My mother (Jean Shirley Riach Ceff) is 30 years older than I am. She is 83 and I am 53, so she turns 84 on April 11 2012 and I turn 54 on October 4 this year 2011. I don't think she will live to celebrate another birthday though.
Mum has not enjoyed a great quality of life the last few years. She has battled breast cancer, and two strokes over the last 25 years or so. Neither of those things will kill her though.
A few months ago we decided that we should perhaps do something about a few skin cancers that had grown on her face. Two of them, one on her nose and one on her forehead, were removed in the plastic surgeon's surgery just using a local anaesthetic. It was quite painful at the time for Mum and the surgeon joked that she cleared their waiting room with her screams as he injected the local anaesthetic. She recovered quite quickly and her face healed quite well.
But there was one skin cancer just under her right eye. Injecting a local anaesthetic there would have been out of the question, so it was decided that it would need to be done in hospital with some sedation prior to the anaesthetic being injected. This too, was quite successful in that her face has healed up very well. This has not killed her either.
But she has lost the will to live. She has given up. She won't eat any more. She still drinks a little water and orange juice. She refused a cup of tea yesterday, and you have to know that for Mum to refuse a cup of tea she must be on death's door. She is on death's door.
We have tried all that we can think of to spark her up again. We have tried all sorts of things as far as food is concerned. There is nothing that she wants. We had Leahannah and Jiah ( Mum's first great-grandchild) visit last Wednesday and that didn't do the trick either, although Mum was very pleased to see them of course.
When someone decides that life is not worth living any more and that they have had enough there is nothing we can do really. It's not suicide or voluntary euthanasia, it's simply recognising when your time is up I think. I think all we can do is to let it happen and be there with them to say goodbye and “thanks for the memories”. But when it comes to saying thank you to a parent, you are thanking them for the gift of life itself. That's the ultimate gift.