“I loved my Mom so so much and I know she would be very proud of how I handled her final moments” by George Launius, Pharmacist

Wednesday, 31 Jul 2013 15:05

About Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy (120 Posts)

Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy is a Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physician, who practices in one of the largest emergency departments in the United States at Huntsville Hospital. Through her writing and speaking, she is devoted to transforming the end of life into a time of peace, closure and healing. Media Page

Mom was just shy of 91, an independent living, driving, cooking, shopping, bridge playing, charming Southern gal. Raised on a South Georgia cotton farm, she was confident, well liked, with lots of friends. Her husband of 55 years, my father had died 5 years earlier. 2 children: daughter an RN, and son a pharmacist who owned his own small town independent pharmacy (that is me). I called her everyday, sometimes 2 to 3 times a day! One Saturday, while attending a state pharmacy meeting, I phoned her at 10am…no answer. Again at 2pm, no answer…at 4pm still no answer and no answer on her cell phone. It was time to call a friend to check on her.

Mom was well prepared. She had all her affairs in order: Her living will, power of attorney, family limited partnership, health care directive. This gal had done her homework. She and I had discussed her funeral wishes and she had all her important documents placed in a box in her closet ready for me, her power of attorney and me, the executor of her estate. She had sold her home and moved into a senior apartment complex. But life did not stop for her.  She was an avid investor, keeping a close eye on the stock market. She called her stock broker often and was not afraid to make financial decisions. Mom loved her church and attended weekly. She loved her friends and often on my visits to her, the phone would not stop ringing! At 90, she would drive herself to her own doctor appointments in nearby Athens, Georgia without hesitation.

On the day I could not reach her, her friends had the apartment manager open her door to find her barely conscious lying on the bedroom floor. It appears she had been there since the night before, probably falling as she got up during the night to use the bathroom.  Mom was taken to the ER,  started fluids and antibiotics for a urinary infection. After a day or so she started coming around but it was apparent that something was wrong. A neurologist was called, scans done and her diagnosis was a stroke. Mom looked good, but her short term memory was very poor. She could not walk; she was very weak.

I looked at her and asked, “Do you know who I am?” the answer was “NO.” I would say, “I’m your son, George” and she would laugh and shake her head “Oh, George, I know who you are.”  After weeks of rehab with little improvement, she moved into a memory unit of a local assisted living home. She was confined to a wheelchair because she was a fall risk. Her memory was terrible. Her vision was blurred. She could not read or watch TV.

A few days after moving in, I got the call. “Your Mom decided to get up and try to walk. She fell and is in the ER.”

I rushed the 40 miles to the hospital and found her in pain with dropping blood pressures. The ER doc said she was bleeding internally as a result of a broken pelvis.  A surgeon came in and discussed our choices: surgery to possibly stop the bleeding and fix the pelvis  (a procedure which she might not survive) or do nothing, and then she would soon die.

This decision turned out not to be as difficult as you might expect. My Mom was 91, her health care directive clearly stated not to prolong her life with unnecessary medical procedures. Her stroke had left her with no short term memory, unable to read or watch TV. She sat in her wheelchair most of the day. Feeding herself was almost impossible. The surgeon explained that stopping the internal bleeding would be difficult and risky. The fracture would mean weeks of rehab, pain and then what? She would get up from her wheelchair and fall again! And, that was IF she survived the surgery at all.

I called my sister, an RN and after a brief discussion we knew that Mom would not want to suffer through this major surgery and long rehab if she was lucky enough to survive.

Mom died peacefully the next day, with my sister and I at her side. After reading your book, Dr. Murphy, I confirmed that I made the right decision. I loved my Mom so so much and I know she would be very proud of how I handled her final moments.

The night that I made the decision to let her die, a friend stopped by the ER to sit with me for a while. As sat by her bed he asked me if I had talked to Mom and I answered that I was not sure she could communicate at this point. So, I held her hand and almost yelled at her, “MAMA, I LOVE YOU” and clearly, she responded “I LOVE YOU, TOO.”

Submitted by: George Launius, Thrifty Mac Pharmacy, Madison, Georgia

Our Book: It's OK to Die

"It's OK to Die" is a ground-breaking book filled with graphic stories straight out of the Emergency Room illustrating how most Americans are completely unprepared for death and dying. In response, the authors have created a unique and comprehensive guide urging EVERYONE to prepare in advance, to assure their own peace and to prevent the suffering of their loved ones.
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9 thoughts on ““I loved my Mom so so much and I know she would be very proud of how I handled her final moments” by George Launius, Pharmacist

  1. Rea

    Fine story of a wonderful mother and a great relationship. You did what Mama said she wanted and eased her final path. Endings hurt. It is never easy, but a ‘good death’ helps the grief. You made that possible. You can be proud and peaceful. Death is a teacher. You will grow from its lessons. That is worthwhile!

    Good that Dr. Murphy’s book helped you to review your decisions. Affirmation from the physician-specialist is an important part of the look-back process. It hurts a little less when the specialist says you did the right thing. — The book is also very much worth reading. I thought so, too.

  2. Carol

    Your mother’s death was what we, in hospice care, call a “good death”. Everything, after the injury occurred, happened as it should. Your mother wisely had made her wishes known, you and your sister honored them, and you didn’t prolong her death by pursuing risky procedures. Reading Dr Murphy’s book and finding that your actions are validated is the icing on the cake. You really did fulfill your mother’s wishes by letting her go, and can be proud that you cared about what she wanted and let her go in peace.

  3. Gwenda Bryan

    This was so beautiful. I’m sure your mother would have been so proud of you for allowing her to have a good death. I believee that most of us, when we think about dying, just want to go to sleep and not wake up. We want to be comfortable, as much as possible, and be with those we love.

    Dr. Murphy does a wonderful job of making us consider things that we don’t want to face. I have other friends involved in hospice and pallative care and I appreciate their willingness to have these frank, yet very personal conversations with families.

    Dr. Murphy’s book came out after my Father died. I had to make peace with him being gone in a Grief Support group.
    It really helped me. In the low times, I think of all the wonderful memories.

  4. regina mcnamara

    What a wonderful son you are ! Lovely story.

    Your mother is very lucky. This is the kind of death we hope for with our clients and ourselves.

    And now, I will order Dr Murphy’s book!

    Thanks for sharing


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  6. Lucy Kishindo Finch

    George you and your sister did great for your beloved mum. It was the right decision as your mum would have suffered more if you had not given her permission to go in peace. In palliative care we believe in talking to our loved ones because we understand hearing is the last faculty to go. Thank you for sharing your experience. Well done!

  7. Pingback: “I loved my Mom so so much and I know she would be very proud of how I handled her final moments” by George Launius, Pharmacist | It’s OK to Die | Loss, Grief, Transitions and Relationship Support

  8. Mary Lou

    Honoring the wishes of our loved ones, is such a wonderful gift. I was able to give that gift to both my mother and dad. When I look back on those times, of what I thought was crisis, I realize just how well prepared we were because we had talked and talked and talked, long before any of us could imagine their passing.

    So welcome to the club of adult children who were given the gift of conversations that really matter!

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