My mother has terminal cancer, and I don't know how much time she has left. Others with experience losing a parent: what would I regret not doing with this time?
Five months ago, I quit my job and moved home to be my mother's sole caregiver as she deals with terminal cancer. She was doing maintenance chemo until last month, when her oncologist said that at this point, the chemo is doing more harm than good, so it seems like she's moving out of the treatment phase and into the palliative care phase. She still has both good days and bad, ranging from being unable to leave her bed for 24 hours to working a full day (she's still technically full-time because she is amazingly tough and she enjoys working and wants to continue to do so until she can't).
My father died suddenly several years ago, so I know from that experience that there are often things I wish I had asked him, conversations I wish we'd had, and experiences I wish we had shared. Now that my mother is dying, I'd love some suggestions from people who have been through the death of a parent on how to minimize these regrets (knowing that some regrets are unavoidable). I realize I should probably be able to answer this myself, given my experience with my father's death, but being a caregiver is exhausting, and I think I'll probably get a better list from people who have been through this and made it to the other side than if I try to sit down and make one myself.
I already made her a journal with questions about herself and her life for her to answer (based on advice I found in this question
), so she's been doing one a day throughout the year, and I've really enjoyed reading her responses and talking to her about them. But I'd still appreciate suggestions for things that I should ask her before she dies, as I'm certain I overlooked some things I could have asked her when I made the journal. But I'm also looking for more practical questions as well, like, "what diseases is our family at risk for?", as well as questions like "when were you in love?". Anything I would regret not knowing the answer to. And for her good days, I'd also appreciate suggestions for activities we can do together that I would regret not doing with her before she died. Her biggest constraints at this point are fatigue and eating. She can't eat very much at once, due to the nature of her disease (it's appendiceal cancer, which has moved to multiple organs, including the colon), but activities revolving around eating may still be okay for her good days, as she still enjoys food...just not in large quantities (which make her sick).
One of the most difficult aspects of her impending death is that she will never get to be a grandmother, which is something I know she desperately wants. I want to have children some day, but after giving the question a lot of thought, having them in the midst of caring for her would be a terrible idea for multiple reasons. So anything along the lines of Things I Will Want My Children to Have or Know About Her would also be great. Maybe videos or audio recordings of her? But recordings of her doing what?
Some extra information: Here are some things my mother loves, in case this information is extra helpful: her dog, board/card games, watching TV as a family, bookstores and fiction, the beach, swimming, geocaching, walking/hiking, her job as a teacher. I also have a brother who lives and works out of state, and who comes home as often as he can (every two months or so). My mother also has a husband who lives and works out of state and comes home every other weekend. Both of my mother's parents are still alive, but they are elderly and live half a country away, and are not dealing particularly well with my mother's disease (so having them visit is not an unequivocally good idea). I'm living nearby with my husband, but stay with her when I need to.
I've done a fair bit of searching for topics like this, but most of the "my parent is dying" questions revolve around caring for the parent or self-care, which is not what I'm looking for, as there are already many questions addressing those issues (1
, etc.). I'm hoping for concrete suggestions of things that I can do with my mother that will make me feel that I spent her last days/weeks/months well. Thanks so much for your help.