The least I can do

It’s a grueling schedule, not because of the work – basically I’m sitting in a room for most of the day, but because of the thinking. Far too much thinking that sometimes hits me with the force of an anvil.

Like when a nurse opened a side door in an office (there’s a side door?) and I glanced into a room that had balloons and circus figures painted on the walls above the beds. Of course,… kids die too – hadn’t really thought about that. Wham.

Or when yet another roommate dies. “Honey, I just want to tell you that your roommate passed this afternoon, we’ll take her out of the room after you have your dinner.” Wham.

Or when a newly admitted end of life cancer patient asks me if I can bring her a cup of coffee (just a little cream, please) when I make my mom’s bagel run in the morning. Even very sick people like good coffee. Wham.

I went down to Connecticut a day early last week because I had heard mom had had a bad day on Tuesday. But Wednesday was good. In fact it was really good. When you do well at hospice, they like to talk about sending you to a nursing facility (she is at is a short term hospice facility – not one that is long-term residential (which kind of sounds like an oxymoron to me when you are ultimately talking about end of life.))

“We’ll see how she’s doing tomorrow,” said her Doctor after he examined her. My brother and I have named him Dr. Death – not because he works with hospice patients but because in a discussion he told us that people dying of morphine overdoses is a myth, if someone wanted to die they would overdose on barbiturates. He was trying to assure us about increasing narcotic levels, but still, the nickname was awarded and it stays.

Thursday was bad. Mom could barely get out of bed. Her breathing was labored and her pain increased.

“We’ll see how she’s doing tomorrow,” said Dr. Death. Wham.

Friday morning was good. “Keep this up and you’ll be going to that nursing home in no time,” I told her. Friday afternoon, she tanked – badly.

“This is no way to live, Wendy.” She half whispered to me from her bed surrounded by pillows meant to take some of the pressure off her back.

“I know mom, but there’s nothing I can do. It’s not in my hands. What can I do to make things better for you?”

It’s a question I must ask about a hundred times a day.

“What can I do?”

“What can I do mom?”

“Nothing,” is always her reply.

But I know I can give her company. I can bring her a sesame bagel toasted with cream cheese on the side each morning I’m there. And I can give her comfort by companionship.

We talk about the tides. We talk about the news. We talk about the Ellen show. We talk about a particular nurse that rubbed her wrong. And in the next hour, we talk about all these things again.

And again.

So I continue to go down from New Hampshire to be with my mom in Connecticut from Thursdays to Sundays.

Because it’s the least I can do.




Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at

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Filed under Inspiration, Personal, Points to ponder, The Family

7 responses to “The least I can do

  1. Biggest of hugs, Wendy. And wishing you the strongest of strengths.

  2. Nell W

    Ah, but it’s the most you can do – and you’re doing it!!! This so hits home with me as I lost my mom almost a year ago to the day. She fell ill the day after her birthday (she was 93) and admitted to the hospital the following day. She needed surgery and declined it, so we knew the end was near. Thankfully I had time to be with her while she was still conscience (I live in CA and she lived in WI with one of my sisters).

    At any rate, I wanted to convey to you how thankful I am to you to share your thoughts on this subject. Your actions, although you believe it’s the least you can do, tells the world how you respect and love your mom. It also shows our children what the right response is to this conflictive time – you want to be there for your parent, but are frightened of how this will impact your own life and personal space. It’s hard seeing someone pass on, especially such a influential person in one’s life. But going through it with them also makes you a more caring person.

    Thank you for bringing us along in your personal journey. My heart aches for you.

  3. glynnis

    incredibly touching post Wendy. Always amazed at how you face life (and death) with such courage and will and openness to whatever it brings you.
    Thank you for sharing it all with us.

  4. Your mom is so very fortunate to have you for a daughter ❤

  5. Wendy, I am still praying for you and your Mom. You tell it like it is and it touched my soul.

  6. Bev Coelho

    Thanks Wendy. We sometimes need a reality check. Hope the next day is a good day! Praying for you, your Mom & family.😢

  7. It is so hard when there is nothing you can do to ease that time, Wendy. But you are doing the right thing – just being there for your mum. Wishing you – and your mother – strength to face the inevitable.

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