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You go through old age twice, once through your parents’ and once through yours. But worse still, you go through losing them a thousand times before the final loss. My Father passed away 22 years ago, and I still remember all the details, the agony he went through, which we shared, the fear, and finally the hopelessness, and relief and shock when the end came. He suffered from cancer, which was not diagnosed until it was everywhere, but in particular, the lungs. Though in his youth he was a very heavy smoker, yet the last 30 years of his life he had completely stopped. Whatever the medical community says, I think that even had he not smoked at all the chances were that he would have contracted it, as it seems to run in families. His side of the family is riddled with cancer, both his parents died of it, three of his eight siblings did too as well as a few of the third generation. It is a horrible disease. I remember years later watching a documentary by Farah Faucet where she chronicled her own struggle with the disease, and how it brought back all my Father’s pain and all that we all went through as a family. To this day I can hear his grunts of pain whenever he walked from his bedroom to the bathroom. His labored breath while he stood there shaving. Even towards the end, he would get up and shower and shave. He was always dressed in suites and ties, he was of the old school where you had to present a proper exterior to the world, no matter what was going on with you.
He was hospitalized several times during the last few months of his life. First he was hospitalized for a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. When the results came in positive showing carcinoma in the lung, he read the report. He, with a PhD in Chemistry from England, closed the report, paused for a bit and then remarked about the pneumonia he had! Total denial. This would go on to the very end, even when he was taking radio therapy, he said it was a new treatment method for pneumonia. We went along with that, as lung cancer is terminal. He was hospitalized two or three times to drain the fluids from his lungs to enable him to breath. This was so painful for me as I knew exactly what he was going through for I remembered my own accident where I had a collapsed lung and great difficulty breathing. I lived through that nightmare a second time with my Father.
The final time he was hospitalized the cancer had spread all over and most of the time he was under sedation. It was at the end of three of the most grueling months for my Mom and I. We took turns being there for him, and towards the end we were there both of us. When you get to that point, when you see someone you love going through all that pain, you reach a point where you ask God for his mercy and to please, please stop the pain. And when the end does come, you are still shocked by the loss, though you’ve been praying for it and for your loved one.
Who,of us, who have lived long enough, had not experienced the pain of losing a loved one, be it parent, spouse or sibling ? We all go through it in varying degrees, but we all suffer the pain, not only of the separation, but of the struggle that precedes the end.
For the past few years I have been living with that sword held above my head where my Mom is concerned. She has just turned 100 years old, yet to me, I still cling to her, for she is my Mummy. In most instances I am now the adult, and I am definitely the one responsible for her, yet in certain moments, she becomes “Mummy” again. Though suffering from Alzheimer’s, she still has her good moments, she has never lost her sense of humor, but lately, very lately, she has become so feeble, her body is starting to give out. She is suffering from congested heart failure. This disease, thank God, is not painful. She just feels overwhelmingly tired and cannot really do any physical effort as she becomes terribly short of breath and faint. Now again I can hear her groans at every step, the shortness of her breath, and again I am in that dark, dark place of choking pain. I know I have to go through it, I cannot be anywhere else but here with her, but I think I will be haunted by this sound, as well as that of her bell, for a long time to come.
It seems you do not go only through old age twice, but you go through death as well. My fear for my Mom is so sharp, it is like going thorough it several times every day. Though mentally I try to prepare myself, yet emotionally, it is untenable. She is the one human being who has been a constant in my life, I have lived with her since I was born and up till now, the thought of losing her is like wrenching part of my life, my heart, mind and soul away. Though I know the inevitable, acceptance is another thing. From my experience with the loss of my Father, no amount of preparation ever helps at the end, you are still flattened by grief and have to live through the process. God help her, and give me strength to be there for her till the end.

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