cancel our holiday for her. (It would be a £1k loss on flights but that seems completely irrelevant at this point. The kids will be disappointed though as they had been looking forward to going).

I am utterly torn. I asked her straight up whether she would really prefer to be alone or whether she was just saying that as she didn't want to put anyone else out, and she swears she would rather just be on her own.

But how can we leave her to celebrate her (most likely) last Christmas on her own with a tin of soup?? But if we stay, we risk upsetting her/making her feel guilty that we're 'ruining' our Christmas by not going and it appears to be going against her wishes.

I don't know what to do. What would you do?

tribpot Thu 19-Dec-13 15:16:36

No, you need to stay. I appreciate that she doesn't want you to miss out on a holiday, but this is one of those times when you push the override button.

Next Christmas will you really want to remember that your MIL spent her last one alone?

You will need to be very firm but this should be a done deal. She must not feel guilty but you are not going, end of. If your DH wanted to, he could insist you and the kids go and he stays behind with his MIL, his sister should come here as well.

JoinYourPlayfellows Thu 19-Dec-13 15:16:58

Jeepers, it's a tough one.

I don't think I could go TBH.

I think even though she says she would be upset if you cancel (and she will be) that it would still mean a lot to her that you stayed.

JoinYourPlayfellows Thu 19-Dec-13 15:18:24

Yes, tribpot is right - just deal with it as if there is no decision to be make.

You want to spend Christmas with her, so wherever she is is where Christmas is happening for your family this year.

supergreenuk Thu 19-Dec-13 15:18:39

Can't you do a fake Christmas Day with her before you go? You can still have a special day together. Personally I would go. I'm not saying I wouldn't feel bad but you have asked her outright and she has given her blessing.

NigelMolesworth Thu 19-Dec-13 15:20:00

Stay, I think. I suspect if you don't, you will torture yourself over it at a later date.

I'm sorry that you have such a horrible decision to make thanks

ExcuseTypos Thu 19-Dec-13 15:21:01

I don't think you should go either.

I wouldn't be able to enjoy myself knowing MIL was alone and ill, so there would be no point in going anyway.

You just have to be firm and say you wouldn't dream of leaving her on her own. Tell her that the children will have many more opportunities to go to Portugal, that she is your priority at the moment and that's that, no discussion.

StealthPolarBear Thu 19-Dec-13 15:21:13

Could she feel the same about eating around you on the day? Does she maybe feel she would spoil the day?
I barely met dhs grandad who was paralysed down one side of his face due to his reluctance to eat or talk with people who werent family sad

Heathcliff27 Thu 19-Dec-13 15:22:00

Oh no what a shame. I wouldnt be able to go either, I also agree that his sister should come here too, I know thats maybe not possible but no way should she be alone. Tough decisin though and my thoughts with you all.

ElizabethBathory Thu 19-Dec-13 15:22:02

Agree with tribpot and JoinYour. I know it seems like you'd be going against her wishes, but I still think that deep down it will mean a lot to her that you stayed. And tell her you'll just go next year instead (even if you won't!)

Plus, you will not enjoy your trip at all, thinking of her at home alone.

woozlebear Thu 19-Dec-13 15:22:40

I would stay. I think she's being noble and would actually appreciate company. Even if she is feeling very down and does think she's rather just hide and mope on her own, chances are she'll appreciate the company (or at least the gesture) more than she prob realises now.

And when you look back, you'll have no regrets.

Hope you all manage to have as good a last Christmas as possible.

Flossiechops Thu 19-Dec-13 15:23:04

Stay - you'll never get another chance to do this again. Portugal will still be there next year where as mil needs you now.

Bowlersarm Thu 19-Dec-13 15:23:55

I'm another one who thinks you should stay.

Just tell her that you aren't going and that is that. Hopefully she'll want to see all of you, or your DH, but I do think you need to be here for her even if she is cross with you about it.

MorrisZapp Thu 19-Dec-13 15:24:29

What does your DH think? And your SIL?

vladthedisorganised Thu 19-Dec-13 15:26:02

Stay. Tell MIL you've rescheduled your holiday for half term or something; it will mean a lot to her that you stayed.

My last Christmas with my mum was a memory I'll always treasure and made an enormous difference to her.

InTheFace Thu 19-Dec-13 15:26:21

I would stay behind and do Christmas in my own home. And I would tell her that this is because something totally unrelated to her has come up. Lay on thick about how kids are a bit annoyed but you have no choice.

Then say seeing as you're going to be home, she may as well come over if only for a couple of hours; or you go visit for a couple of hours. Christmas at your house will be low key as you haven't had time to prepare.

She will see through it, but the veneer may be enough to allow her to see her family a little guilt free. I'm afraid I couldn't leave her at this time.

eurochick Thu 19-Dec-13 15:26:32

On a practical note, many airlines let you change flights for an admin fee, so you might be able to spend a little more and rebook for e.g. Easter.

Mrsantithetic Thu 19-Dec-13 15:28:24

It's a hard one. I'd stay I think.

However just to play the other my nana insists this year will be her last Christmas. ( she's old but nothing to my knowledge would make her die necessarily so not exactly the same)
She said the same last year too and no amount of persuading could see her spending time with us.

Her reasoning was for the last 65 years she has done Christmas with everyone else in mind. She just wants to enjoy her last Christmas watching what she wants on tv, eating what and when she likes without any hassle or having to put up with noise from kids. She loves us dearly but just wants to have it her way and reminisce in peace.

Could your mil be maybe thinking the same but too polite to say?

Slimchance Thu 19-Dec-13 15:28:43

Sorry you are having to make such a fraught decision.

I'm terrible at making choices like this and have a bad habit of trying to second guess people so I probably shouldn't be posting. My immediate instincts would be to definitely agree with other posters and stay. On the other hand your mil is a sentient adult who may seriously WANT you all to go and have fun- and she may want to do that for you all - and you in return obviously want to take her seriously and respect her wishes.

You could perhaps try and explain that it is not a case of her being a burden, just that you couldn't possibly enjoy Christmas without her there.

Fwiw are going through something similar atm, so I know how difficult these things are. Fil seriously ill over 800km away and sil alone looking after him. We have booked to go, and want to give her moral support (and dh wants of course to see his father for what will probably be his last Christmas) but sil saying perhaps not now an appropriate situation for dd. So we are in limbo and don't know what to do for the best.

Helpyourself Thu 19-Dec-13 15:28:46

Or you take the dcs and your DH stays?

VivaLeBeaver Thu 19-Dec-13 15:29:19


Tell her you were having second thoughts due to it been cold and you've decided you'd rather go when its warmer, etc.

Reassure her that nothing is spoilt and emphasise all the positives of staying. Kids want to see friends, want to play with their new toys, etc.

TheGreatHunt Thu 19-Dec-13 15:29:38

What does your dh think? It's his mum???

ExcuseTypos Thu 19-Dec-13 15:30:28

viad I too have cherished memories of my last Christmas with my dad, which is why I think you should stay OP.

Queenofknickers Thu 19-Dec-13 15:30:56

Can you get travel insurance to cover loss of holiday? There's usually clause for terminally ill relative. Might be worth a try?

FunkyBoldRibena Thu 19-Dec-13 15:32:09

What does your husband think?

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