Sunday, February 10, 2013


Caring for my elderly mother for the past several years, I turned to books for information and relaxation as I often do when facing new situations.

Along with The 36-Hour Day by  Nancy L. Mace, M.A., and Peter V. Rabins, M.D., M.P.H.  and the Caregivers’ Support Group of the Bureau of Aging, Passages in Caregiving, Turning Chaos into Confidence by Gail Sheehy , helped me adjust to changes and challenges in my role as caregiver.

I read most of the book more than a year ago and occasionally referred back to it. I was able to relate to the stories of Sheehy’s personal experiences in caring for her husband, Clay Felker (a journalist, editor, magazine pioneer, educator), and the experiences of friends and associates who were “inventive caregivers.”

Luckily, I had a wonderful, busy day with my mother on a recent Tuesday: lunch out and shopping before her blood test at the cuomodin clinic. Then an ice cream sundae afterward. We had a good evening, before she went to bed, early as usual. The next morning, I took my shower, prepared our breakfast and went to call her at 7:00 am. I found her body in bed, but her spirit was gone.

Even with all the preparation and study, I was not ready for this loss. Panic, confusion, despair and a desperate sadness took over. Thank goodness, my brothers and daughter responded quickly to support me. Sister-in-laws, other family members and friends also shared my sadness.

Mom was a happy, active 89 year old, known for her red hair and her smile. She is now at rest, but I still yearn for her presence.  Although caring for her was getting more and more difficult, the love she gave back made it all worthwhile. Books such as Sheehy’s helped me care for my mother and helped make our final years together good ones.

As good as the book was, I couldn’t read Sheehy’s eighth section, “The Long Goodbye,” until after Mom’s death. I wasn’t ready to read the sections on Letting Go, Finding Myself Again, and The Crisis of Impermanance, nor to think about life without Mom. But we can’t play God. No matter what we do, our life can change in a moment.

I would recommend this well written book to anyone providing care for a loved one.  Sheehy is the New York Times bestselling author of Passages, as well as at least 15 other books. Others may find help through this book. At the end are resources and hotlines for caregivers, hospice programs, and palliative care programs.