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How did my mom die?  
Started by EastCoastPEI
12 May 2014, 7:49 PM

I've been living with something in the back of my mind since my mom died a few years back...  on the one hand it's very beautiful ... on the other hand "scientifically" it bothers me ... so here's the gist of it.. 

my mother was in Palliative care for a few weeks... she went in voluntarily, while 100% coherent, etc.  about 24 hours before she died she told me about a dream where she thought she was chasing nurses around the unit for meds... but then also started telling me stuff that started to not make any sense... then a few hours after this she became mostly unresponsive... just before she did she said that she was frustrated that she was still "here" ... I thought she meant Palliative care.. but she meant alive... on earth.  

Then she stopped talking.. and went into a deep/loud breathing pattern.  My family spent all of the next day with her.  She only responded "yes" to "do you want the sacrement of the sick.  That was after lunch and it was her last word.  

That night a lot of family was around in her room.. then it got late and everyone left.. but I was staying with her overnight.  The nurses got her ready for bed with me outside the room.  Then came out and said she's all good.   

I went into her room and sat beside her.. noticed her Bible that I had been staring at for the 3 weeks she was there. I decided to read from it...  after a couple of minutes her breathing changed...and I noticed that one eye was a bit open.  it was different.  I kept reading... then I looked over and both eyes were open.... but looking through/past me.. her breathing changed even more... she started to make audible noise... like she was trying to say something... but then I realized she was crying.. the sobbing noise you make when you cry... but it was like she was paralyzed so couldn't do anything but make a monotone sobbing noise.  

at first I thought "omg she's crying" because she hadn't cried since being diagnosed ... months earlier.  but then.. it changed... it was less like a relief and started to sound like a panicked cry/noise....I called the nurse... at first they said "sometimes this can happen" like it was a reaction to meds or something.  But then things got even more panicked... she started making noises like a grunting animal in pain... ( I hate describing my mother like that... but it's what it sounded like ) ...they gave her more morphine.. she calmed down a bit.. .her heart started slowing... I said a few things to her... she made a wincing look like a combination of pain but also the face you make when you burst into tears from seeing something beautiful... and then her face completely relaxed.... and then about 1 minute later she took her last breath...

it was about 15-20 minutes maybe in total from when I started reading the bible...

I don't know if it triggered an emotional response... or if it was unrelated.. one part of me thinks she was some how able to cry and let go...

another cynical part of me thinks the nurses gave her extra morphine just before i came the room while they were getting her ready for bed. 

I toss between "what a beautiful moment ... a son reads his mother the bible and she finally lets go and goes to heaven" .. to .. " OMG I killed my mother" .. to .. "what the hell scientifically happened?!?!  HOW DID MY MOM DIE?!?"

 I told my sisters and family later than night what happend but I haven't talked about it much since then.  I keep thinking of making an appointment to see her doctor to ask "how did she die?" but then I talk myself out of it... I feel silly.  

but a few years later and it still plagues me..

does anyone have any advice?  I also heard I may be able to request her medical records to see if any extra morphine was given or something like that.. 
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Reply by KathCull_admin
12 May 2014, 11:30 PM

Hi EastCoastPEI

Thank you for sharing such an important part of your and your mum’s life.  I would imagine Mother’s Day brings those memories up even more.   

One of the great things about this community is that I know others will be able to share personal experiences. What I would like to do is suggest a thread started by J.D. What I didn't know about morphine  which has some very helpful information and links.

I think this is very important to sort out for your own self. Now may be the time you have the energy and ability to talk with your mum’s doctor and get more information surrounding her death. My one suggestion is that if you do decide to go through her medical records – ask a health professional to go through it with you to help with interpretation - even if you have a medical background.

To be present when someone has died to me has always been a very sacred time – whether one is religious or not –  perhaps both you and your mother gave each other the gift (although right now it may not seem like a gift) of sharing that time?

Thinking of you EastCoastPEI…


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Reply by Tian
13 May 2014, 2:04 AM

Dear EastCoastPEI

I echo Katherine's thanks for you being so open about such a personal experience. This may not be a response you're hoping for but I think you can never know with certainty how your mother died. Dying is a part of life and there are still so many ongoing processes and everyone is an individual and circumstances are different so science cannot give you a clear answer. Additionally even with the availability of the medical report that does not mean that all the relevant informatrion is there and that the information that is there tells the whole story. I am not implying that there was a deliberate attempt to misinform but simply that there is always doubt that whatever you read explains everything. You were the only person there the whole time. I suspect that if you were given more information you would be able to think of something else so that things don't fit together perfectly.

You saw things both very troubling and exceptionally sublime. I know it's easier said than done but I would try to focus on the sublime. Please continue to let us know how you're dealing with this.

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Reply by EastCoastPEI
13 May 2014, 11:47 AM

Thanks ... even writing this out and clicking send was a bit of a weight lifted... I just hadn't really dealt with it enough... this feels like a good start.  

I think I always knew that I wouldn't find out "how" she died.... and really it doesn't change things anyway... I know what I believe happened.. 

Still someday ( sooner or later ) I may ask to go through her records with a doctor .. 
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Reply by Tian
13 May 2014, 12:30 PM

Uncertainty dealing with a very important event can be very difficult but I think you hit the nail on the head. You believe you know what happened and it really doesn't change things anyway.
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