For The Last Time

My mother-in-law is dying. The doctors say she has at the most 3 or 4 days. How do doctors know such things with any degree of certainty? It seems like an awful kind of power.

She is 80 and is in a nursing home where she has lived for the past three years. She hasn’t been able to walk for ten years after suffering three strokes.

My husband is flying to New Zealand tomorrow to see her. For one last time. I cannot get past the incredible sorrow contained in that phrase. For one last time. Imagine if the next time you saw someone was the last and you knew it. How could you bear it?

My mother-in-law is a stoic in the true sense of the word. She has put up with her abusive husband for fifty years. He claims to be overwhelmingly grief-stricken, devastated beyond belief; drowning his sorrows in cheap port and even cheaper dry sherry.

I am shocked when I shouldn’t be at the way he has turned this whole thing round to be all about him. I know what he’s like. If he was a celebrity he wouldn’t be able to resist a photo opportunity. He wants my husband to go to grief counselling with him so he can cope with being alone.

You aren’t fooling any of us, Daddy dearest. We all remember you putting her in the hospital, spending all of her wages at the pub, pushing her down a flight of stairs. You aren’t fooling any of us with the I-can’t-bear-the-grief-act.

I may be damned for eternity by what I am about to say but he should have gone first. In a vat of acid. How can he walk around all hale and hearty after what he did to her year after year after year?

His old tricks are still effective. Here he is making me think about him and his shortcomings instead of thinking about her.

Here’s to you Joy Mary. You made the best trifle in the North Island. You loved the bingo and the wrestling and supported your rugby union team, the Canterbury Crusaders for your entire life. You cried when you saw your grandson because he looked so like your son. You swore like a trooper and did the most elegant embroidery. You had eight children who loved you and were proud to call you Mum.

I won’t ever forget your dignity and grace.


31 thoughts on “For The Last Time

  1. I really feel for you and your family Sel, especially your husband. I hope his last moments with his mum are sweet and tender and something to hang onto in the days ahead. I won’t repeat the thoughts going through my mind about his father but I’m sure you get my drift.


  2. Even though you know she’ll soon be beyond suffering, it’s still hard. All you can really hope for is she goes peacefully, surrounded by the people and things she loves.


  3. Memories of Dad floating in. Only it was my sister doing that crap. It’s maddening.

    I’m so internally conflicted myself at the moment, I don’t know that I’m qualified to comment. I guess all I can say is that I think you’re focusing on the right person at the right time – focusing on her for the time she’s here – it seems you have plenty of time to reform your dad. πŸ˜› Well, I say that because I have to believe it’s never too late for anyone, but at the same time, there are some you just wish you could cut strings with and float away with the wind…


  4. I am sorry to hear of your sadness and frustration. She may very well be around awhile longer. We never know. My thoughts are with you.


  5. I’m so sorry, Sel. Maybe you and your husband could look at this as her reprieve. Death is always hardest on the survivors. We’re the ones who have to go on living without the one we love. How special it is that her name is Joy. What a wonderful name. My deepest sympathy for what you are all experiencing right now.


  6. ROMANY:
    That man. For him there aren’t enough words in the dictionary. But it’s not going to be about him anymore. It’s all about that dear, sweet woman who will at last get some peace.

    Much appreciated. These things are always so hard to get through.

    That’s all I want. I just want her to know she meant something to a lot of people. I know she’ll get that and it’s a bit of a relief.

    I am really glad she knows that. So many others do too. She definitely wasn’t alone.

    It’s tough to tackle these subjects, isn’t it? Very sobering. Makes you realise how fleeting life really is.

    I feel for you, hon. Sorry you went through something similar. Coping with the grief is hard enough without all the other stuff. She knows she is loved and that’s what’s important.

    A very traditional cook in the English sense. New Zealand is quite heavily populated with people of British descent. Great trifle. Great pavlova. She taught me how to make meringue that stays soft in the middle. It’s all about the timing. I will miss her….

    That’s the thing, you just never know. I have a feeling in my heart that it’s time, however. I am grateful for your kind thoughts.

    I agree completely. The survivors have a harder time. I really like looking at her death as a reprieve. I know she will finally be at peace. Thank you for your wisdom.


  7. Trifle is one of the sweet foods I really like. Haven’t had it in ages.

    I’m sorry to hear that your mother in law is dying. It must be awful to know. I think it is better in many ways when people go suddenly and unexpectedly even though it is a shock. But at least your husband can say his goodbyes and make sure they are both at peace with each other. In that sense it is a good thing.

    Big hugs, Selma.


  8. RELUCS:
    That’s what I think. It must be terrible to know. It must be equally terrible to be the doctor imparting the news.

    You’re right. It’s good to make peace at the end if you can. I think regret sets in if you don’t.

    Bring back the humble trifle, I say. A most underrated dessert!


  9. It is beyond aching to know that it will be the last time. I’m glad your husband can make this trip to see his beloved mom. I wish her and your husband’s life circumstances in that household had been far different.

    It sounds like it’s hard for you not to be there with him, for him and, perhaps, to say goodbye to her. Your way of doing so here is poignant and I admire how you assertively, but politely, “tell it like it is” about your father-in-law.



  10. Ack! I made a blasted typo again. I omitted an important word in the 2nd paragraph, 2nd line:
    Meant to type “and, perhaps you, to say goodbye to her.”


  11. Ah, trifle!

    I’m surprised at the number of people that say they don’t like it. but can’t get enough tiramisu!


  12. I’m so sorry Selma.Wishing you and your family strenth to get through. It’s difficult when people like your father-in-law are around. I think you’re taking the correct take on it.


  13. I am glad that this dear lady will finally be free. There is reason to feel sad of course but also reason to be happy for Joy Mary that the shackles of this earth will hold her no more. Sounds like she led a full life in spite of putting up with an awful husband.

    I have a friend who is also living with an abusive husband. He is the same way whenever she gets sick (in her case) bringing out the mushy cards, flowers sent to the hospital, lots of tears (phoney!!!) I don’t know how she puts up with it. He is an a-one creep in every sense of the word. In your mother-in-laws era, yes I can understand why she stuck it out. It was the thing that women did, they stayed, no matter what.

    Hugs to you and your husband. Safe journey to your husband too. G


  14. I’m sorry to hear that… must be the time of year…

    As for your father-in-law, here’s hoping the family finds the courage to tell him what’s what…


  15. Joy Mary…what a beautiful name…. May she find peace.

    My husband experienced the same as yours….flew home two years ago to be with his Dad for the last time. Then two weeks later, his Mom died too. We knew it was coming when we were at my father in law’s funeral, so when we left and said goodbye to my mother in law, we left with heavy hearts knowing it was our last time seeing her too.

    take care Selma. love to you and your family.


  16. GEL:
    You are so kind, especially about saying I was polite when talking about my dear father-in-law. It is hard to be civil under such circumstances. My hubby is over in NZ now and it is very emotional, but I can hear the relief in his voice that he has made it in time to see his Mum.

    I know. Tiramisu is just trifle for posh people πŸ˜†

    Thanks, hon. These things are so heartbreaking to deal with.

    It is a characteristic of that generation, for sure. Women had less options back then and there was also a huge stigma surrounding divorce. When I hear some of the stories of older women in my own family, I can’t believe it!

    It’s such a shame. Yet she must see something in him, so I have to respect that, especially now. It’s all about her as far as I’m concerned.

    I know you’ve just gone through this, hon. It’s not easy at all. I am praying my husband’s family can be honest with their Dad at long last!

    I’m so sorry to hear your husband lost both of his parents in such a short space of time. That must have been incredibly difficult to cope with. At least they were not apart for too long. Thanks for your kind wishes.


  17. so sorry to hear this selma,, and yet it has become such a part of life,, especially as we age it seems that death knocks so much more often..

    and i agree your father in law should be ashamed of himself.. but then again he doesn’t sound like the kind of man who even knows what true shame is….


  18. PAISLEY:
    It’s true, the older we get, the more we experience it. It is a sobering part of growing older. My father-in-law probably won’t ever reform. He’s one of those people who can’t really see himself, if you know what I mean. It would be nice if he could give it a try – for his kids.


  19. Joy Mary. What a lovely, lovely name.
    I hope you are comforted Selma, knowing I (and your many devoted readers) are praying and sending warm wishes to you, your husband, and your dear Joy mary.
    I’ll even pray for her husband–it sounds like he’ll NEED extra prayers!(sigh)
    Peace to you, woman.


  20. Oh Selma! I just feel awful for you and your family. Especially your husband. Your Mother in Law sounds like a wonderful lady. My thoughts and prayers are with you and yours.


  21. LISA:
    My husband has just returned after a very emotional visit. I’ll post about it tomorrow. His Mum was delighted to see him. I really appreciate your prayers XXX

    Thank you so much, hon. It actually turned out to be a beautiful visit. Much less stressful than we all thought. I am really grateful for your kind thoughts!


  22. Hi Selma, It has been a while since I have visited but I am so glad I caught this post. If it helps, I have learned that men who are abusive to their wives are actually cowards, which is why they have the ‘strength’ to beat their wives. When the wife is gone, they have lost their power. He will be lonely indeed for the remainder of his life, which in the end is the just punishment he deserves. Your mother-in-law sounds like a wonderful person, someone who I would have loved to have a beer with.


  23. HI CRICKET, It is so wonderful to hear from you. I truly have missed you. I agree with your comment entirely – cowardice is definitely there in full force. He will miss her when she’s gone – of that I have no doubt. And she was a great person to have a beer with!


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