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Blog: Ignite Your Energy and Grow Your Life!
What I learned as my mother's caregiver. . .



August 1st 2009 our family received the news that my mom had terminal liver cancer.  September 29th she passed away.  I spent the better part of August and all of September helping my sisters care for her - her fervent wish was to die at home, and we were able to honor that wish.  Once she received the diagnosis, she immediately began to prepare to die.  She stopped eating, refused any treatments to slow the growth of the golf ball sized tumor on her liver, and put the last of her affairs in order.

She had never been the same since my brother died last year of a sudden heart attack at age 51.  She told us once that years ago she'd expressed a fear to him that she would get cancer because so many of her family had died that way.  He laughed and replied that he believed her karma didn't include getting cancer.  "You don't need cancer,"  he said.  Well, apparently she did on some level, because she went from healthy to terminally ill in the space of 6 months. 

I have never done any sort of caregiving apart from helping my kids through the usual childhood colds and flu, and a 1 year stint with my son Andrew when he suffered from chronic fatigue in high school.  Instead of hiring help, my sisters and I agreed I would move in with her until the end, and we'd share her care among the three of us. 

Although I've coached clients who have had caregiving responsibilities, I could only relate from an abstract level - not a personal one.  I am very grateful for this difficult experience.  I understand what a terrible strain it is on the body and the emotions.  The intense care of my mother lasted only a month.  But there are countless women out there whose duties go on for years, taking a tremendous toll on their lives and spirits. 

It's not just the day to day physical care - the medications that had to be given round the clock, cleaning and changing her (we had hospice but not at night).  While I was there my sisters asked for my professional organizing expertise to help them get the house in order.  My mother was quite a "collector".  She was also a believer in "if one is good, 3 are better."  The girls were totally overwhelmed so with the help of my mom's housekeeper (she's Alice from the Brady Bunch - an amazing woman with absolutely non-stop energy!) we attacked the house systematically from top to bottom.  By the time I left on October 10th, the home where I had been born was ready for its new owner.  I'm glad I won't see the "For Sale" sign hung, I still can't imagine I won't be going there for Christmas.

The experience of being both a caregiver and my own professional organizer, while emotionally and physically draining, gave me an opportunity I will never forget.  Nothing is as powerful as the compassion and understanding that comes from personal experience.  I know now, at some level, how you feel.  I've been through it. 

My mother passed the day after her 81st birthday.  I will miss her terribly, but I am happy she is finally at peace.  Her grief at outliving one of her children was impossible for her to overcome.  Whether it was her karma or not, the cancer that claimed her was swift and for the most part painless and it ended her greater suffering.  I'm also very glad I was able to spend her last days with her and that she was able to say a personal goodbye to her friends and family.

In her memory, I'm recommited to sharing my experiences and finding new ways to help you combat stress, stay healthy and live with purpose and passion.

posted on: 10/27/2009 9:30:00 AM by Robin Stephens
category: Time Management


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Ignite Your Energy and Grow Your Life!


by Robin Stephens

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About Robin:

Hello, I'm Robin Stephens -
your "M"power coach! The "M" stands for Mind -
because that's where all change begins!
I'm a professional organizer, certified
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