Lifelines and Losing Elderly Parents

Bluebells, Curraghmore, Co. Waterford Photo: Frank Tubridy
Bluebells, Curraghmore, Co. Waterford
Photo: Frank Tubridy

May 26th is a date that will probably stay in my memory forever as it marks one of the most difficult days of my life.

On this day four years ago, it seemed like I was about to lose both my elderly parents within hours of each other. In hindsight, I think it would have been fitting if they had left this world together as they were so united but back in 2009 when ‘the nightmare’ was unfolding it felt like the end of the world.

In short, Mother was in hospital for tests that would probably have ended in her having to be tube fed ~ not the end of the world but certainly not something that she would have wanted. Father had a severe heart attack and was deemed to be dying. Mother was told that Father was dying and she had a stroke from which she died 5 days later. Father survived the heart attack and lived on for a further 16 months during which he and I shared lots of intense father-daughter moments, hours, weeks, glances, tears, laughs, music and poetry…..

This morning, I went to Newtown Wood which seemed to recognise my sadness, and I won’t deny for a moment that I am sad today. However, the beauty of the Wood, which is carpetted with bluebells and the singing of the birds, was so heightened that it turned the sadness and pain into heightened wonder of the healing powers of nature, which meant so much to Mother and Father too.

As I have said so often before, there is no easy way to lose beloved elderly parents ~ and the road can be strewn with what seem like ‘end of the world’ days, like this one, for me, in 2009.

But, from my experience one can be shocked, too, by the extent to which ‘ beginning of the world’ things can happen, too, at terrible times. For example, on that evening in 2009 when I eventually came home from the hospital, knowing that Mother was dying and not too sure about how Father would fare, I found our family doctor sitting in the kitchen drinking tea with my husband. He knew that I would be ‘in bits’ and took the trouble to be here for us all when I arrived home an exhausted and emotional wreck. To me, that is the essence of caring and pure heart and I will forever be indebted to him.

May I leave you with another photograph, taken by my father, and one which Mother always loved.

Sheep at Evening in Co. Waterford Photo: Frank Tubridy
Sheep at Evening in Co. Waterford
Photo: Frank Tubridy

Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and sense of place.

11 thoughts on “Lifelines and Losing Elderly Parents”

  1. I as you may know have been writing a bit lately on my elderly parents. I am sorry that your parents have passed , but I am pleased that you found the strength to move forward and retain those special precious memories of them. These are what holds us together. My thoughts are with you in your sadness, take care.

  2. It is ok to be sad and have that sadness thrown into relief by the beauty of nature around you. It is a wonderful tribute to those excellent parents that you acknowledge this on a regular basis. Tomorrow is a new beginning 🙂

    1. Hi SV, yes, today is the ‘tomorrow’ you referred to and the lilac tree has come into bloom ~ its perfume strong enough to saturate sadness! Thanks for your understanding words.

  3. Thank you for sharing the story and the lovely photo of your father with his dog and the sheep. It caused the most intense emotion to well up inside me just now, and a reminder of how intricately linked we humans are with each other if we are only open to our shared humanness.

    1. Oops, not the photo of your father, the photo by your father! Still, it evokes in me a memory of my father out in the pasture with his dog. The emotion is the same, no matter who is the man in the photo.

      1. Hi Suz, I agree that the photograph of the man with his dog is highly evocative and I couldn’t agree more that our connectedness is extraordinary ~ irrespective of physical place.

  4. Jean, thank you for sharing with us such personal memories. Your tender words are a fitting tribute to your parents.

  5. Jean, May 26th is my fathers birthday. 75 this year. Your post seemed so close to my heart and made me cry. My thoughts are with you. We carry our parents with us, everywhere and in everything we do. They are never really lost to us, it’s just the physical ability to be spontaneous and in the moment with them is gone. Digging deep into your soul you find them there, tending and caring for you, never having stopped. X

    1. Kay, thanks for writing and for your heartfelt words. I absolutely agree that our parents never leave us as they have been so integral to our lives.
      I hope your Dad had a good birthday!

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