Life and Death in the Possum Kingdom

My mom, circa 1970 something


I’m back, with excuses and explanations. On July 21st, my mom, Irene Gerken, né Rosenberg, passed away in her own home, here in the Possum Kingdom. She had been seriously ill for about two weeks, but while she was still lucid, she said she did not want to go to a hospital, and I promised to respect her wishes. She had suffered an intestinal blockage, possibly caused by either undetected colon cancer or a mesenteric infarction, but whatever the cause, given her overall health, surgery would only have prolonged her suffering and accomplished nothing in the end.

I did my best to be a good daughter, and JM and I took the best care of her that we possibly could. I am exceedingly grateful to have had the four years we had with her here, and I know that she was happy with her new life.

Although things were sometimes stressful and difficult, I truly loved her and was proud and lucky to have her as my mother.

Now that she’s gone, there is a bit of a hole in my life, as I had integrated caring for her into my daily existence. It is partly because of that that I have been absent here for so long. To be honest, because of her cognitive problems, the last few months have been quite stressful. And that, more than anything, has kept me from being a faithful correspondent.

On top of Mom’s problems, JM’s parents have also required a great deal of mental and physical energy. His mother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer and his father also is having some neurological problems. Neither of them believes, or even wants to hear, that that is what is going on, so we deal with our emotions about it all, without being able to really do anything to help them.

I am slowly starting to get back into my own life again. It is a bit of a process, and part of it is trying to be here more faithfully. I need to remember that I do have a life and friends and I was once something more than a caregiver! It will happen.

Ciao for now.


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20 thoughts on “Life and Death in the Possum Kingdom

  1. Randy, I’m sorry to hear of your mother’s passing. It’s never easy, even in cases where we know it’s best, they were ready, and they are in a better place. Still, the empty spot remains in our daily life, and in our consciousness — the knowing that your loved one is no longer available to see, talk, or touch, that is a palpable pain that only time and can help to alleviate. Hugs to you.


    • Thanks, Rattie!

      I’m starting to look at the world in a different way again. It’s really strange to realize how affected my life was by caring for another person.

  2. Hi, Randy and JM,
    Sporry to hear that about your mom, and about JM parents. As said above, we always tend to believe that our parents are eternal, and it is always difficult to adapt to the sad reality. Both my parents left us long ago, as well as Nadine’s father, but her mother is still with us, also with a strong Alzheimer disease. This makes life rather stressfull, as you say, although she is not really under our responsibility.
    We hope you will resume a more ” normal” life. Do not hesitate to make a trip to Aire sur l’Adour if you feel like it.

    • Thanks, Alberto. Tell Nadine that we totally understand what she is going through. It is something that many of my friends have dealt with lately.

      Life really is getting back to normal for us, and we do want to start taking little trips once the summer is over. So, it is not out of the question that we might make it to see you one of these days. I need to see if the new medication the vet gave me for Peaches works with her car sickness problem, otherwise we have to worry about not being gone too long because the dogs are at home.

  3. Randy, I am so very sorry. You did the right thing and I hope things get better soon for both of you. I’ve been where you are in some ways, and it is a large hill to climb.

    • Thanks, Pat. At least I can really say I have no regrets. I think we did as much for Mom as it was in our power to do, and I know from a lot of people that she was happy here and not just saying it to not hurt my feelings.

  4. Hi Randy,
    So sorry to hear about your Mom, but glad you’re able to see the good parts already: the four good years in Chalabre, that she was able to control the manner of her departure in a civilized way.
    Does JM have any other family (besides yourself) to help with his parents? That’s the only thing that consoled my dear husband about his mother’s decline, that 3 of the other children (and numerous grandchildren) were in the immediate area of her care home (many medical and senility issues).
    Take care of each other, and give dear Schmoo and Miz Peaches skritches from our house to yours.

    • Thanks, Chimene. No, JM is an only child. There are cousins in Toulon who are there, but in some ways, having both parents together is more difficult than having just one surviving parent. They kind of reinforce each other against the outside world, rather than accepting that they NEED help. So you are always fighting their perception that they are still capable.

      My mother knew that she needed my help and just let me get on with it, so that made things much simpler.

  5. Hello Randy,

    Please accept our condolences. I have our mother in law living with us and know that at times it can be hard …and that when it comes to an end that will be even harder. But please try and remember that through your blog you do bring a little light and happiness even to these colder northern parts of England where we are at the moment

    Take care


  6. I am sorry for your loss!

    My mother passed away in March and Steffan’s and Mark’s during Christmas, both were very dement in the end. In Sweden, under circumstances such as these, we have a saying ‘ it was probably best what happened – having gone through it myself, I believe this to be true.

    I choose to focus only on the good times we had together, when thinking about them- that helps.

    Mark came home safely to finish up his house here. Whilst longing to get back to Chalabre, he was extremely pleased by our cool weather (20 centigrades during the day,16 at night) and said it had been very hot lately in Chalabre.

    I am glad that you have started to write again on Possumworld- it is nice to stay connected with life in Chalabre.
    I will come down for a week early in September together with a girlfriend since early schooldays, perhaps we get to meet up then.

    Best regards to you and your husband


  7. Thanks, Jannike! Mark told us about his mother and yours; I’m so sorry for your losses too. Yes, it is for the best for them, even though it is hard for us. I’m glad that there was still some of “mom” left when she went.

    We miss Mark already and can’t wait for him to come back. Tell him that the temperatures have dropped from when he left.

    I would love to see you when you come with your friend. Stop in to see us anytime.

  8. Dear Randy,

    With your long quietness I feared something like this.
    Please let me say that I am sad with you.
    I lost my mother nearly two years ago and I had to do with this for a long time. Even today I feel more seriously than before and it needed a time before I was able to visit parties and places with lots of people again.

    I am glad that you are back and to hear from you and your life in Chalabre again.

    All the best to you and JM


    • Thanks, Heinz. Yes, it was hard to feel like doing much of anything for the last year or so. Mom had already been hospitalized at the end of August 2010 and had never really been totally herself after that. She lost the ability to dial the telephone properly and just had very little short term memory at all.

      Taking care of one’s parents is insidious, because you don’t even realize how much it changes you until they are gone.

  9. When human companionship could fail, I’m sure Shmoo and Peaches were good friends throughout. My condolences on your loss and sympathy for the problems with JM’s parents.
    Speaking of Peaches, when I had a dog that suffered from car sickness the vet recommended Emetrol (OTC in the US, don’t know what might be comparable in France) but then I read that honey works well also. Seems the stomach needs tranquilising, and Emetrol AND honey have that effect. I imagine the taste of honey might be more pleasing to Ms Peaches.

    • Thanks, Lynda.
      Yes, I do remember Emetrol. I’ve Got haloperidol for her, believe it or not. It’s an anti-psychotic, but also used for nausea!

  10. I feared something of the kind as your absence lengthened. I am so sorry to hear about your Mum; I’m sure it’s hard for you all even though she was a “good” age and increasingly unwell. I’m equally sure that bringing her to live with you in Chalabre made her last years more interesting, enjoyable and bearable than is the lot of many people of her age.

  11. Thanks, Kathryn. Yes, i’m afraid with elderly parents that is always a fear. She did seem happy here and I’m glad we could share that time together.

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