Today was shower day. In preparation, I lit the fire and made the room nice and warm, laid out her clothes so they would be nice and cosy to get into, just like my mother had done countless times over the years for all her children.
After showering, I raced her down the hallway in her wheelchair into the warm room and proceeded to dress her and blow dry her hair. She was unable to transfer other than to put her arms around my waist and hold onto me as I put her into her favourite chair.
“Well, now you have to pay me,” I announced.
She looked at me suspiciously until I said the cost of the shower was two kisses.
She smiled and gave me five kisses and said, “Oh I have overpaid you.”
“Don’t worry,” I replied, “I have change.” I kissed her cheek three times; She laughed just like she used to laugh and then I made her a hot cup of tea. After the tea she fell asleep in her chair. She looked exhausted from the effort of showering and slept for an hour.
When people came to visit she would try and sit up and talk with them but after a while she was just so exhausted. Her kidney function was getting worse.
Six months before when we went to see the Consultant he told us her kidney function was not good and was likely to deteriorate more.
He said “Your choices are; a kidney transplant, but given your age this would not be suitable, or you could have dialysis which is not a cure but might give you some more time however there is no guarantee, or you can do nothing.
My mother smiled at him and then replied “Thank you very much, I am an old woman (82 years old) and I think that’s enough so I don’t want to do anything.”
“Are you sure?” he replied
I translated what he said into Samoan just to make sure my mother heard and understood all he said. Her answer was the same.
“Well, then that’s what we will do,” he said.
My mother appeared to look very satisfied and grateful for his reply.
We left and returned home.
I thought about trying to persuade her to change her mind but then before I started to talk to her she said to me, “This is what I want.”
I thought this is not about me, it’s about her and what she wants. She lived her life always putting others first and this was the first time that she put her own needs first. She needed me to understand. My silence sealed the agreement. She needed my support when she told her other children.
We went home in silence both knowing it wasn’t an easy journey we were embarking on.