101 Ways to Cope with Losing Elderly Parents # 5

I think that the seeds for coping with the loss of elderly parents are sown way back before frailty or death occur and this generally happens in a subconscious way.  For me, one of the many things that softens the sadness is seeing the blossoming of shrubs and flowers that I planted with my parents in happy times.

A typical example of this is the camellia which is currently in full bloom in my back garden and which Father and I planted together after a trip to our local garden centre and a drive round by Dunmore East where we stopped off for coffee and a chat.

Seeing the camellia now brings me back to a time when Father was in the great health and is completely dissociated with any of the more difficult memories of his declining years.

So seize all the opportunities you can when your parents are well to plant these memories and, if that time has passed, identify a few things or thoughts that relate to those earlier times as they can be very sustaining when pangs of sadness strike.

I’d love to hear what items or thoughts are ‘special’ for YOU in this context.

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