The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:
I’m a woman in my 50s. I’m consumed with a sense of loss remembering my mother, as the first anniversary of her death is approaching.
My mother suffered due to my father’s addiction to gambling and other problems, and worked so hard until she turned 70. Yet even under these circumstances, she was a really warm-hearted person who never spoke ill of other people.
In the last years of her life, she was bedridden and suffered from progressing dementia, so I had to decide how she would be treated medically. My mother didn’t want to struggle with disease for a long time, but I chose life-sustaining medical treatments for her, partly because of advice from people close to us. Because my mother was unable even to eat or speak, I think the days were hellish for her.
While she was still able to express her intentions, I asked her, “Would you like to have me as your child again [in your next life]?” She held my hand and nodded. For me as a single woman, my mother was an irreplaceable person who was more important than my own life.
After my mother died, I was told by people around me that I should live for my own sake with firm determination. But remembering my mother, who suffered until her bitter end, I feel guilty about living my life normally. What should I live for from now on?
G, Fukuoka Prefecture
Dear Ms. G:
The more devotedly people engage in nursing care for elderly people, the more deeply they are tortured by their inability to save that person. The more effort they made, the stronger their sense of loss. Some people can’t recover from a situation like that. It’s very sad.
However, think of it this way. The reason you chose the life-sustaining medical treatments for your mother when you were at a crossroads was that you desperately hoped your mother would be able to live even for just one day more.
It might have been a necessary time for both you and your mother to accept that you were parting with each other forever. There are always occasions in life in which something can only be done in a certain way.
Please think of this experience as a lesson from your mother as she approached death in her last days. I think parents would be sad if, at the last stage of their lives, they caused mental suffering to their children and sapped their will to live. For the time being, let yourself indulge in your sorrow until you’ve felt it enough. Then try to step forward in your life.
Live your life for your own sake, not for somebody else’s. If you can make a step forward, the world is sure to gently become larger and a new phase of your life will move ahead.
Megumi Hisada, writer