I had two old ladies in my life — my mum and Honey — and mourn them both. Mum was 87 and last year moved to a care home where she became frailer.
She hated being so dependent on others and repeated: ‘I just want to go to sleep and not wake up.’ She was doubly incontinent for the last year of her life and hated it.
For the last few months she didn’t have the strength to lift herself to standing to get into the wheelchair.
Over the summer her health slowly declined: she became bedridden, ate very little, got thinner and thinner. She slept a lot, then couldn’t swallow and had to eat pureed food, then she couldn’t talk properly.
Twice I had a phone call saying to come quickly, it wouldn’t be long, and twice she rallied. It was so terribly sad to watch someone suffer so much and slowly decline, but at least she wasn’t in pain. Finally she went to sleep for ever on the Bank Holiday weekend with all three of her children with her, and we were all glad for her that it was over.
My other old lady was our Jack Russell — Honey. She lived to the grand old age of 17 years and four months. The last couple of years were challenging. We had to carry her up and down stairs, out of the back door to go in the garden, on and off the sofa and bed — her favourite place was on our bed.
We bought a baby alarm so that we could hear her moving about on the bed if she wanted to come down. She couldn’t walk very far any more so we bought a doggy buggy so that she could still go for a walk.
She always seemed happy and we always got a tail wag when we stroked her, and she always enjoyed her food. We discussed end-of-life care with the vet.
Then she stopped eating and we knew it was time. The vet gave her a sedative, and then (when she was asleep) a lethal dose. She passed away in my arms.
Which of them had a better end of life? I hope I don’t suffer like Mum if I get old, and I hope I never have to watch anyone suffer like that again. It was shocking and depressing and I keep thinking about it.
I believe the laws in this area need to change — and would like to know what you think.
This week, Bel responds to a woman who recently lost her mother – and questions why elderly people are forced to suffer in a way animals aren’t made to.
Your letter made me catch my breath because it felt so close to home. You could be describing my own mother’s last ten months of life, with all its discomfort, humiliation, weariness, exhaustion and despair. She used to say she’d had enough and ‘I wish there was a pill I could take’.
When she went into hospital for the last time, and the young doctor took me aside to discuss putting Mum on end-of-life care, I was relieved.
Thought of the day:
You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face. And show the world all the love in your heart. Then people gonna treat you better. You’re gonna find, yes you will. That you’re beautiful, as you feel.
From Beautiful by Carole King from the album Tapestry (1971)
I asked her if family members ever indignantly say no, and she told me they did.
We agreed that surely it is selfish to wish your beloved parent to exist in pain and suffering — for your sake.
I knew my mother had had enough —and, in turn, I’d had enough of watching her misery increase as more things went wrong with her poor old body. She died two days later.
How many people reading this recognise the situation?
How many readers know the sorrow and helplessness, when your loved one expresses a wish to die?
And how many feel, as I do, that it would be preferable to take your own life than deteriorate so much, become so helpless and utterly miserable, that your own children look on in despair? When you tell the story of your dear little dog’s death, you are echoing what many people think: ‘We don’t let animals suffer, so why is it all right for humans?’
I happen to be in favour of assisted dying, with all the check and balances possible.
But this is an advice column, not an editorial page, and I’ve written on the subject for the paper in the past. (Go to: dailymail.co.uk/debate and search for article 3230071.) The point is, you have suffered a double bereavement (which is not to compare a beloved dog with a mother, but you know exactly what I mean ) and this is what you now have to process.
I know you have been brooding about your mother’s last months, yet you say she was not in real pain at the end, and since she died with her three children at her bedside, then I would venture to suggest that in that way it was ‘a good death’. She must have known her beloved family was there. I expect you talked to her and held her hand — and she would have known, just as I believe my comatose mum knew I stood leaning over her bed and talking to her for six hours as the end drew near.
Please don’t continue to dwell on the end of life. What society does or does not decide in time will not affect your grief — or mine.
Let us remember our mothers in the prime of life — what they wore, what made them laugh, what were their favourite foods, what music they loved. All that.
Remember the joy. Imagine puppy Honey bouncing as only Jacks can — and let your mother live merrily in your heart.
Should I talk to my teen about his ‘fumblings’?
A few incidents have occurred during the past year which are causing me to wonder about my 15-year-old son’s sexual orientation.
On one occasion I walked into the room and found him and a friend ‘messing’ with each other on the couch. Both jumped up when I came in and they were embarrassed.
Another time, in July, I came back early and found him and another lad sunbathing naked on the patio.
Then, two weeks ago, he and one of his friends came back to the house to play video games. I waited for an hour then went up to his room and opened the door without warning to ask them if they wanted me to drive down for a takeaway.
They were engaged in sexual activity on the bed. What is the best way to deal with this? I need advice please.
This is obviously worrying you a lot and I can understand why. All parents feel protective and it’s likely that you fear a less happy future for your son if, indeed, he is gay — as distinct from just experimenting sexually, as teenagers often do.
At 15 he is still discovering so much about himself and his friends, and you should perhaps remember that erotic ‘messing’ about was once a rite of passage for boys packed off by their parents to English public schools.
Some remained homosexual when they became adults; the others went on to live rampantly heterosexual lives.
You cite three instances which must have been excruciatingly embarrassing for him, as they were very awkward for you. It sounds as if you’ve reached the time to have a kind, frank talk with your son about these issues.
It won’t be easy, because teens can be hard to talk to at the best of times.
But subconsciously your son might be longing for you to know who he really is, otherwise why leave himself so open to discovery at home?
Whatever their sexuality, teenagers have an acute need to be understood, even if they seem to ward you off with a grunt, and talking about anything to do with sex is likely to make them clam up.
Nevertheless, parenting takes patience, perseverance and persuasion, and it’s vital he knows you’re there to listen.
You could start by saying that you’re really sorry for bursting into his room.
You’re probably thinking you have a right to go anywhere you like in your own home, but it’s only polite to a young person to knock first.
Let him know that’s what you think and assure him you respect his privacy. Then you could ask, gently and in a matter-of-fact way, whether he has feelings for the friend he was with.
It is very important to stay calm and not hassle him with a lot of questions, yet make it clear by nodding that you are ready to listen to him.
Don’t say, ‘Do you think you might be gay?’ but wait for him to tell you. Coming out to a parent is a very big thing, and even if he is convinced he is gay he still may not be ready to share that with you.
But at least he will know he has your support — and that you are ready to listen with an open mind when he wants to talk.
I suspect you are anxious about what people will think if your son does come out as gay.
Perhaps you live in a community (possibly rural, or religious?) which is less than tolerant.
If that is the case he will need twice as much support, and somehow you need to let him know for certain that whatever happens, his mum is on his side.
As I said, parenting a teenager is rarely easy, and the ‘problem’ you outline is just one of many — a wide variety — faced by many parents.
By whatever means possible, let your son know you will always be ready to understand and help.
Say that if ever he wants to talk to an outside expert you will help to arrange it, but don’t bombard him with unnecessary suggestions now.
Above all, make sure he knows that his happiness is your chief priority and that he is loved.
And finally…music is the best cure for the blues
It was one of those times. I was worried about my best friend, in hospital with a broken femur in a year when she really hasn’t had good health.
The BBC news had become unbearable. Harry and Meghan were being given a prestigious award for what I regard as rank treachery and I couldn’t stand it. The house was cold. And it was raining so hard water dropped on my head as I sat at our dining table inside the conservatory… Gloomsville.
Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.
Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Names are changed to protect identities.
Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.
To avoid writing, I scrolled idly down my Facebook newsfeed, then — bliss! One of those ‘fan’ sites led me to YouTube, which immediately became a stairway to heaven. Boney M transported me to By The Rivers Of Babylon, The Ronettes sang Baby, I Love You, Diana Ross And The Supremes reminded me You Can’t Hurry Love… and there I was, sailing on a great wall of sound and forgetting to feel fed-up.
The Shirelles (Dedicated To The One I Love and Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?), The Crystals (He’s A Rebel and Then He Kissed Me) and the Shangri-Las (my doomy favourite — Leader Of The Pack), The Temptations (My Girl and Just My Imagination)… Yes, I just sat there, clicking on one song after another, and loving the scratchy, shadowy old black-and-white footage and those doo-wop harmonies.
You hear a song like To Know Him Is To Love Him (The Teddy Bears, 1958) and remember your first sad little crush on that boy in school, while My Boyfriend’s Back (The Angels, 1963) reminds you of wanting (sorry!) a big, rough, tough boyfriend, like Marlon Brando in The Wild One. And I haven’t even mentioned Paul Anka, Buddy Holly, Eddy Cochrane, the Everly Brothers, Gerry and the Pacemakers and… er… The Beatles.
How I love the sounds of the late 1950s and 1960s — my era. How glorious it was to spend time with them all instead of working. Take my tip, folks: nostalgia is never a waste of time. The music of your youth is the best cure for the blues.