Books are a forest and it’s hard to see the trees, except the tall ones or the old ones. But when you enter the forest, it’s the new growth that emits the sunlight....

Monday, March 5, 2012

Living Wills, my mother, and m. m. Fahren's The Golden Amulet

In writing, in thoughts, a person is a living will of their own choices.  My mother’s death was complicated because of issues about her choices.  I remember four years ago when she was 88, she had a stressful meeting with doctors and other health workers.  My sister was present.  My mother informed me afterwards that she wasn’t going to have any more operations.  What went into her health records was an Advanced Directive, stating her decisions then about her future care.

Until my mother was in her mid 80s, she had few days when she wasn’t in good health.  She taught stringed instruments to elementary school children when I was in grade school.  The sounds I used to hear during private lessons!  Music was a constant in our household, and I also had five siblings.  My mother played violin and viola in community orchestras and the Duluth Symphony.
My mother when she was young
After she attended Northwestern University, she married my father.  Though my father wouldn't learn a musical instrument, his father was a professional French horn player, playing with Sousa after the U.S. Army Band, and then for Arthur Pryor and other orchestras.  I nearly went on to study professional flute after lessons with a symphony musician.  Some of my best memories of my mother had to do with music, especially when she accompanied my flute playing on the piano.  Before that, I remember being thrilled at an igloo cake she made for my birthday party!

Though we had difficulties later on, she was always a leader for me.  She liked to read and introduced me to many authors.  Divorced, she read all of William Faulkner which I couldn’t understand though I admired his work in college.  I read D. H. Lawrence and Eugene O’Neill as an adolescent, when she did, and later, looking for something to read, Rebecca West.  I remember her recommending Watership Down, E. L. Doctorow’s Ragtime,  and her handing Life According to Garp to me, saying, “Tell me what you think.”
At the Back of the North Wind

My love of children’s novels began with those in my childhood bookcase.  I didn’t know then that Nancy Drew, Doctor Dolittle, A. A. Milne, and George MacDonald were in hers.  As a child, I thought that those books were written in the 1950s.

My mother at 91
Of course, her thoughts and choices to me were sacrosanct when she showed signs of dementia.  And after a year and a half in assisted living, she suffered a stroke.  I visited her in the nursing home during lunchtime while she refused food, complaining of nausea. She had little movement yet much pain.  That resulted in her being drugged but when a member of the family saw her, a rescue was attempted.  In the hospital, she was given a temporary feeding tube.  A doctor confronted me about these decisions.  I was not legally her decision-maker so I contacted my sister, an occupational therapist who has worked with stroke patients. 

 The Advanced Directive in my mother's records specifically stated that she decided against feeding tubes.  When she was returned to the nursing home, she became agitated and pulled hers out, what many patients do.  

Now my sister and I are strong about filing a Living Will with doctor and lawyer.  States and hospitals have forms for this.  But when a patient has a stack of records, it’s important to stipulate that doctors need to consult the choices a patient made when they were lucid. 

I figured that my mother lived more than 1100 months and only two of them were spent in physical suffering.  But this was a lesson about writing things down, making wishes known so that they could be actualized legally.


The Golden Amulet
M. m. Fahren alluded on Facebook to our time and the elderly, what seemed clairvoyant.  I found her book The Golden Amulet :  a tale of the faerie to be an absorbing and lush reading when my mother’s condition worsened.  I’m sure my mother would have liked reading this book to us when we were young.

Written in classic fairytale style, The Golden Amulet weaves the theme of veiled identity. It's an exciting tale, starting with the mystery of a princess' near death and a traveling minstrel's spectral healing.

The dragon scenes lurch like fire before the investigation of the knight who killed it. A father-daughter relationship has the psychology that makes fairytale rich.

I enjoyed the strong and telling prose in this tale, so resonating and yet strumming a time that the young today can enjoy.


The House in Windward Leaves, my middle grade fantasy about identity, will be featured at DailyCheapReads junior edition on March 8, 2012.  

1 comment:

  1. Lovely, honest post about your mother, Catherine. Obviously, a strong and strong-willed lady. Wishing you strength with the mourning process.