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My Mother enjoys very good health approaching her 90th birthday; but she is frail and requires total care, 24/7. Within that context, I often communicate with others, also caring for aging parents, at or nearing end of life stages.

This is a highly charged, emotional time for families -- comments by loving sons and daughters are often poignant and not easily forgotten -- “I can’t bear to see Mother like that,” or “Dad’s last week of life was more than I could stand,” or “That’s not really living – it’s better to end it before they suffer,” or “She was in so much pain -- if I had the option, I would pull the plug.” Maybe too often, it is we – healthy family members – who too quickly interpret what those at end of life stages are feeling and thinking, rushing judgment on what’s best for failing loved ones, based almost wholly on our frayed emotions – not theirs.

While I cannot relate knowingly of others’ parents, I can tell you about my Mom – proud and independent, working long hours with her hands until retired by her doctor, she often said, “I want to die with my boots on,” and “I don’t want to be a burden on my kids – I want to go quickly.” The truth now is – although unable to care for herself (with a leg amputation, arthritis, dementia, and feeding tube) – she doesn’t want to die, certainly not soon nor before her time is due. Still courageous and defiant, a born again Christian – from traditional Buddhist / Shinto roots -- who anchored the Sunday school, she is uncertain about death, as it closes to a finite distance.

Defining my caregiving task is simple – God has entrusted me with Mom’s life, not her death. I gratefully serve to maintain her good health and happiness -- confident that day-to-day medical attention and personal care received at home is unavailable at best institutional facilities. As a mother she would do -- and has done -- the same for me (or my wife) if roles were reversed. And at some time, hopefully in the distant future, only God – whose love and wisdom we embrace -- will decide when Mom is to make the one-way journey to her final home.

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