Monday, March 12, 2018

Do Go Gentle

Sunday morning walk at the marsh
Over the years I have often come to the same conclusion that Dylan Thomas was absolutely wrong to wax eloquently about not going gentle in that good night. Are you kidding me, Dylan? That's about the worst death bed advice I have ever read. Maybe there is a lofty interpretation of what those poetic words mean, but to me they are the opposite of what we should hope for our dying loved ones.

"Please do go gentle," those are the words I think all the time now. It is a quiet wish for my mother who is doing her own bit of raging, pulling the bandages off the newly placed pleural catheter (the device that will help drain the fluids from the pleural cavity around her lungs). We knew there was the possibility that she would do that. It was one of the things that made some family members vote "no" about having it placed. What do we expect from a 92 year old woman with Alzheimer's at the end of her life? Decorum? Rational reasoning? Considered behavior?
Enjoying pistachios at my sister's
She has been having good days and bad. On Thursday, the day before the pleural catheter was placed she sat on the couch in the family room and noshed on pistachio nuts, looking as placid and happy as one would hope. Then came the minor surgery on Friday, minimum anesthetic, home within two hours of the procedure, and chaos. Sunday morning the bandage was on the dresser. The tube was exposed. She was not going to hear a word about behaving.

Going gently is a wish for all the days she has ahead. It is not merely a death bed wish, but a wish that everyday is calm and easy. I think we must all learn this mantra to Go Gentle. Why rage when you can embrace calm for all the time that's left.

Don't listen to Dylan. He was all wrong.

30 comments:

  1. Oh, Robin, your dear mom; I wish for serenity to descend upon her.

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    1. isabelita-- Yes, serenity would be a lovely thing. Thank you for that.

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  2. Poets and artists are rarely good role models. Yes, go gentle and take care.

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    1. John-- I think you may be right about poets and artists.

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  3. Your beautiful photo of earth, mist, water and sky is a visual poem that lovingly speaks "Do go gentle." Sending love.

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    1. am-- So glad you like that photo. It was a beautiful Sunday morning moment. Thank you for that.

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  4. Thinking of you and your mom, and wishes for easy remaining days together for both of you.

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    1. Barbara-- My mom moved in with my sister ten days ago. It's been quite a bumpy ride so far. Thank you for your good thoughts.

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  5. Dementia does such cruel things to the elderly and their loved ones. Add a medication or anesthetic--even just a little--and it wreaks havoc on the brain.
    Yes, yes, yes, DO go gently. I never understood that quote, nor why people quoted it. As all above, I wish your mother peace in her last days. I wish all of you who love her peace as well.

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    1. CCorax-- Dementia and Alzheimer's are the worst. They undermine everything. Every now and then there is clarity for her, but she is so gone. We just want her end days to unfold peacefully. Sigh.

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  6. I feel for you and your family for what your mom is going through. It is oh so tough. My brother in law who recently turned 70 is now going through dementia brought on by anesthesia from hi prostate surgery. My dear sister is handling it well but he struggle in dealing with it has only just begun.

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    1. Dave-- What a sad story about your brother-in-law. I hope things improve for him and your sister. It really is a difficult thing, this growing old stuff.

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  7. I'm sorry. It is so cruel how dementia plays out.

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    1. Colette- Everyday brings a new sad story. Heartbreaking and cruel.

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  8. Sincere and warm thoughts to you and your mom <3

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    1. Optimistic Existentialist-- Thank you for that.

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  9. Well, Dylan Thomas was 37 when he published that poem, and death looks entirely different to a younger person. (Even one riddled by alcoholism!) I'm so sorry your mother is going through this. My father reacted similarly to catheters and bandages -- he did not want to be connected to anything. I suppose it's easy enough to understand that impulse, but it's hard on everyone else!

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    1. Steve-- I'll re-read the poem, remembering that it was written by a 37 year old. It does make a difference. The doc suggested medical mitts for my mom to keep her from pulling at her stitches and tubes. I ordered them yesterday to be shipped to my sister and woke this morning regretting that decision. Just don't want to add more stress to a dying woman's last days.

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  10. I am SO sorry to read this and my thoughts are with you and your mother.


    Dylan Thomas also wrote ". . . into that GOOD night" and when you listen to him reading that poem, you may hear him stressing on the "good" and also on the "old" and "wise". He was a complicated person and some say, he wrote this poem because he knew of his own death approaching fast, as an ode to his own life spirit.

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    1. Sabine-- I so appreciate your explanation of Thomas's poem. I've always been perplexed by it, but the emphasis on GOOD is a wonderful thing to consider today. Thank you for your good thoughts.

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  11. Oh, this is so hard. Yes, I hope her days are gentle. It is we who rage, I think, against the dying of the light. At least with my own mom, I did. I wonder if there is anything harder than watching them go through ungentle days. My love and prayers to your family.

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  12. 37paddington-- Yes, I like that interpretation very much, that it we who rage. We weep and rage. My mother is in decline today. I await the words.

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  13. I'm sorry that things have been going well of late. So difficult to witness that inevitable decline. We are torn. It is hard to accept, but at the same time, we don't want the suffering to continue. Hoping for peace for all of you.

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    1. bev-- It is a sad decline, watching someone so well loved lose all the qualities that sparked her life. Still, the love remains. Thank you for your good thoughts.

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  14. Robin, I don't know how we go though these things with the ones we love. I guess we somehow make it through to the end, but we have the scars to show for it.

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    1. Mark-- As I type this I am waiting for the phone to ring to let me know if my mom made it through the night. She is in a downward spiral that has only one last outcome. I don't know how we go through this, but we do have the scars.

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  15. I feel as you do about Dylan's words. So many years and decades have swept over me now in the grip of griefs and countless deaths attended....each unique, each special in the sanctity of life in the most inglorious stages of departure. The depths of my heart go out to you and the wish that that incredible woman your mother chose to leave as she lived on her own terms. Much love to you.....Michael

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    1. MandT-- As I type this I wait for the call... the one that will tell me she is gone. I cry thinking that I will never hear her voice again, but this is always how it ends. Always.

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  16. That Dylan Thomas quote may be appropriate in some instances, but as a blanket statement I totally agree with you.

    At this point I'm sure that a lot of what your mom does is pure instinct. She didn't want that thing in her! It's nice that she has some peaceful moments also. I'm so sorry that you all (including your mom) have to go this. Don't forget to take care of yourselves while this is going on.

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    1. Pat-- My mom has finished raging raging against the dying of the light. Now she is just there, unconscious and slipping away moment by moment. I await the call from my brother and sister who are at her side to tell me when.

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