After my husband passed away from a massive heart attack, his mother who’d tragically outlived both of her husbands, her two sons, her parents and all of her other close relatives, took me under her wing.
Since it was just her and me left in the family, we became extremely close during the last years she walked on this Earth.
Long Lovely Phone Chats Every Single Sunday Afternoon For 14 Wonderful Years
We would have lovely (and often multi-hour) phone chats every Sunday afternoon. She lived in Southern California and I lived in Texas so we adjusted our chats to fit into the time differences.
Those long and life altering conversations continued without fail for 14 years until her death at 96 years and 9 months of age.
Her two late husbands and provided for her long term care to the point she lived in a very nice retirement village near San Diego.
My Mother-in-Law Lived Independently Until The End Of Her Life
Until the day she entered the hospital two weeks before her ultimate death, she lived independently in the 2-bedroom condo she loved.
Although she had help with cleaning and other challenging tasks, she still did her own grocery shopping and the majority of her own cooking.
My late mother-in-law was an incredible woman with a will of iron and a mind that was as sharp as a tack until the moment she took her very last breath.
She was fiercely independent and pushed herself to achieve great things throughout her entire life.
Pain Was Her Constant Challenge
My mother-in-law was in constant pain for the last 28 years of her life from a wide range of physical health challenges including multiple battles with cancer, crippling arthritis and brittle bone disease.
The last 10 years of her life she was bent almost completely over at the waist and was never comfortable.
Luckily she had great medical care and her doctors did what they could to make her as comfortable as possible.
A Promise From A Doctor That She Would Live To Be 100
A few months after she turned 97 in one of our Sunday phone calls she told me she had her annual medical checkup and her physicians promised her she could live to be at least 100.
I asked her how she felt about that. She told me that at first she was very annoyed because she was just tired of the daily grind of living in pain.
Then she said she say it as a wonderful challenge and she was going to give it her best to cross the 100 year finish line.
I Promised I Would Not Interfere With Her Final Exit
During our many Sunday chats where I filled many notebooks with notes, she made me promise that when she was ready to go I would do absolutely nothing to stop the process. I gave her my absolute word.
Always very practical, she planned, arranged and paid for her final arrangements. She then sent me all the legal documents which detailed her very specific wishes.
Her Leg Disintegrated Into Bone Dust
In early June of her 97th year she was peacefully reading her Bible. She stood up to use the restroom, being extremely careful to use her walker to balance her weight.
As she stood up her right hip just completely disintegrated under her and she fell to the ground in agonizing pain.
After the doctors examined her they told me her bones, besieged by years of osteoporosis had literally turned to dust.
Hard End Of Life Choices
Her only option was to accept the fact that she would not be able to ever walk again or she could get a brand new hip. We discussed her options and she was adamant that she wanted a new hip.
Her doctors agreed that she would be able to survive the hip replacement surgery, even at 97 years of age. They felt it would actually reduce some of her ongoing pain.
My mother-in-law decided for herself to have the surgery and came out of it with flying colors.
A Difficult Hip Surgery With Even More Pain
Unfortunately the pain from the surgery was much worse than she expected and she was angry.
She hated being in the hospital, not having the freedom to be in her own little condo and being bossed around by medical professionals.
Ultimately she refused to do the physical therapy required to get her new hip whipped into shape.
When she refused to work with the physical therapists her doctors warned her that she would never be able to walk again because she would never learn to use her new hip.
I Honored My Promise To Let Her Die On Her Own Terms
Angry, frustrated, annoyed, in constant pain and just sick of everything piling up on her she informed me it was time to leave. She insisted that I honor my ongoing promise to her and let her do what she wanted to do.
I agreed to step away and not try to influence her decision in any way.
A few days later she refused to take any food or water. Since she had all the required DNR and related paperwork in place and was of sound mind, there was nothing the doctors could do.
End Of Life Drugs Were Administered
She lasted just 4 days without water or liquids of any kind before all of her organs began quickly shutting down.
My determined mother-in-law was transferred to hospice where she was given the “end of life drugs” to make her comfortable. She passed on just hours later.
It Was A Devastating Loss Even Though Expected
It was devastating to lose her because she was the most incredible mother I ever had.
She loved me unconditionally and she helped me get through the worst years of grieving from the death of my husband, her eldest son.
She also became my best friend, advisor, cheerleader and constant source of wisdom.
One Of Her Last Gifts To Me Was Her Bible
After her death I received a box of her personal possessions she wanted me to have.
One of the items she left me was her Bible where she had written my name at the very top of the page. It was on the page where she listed those people she prayed for every day.
I burst into tears when I saw my name in her handwriting. She used to always tell me she prayed for me every day and there was her written confirmation.
Dying With Dignity And Courage
My late mother-in-law didn’t live to be 100, but she died with dignity and courage.
She was faced with some very hard choices at the end of her life. With a clear mind and a strong heart she made the decision to end her constant suffering and go out on her own terms.
It was hard to stand back and not interfere, but I had given her my promise to let her leave this Earth when she was ready.
My Mother-in-Law Is Constantly In My Thoughts
I think of her on a daily basis, although I miss her every Sunday afternoon. Sometimes I forget and reach for the phone to call her and then remember she’s no longer there.
Luckily I have her beloved Bible and it gives me great comfort.
Although my late mother-in-law didn’t die from old age, she did die from the decay which accompanies an aging body and 97 year old bones.
She also suffered great pain during the last years of her life, which was part of her decision to make her final exit before reaching her goal of 100 years of life.
Death Is A Taboo Topic Which Needs To Be Discussed
As some others have mentioned, death is still a taboo topic in many circles which needs to be addressed and discussed.
I recently created the Death & Dying Quora Space to make that discussion available to those who wish to have it.
Personally I believe if my mother-in-law would have been given the choice to end her life with dignity even 10 years earlier, she might have chosen to do so.
But she didn’t have that easy or obvious choice so she bravely continued on even though she lived in ongoing pain.
Best wishes to all.