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I’m filled with regret for letting my mother die alone

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a female restaurant operator in my 50s. I can’t help but feel sorry for my mother, who died four years ago. She passed away alone in her living room.

She lived on her own after my father died. I was told she died of a heart attack the day before my older sister — who lives within 30 minutes’ driving distance — went to her house.

My sister used to go and check on her every three days. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to visit her for four days when this happened. I would drop by when I had a day off from work, which was only once a week.

I had a feeling our mother started suffering from dementia about a year before her death, but she seemed to hide this from my sister, acting as if nothing was wrong.

I’m sorry for not bringing my mother into my home to look after her. She could have been in good health if I’d done so. I blame myself for her death.

People tell me that it was very like her to quietly leave the world without causing anyone any trouble. Nevertheless, I still feel like I should have taken care of her more.

N, Nara Prefecture

Dear Ms. N:

I, too, have a daughter in her 50s, which means your mother must have been about the same age as me.

Looking at it from your mother’s perspective, what could make her happier than knowing that four years later, her daughter still misses her?

I assume you and your mother had a very affectionate relationship. Personally, I can’t foresee my daughter — whom I get into arguments with every three days — crying over my death.

I think your mother must have felt a sense of fulfillment; as they’ve told you, she died without causing anyone any trouble. She wasn’t bedridden for a long time.

If I could say our spirits live on after we die, I would tell you that your mother’s present wish is to see her dear ones, particularly you, your sister and other family members, live happily and prosperously.

I’m sure she’s watching you work earnestly for your restaurant. She must be praying for your health, longevity and success in business. Living up to her expectations is the best way to comfort her spirit.

Keiko Higuchi, critic

(from Sept. 11, 2016, issue)Speech

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