Caring for a parent

Hope Dies Last

After her stroke, May Sarton, journal writer, poet, novelist, and lover of solitude, struggled to accept her dependence on others. She gave up much of what she loved, saw many of her friends become ill and die. Finally she wrote, “Hope dies last.”

Hope dies last. Could this be a clue to my mother’s constant search for a cure for old age? Because that is what she wants, though she would rationally deny it. She doesn’t want a drug or surgery or physical therapy cure for individual ailments-though the ailments are what takes her to the specialists-she wants to not be old. And she tenaciously holds out hope that someone or something can save her.

Mama can’t see to read much or work on projects; precarious footing keeps her from going outside without an arm to hold; it is too bright outside to work long in the garden, and she can’t see the weeds and she gets tired. She has long been dependent on others to drive her places (and she loathes “bothering” people to ask them for companionship). It has become hard for her to write letters with her low vision and suddenly (just in the months since I arrived) shaky handwriting, and she hates the errors her manual typewriter has started making. She no longer goes to church because she can’t hear, or it’s too loud. She is frustrated with trying to reach out over the phone because it is hard for her to hear and to make the elderly friend or relative on the other end hear her. Another of my father’s former co-workers died this week, she called the widow yesterday. And they keep dying, and she keeps living with less and less reason to.

What she has left is hope that if she goes to her PCP one more time to talk about her stomach discomfort the doctor will have a new idea, one with no side-effects. Maybe one more trip to the ENT will result in a magical return of some of her hearing. Perhaps this time the glaucoma or the macular degeneration specialist will find something new that can return her vision.

What if she just gave up and gave in to this is how it is going to be, until it gets even worse (as it does by the day)? What if she gave up hope? Then what would she have?

6 thoughts on “Hope Dies Last”

  1. This one really resonates. This one feels familiar. It feels like something that is lurking nearby. I already know of the “hope” of new, minimally invasive techniques for pain relief. My own Mom is struggling with that and I feel helpless. I also feel awful when I suggest that just because something that she read in some unsolicited marketing crap that came in the mail sounds good , it doesn’t mean it is the one thing that will spare her years of worsening pain. The lotions, potions, magnets, etc … all junk preying on her desperation to relieve her pain. I feel bad saying it won’t work. I wish it would. Or could. I wish a lot of things …
    Thanks for your candor in sharing your frustrations.


  2. I do not even know how I stopped up right here, but I assumed this post
    was once good. I don’t recognise who you are however
    definitely you are going to a famous blogger for those who aren’t already.



  3. Aging is not a kind process. As I sit with my mother, answering the same question over and over, trying to calm the anxiety that stems from her inability to hold on to her memory, I struggle to find hope.


  4. I enjoy your writing very much, both this and the garden version. You are an excellent writer, but you probably already know that. You give me insight into the act of aging, which we don’t really want to happen to us, but it is a-coming.


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