Photo: Steve Lopez / Los Angeles Times
“Her short term memory is so bad she cannot remember from one minute to another.”
Steve - your story hit home to me - my mom is 87 and lives in San Diego. She insists upon driving and will not move to a care facility. Her short term ...
“I know this will eventually kill me and even though I don't fear death, dying from liver failure or any slow moving disease, petrifies me.”
Your column in Sunday's paper brought tears to my eyes. I feel for you, for your dad, for your family. I am dealing with metastasized cancer that went to my liver, lungs, and ...
Canoga Park, Calif.
“She swore that if we prolonged her life, she would come back to haunt us.”
My mother, Jean Brandenburg, an RN, died on December 5 at age 85 after a series of strokes: at home, no tube, with hospice and family nearby, the way that she wanted. My blessed sister moved in to care for her. I'm ...
“My dad was always the life of the party... In his last months, he even managed to make the caregivers laugh and appreciate his humor.”
Dear Mr. Lopez: This morning began like every other Sunday: Feed the dog; make coffee; look at the front page of the Los Angeles Times; pour a up ...
“I am 87 and in very good shape but I dread becoming a burden to anyone.”
I enjoyed your column on Polly Berger because her attitudes mirror mine. I am 87 and in very good shape but I dread becoming a burden to anyone. I wish we had a right to die ...
Kenneth L. Perry
Newport Beach, Calif.
“Having lost my son when he was 15, gives me perspective on dealing with loss. My dad's passing was sad but seemed so normal, expected, societally and emotionally do-able.”
Hello Steve, Thank you for taking the time to come visit us with Dr. Dorio last week. I was quite ...
“We are praying there is still hope, but if it comes to this, with God's help, I want to be strong enough to help her through this.”
The Monday after Thanksgiving our oncologist told us the chemo was no longer working and that the cancer had taken over her lung, that ‘at this point, it's terminal.’ We have not yet accepted this and have one more ‘second opinion’ to get ...
“Finally radiation for brain cancer and I remember he said to me ‘My Love, I am wearing down...’”
When my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer, the Cancer Center was two hours away. We were able to rent a home ...
The Sea Ranch, Calif.
“His will to live is stronger than anybody I've even known.”
In August of 2011 my husband of 25 years was diagnosed with stage IV gastric cancer. He is a 100% disabled Vietnam vet from PTSD. For the past 4 months he has been undergoing chemo and radiation and is so sick but refuses ...
“I miss her terribly but feel joy knowing that I was able, with the help of hospice, to fulfill her wishes.”
Dear Steve, I am so sorry to read about all that is happening in your family. I feel your pain. My father passed away less than two years ago and my mother on June 20th. They had been married 57 years. He lived longer than anyone would have thought ...
Anna M. McGuirk
“It is such an incredibly helpless feeling to NOT be able to be there to comfort her.”
My wife was diagnosed with advanced stage three breast cancer in August 2009 at the age of 34. She underwent a double mastectomy, hysterectomy, a 4 month grueling chemotherapy treatment, radiation treatment and is finally undergoing reconstruction very soon. My wife and ...
FOB Sharana, Afghanistan
“I never thought I'd become my parents parent.”
I was the caregiver for my mother who was suffering from colon cancer. Towards the end she also developed dementia. It was just the most heartbreaking thing to watch. We knew we had a limited time with us but things got ...
“I told her that it was OK for her to let go when she thought it was time.”
At 93, my Mom was still in possession of all her faculties. When she died, in her chair, in her room at the assisted living facility near our home, she had been on hospice care for about two years. She was slowly dying from congestive heart failure. Being on ...
Port Townsend, Wash.
“We learned to accept our situation and the fact of death early on, a breakthrough that has enabled us to face the future without fear.”
In 2007, my wife was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a grade-IV brain cancer with average life expectancy of 6-18 months. She nearly died within two weeks ...
“my wife of 17 years (Angie Gibbs DeSantis) has 10 years of victory, but now is the time to pack things up and give them away to friends and family.”
my wife of 17 years (Angie Gibbs DeSantis) has 10 years of victory, but now is the time to pack things up and give them away to friends and family. a number 9 in her ...
Valley Village, Calif.
“I stood at the foot of my father's bed and knew things had happened just as they should have.”
My Dad had always been the type of guy to say that if he ever became less than tall, strong 6'4" man that he was then to just take a rifle ...
“As a culture we worship youth and health, but ultimately our time is up here and sometimes we leave not so pleasantly.”
My friend was 82 years old and they gave him chemo and radiation which took all the life out of him. I took a leave from my work to be with him as he ...
“But that does not stop us from wondering. Or caring. We wish we could help and feel powerless from the sidelines.”
Dear Mr. Lopez and The Times, How about including the perspective of the relatives, best friends, close neighbors, colleagues and those in a broader social circle who must abide by these ...
Newport Beach, Calif.
“Kidney cancer, now spread to his lungs, will only prevail in his body. His spirit remains his.”
I don't know if there is ever a good age at which to say farewell to your father. My son is 16 ...
“Beyond her illness I returned home to a much more fragile and frail woman, not the woman I grew up with.”
I am a twenty four year old graduate student who went back to school because the economy hasn’t been good enough to find a job with a humanities degree from U.C. Berkeley. Before returning to school however, I spent my 'year off' not only looking for ...
“I don't know how I'll consider a world that doesn't include my folks.”
Mom and Dad lived their entire lives in my Virginia hometown, a small place in between the Shenandoah Valley and the Smokies of Tennessee. They were together for sixty one years and then, within ...
“Why can't we let the elderly experience an appropriate passing?”
I spent some time in Bhutan recently. An elderly Buddhist monk was walking around and around a prayer wheel halfway up a mountain when he suddenly stumbled and collapsed. Our ...
New Castle, Penn.
“You lose someone; the grief that you will feel will hit you like a sledgehammer.”
The Poet Emerson wrote, that 'death is the kindest way to lose someone.' I don't know if I agree with that sentiment though I ...
“For the last eleven months I have been wrestling with all of the issues you wrote about with my elderly dad, who is 88 years old and lives about a driving hour away from me.”
Hi Steve, I believe the last time I wrote to you was a few years back, after the wonderful talk you gave at All Saints Church in Pasadena about your relationship with Nathaniel. I often read and enjoy your work but rarely acknowledge it by letting you ...
“Don't just wait out the dark. Look for the shards of light that come through these waning days and savor every one of them.”
Dear Steve, Your column touched me. Like your parents, my husband and I are in our waning years. He, at 85 has Parkinsons and heart trouble, and me, his caregiver, I'm 78. Our 56 years together have ...
“I reluctantly decided to withhold feeding from Dad.”
I just finished reading your Sunday article, about your father. It triggered some very strong memories and emotions about my father. I thought I’d share some of that with you, hoping some of my experience might prove helpful. My father had laryngeal ...
Huntington Beach, Calif.
“He has a chance to live because a woman bearing a child chose to donate her cord blood to cancer patients ...”
My 45 year old son, diagnosed with leukemia, is currently fighting back in the cancer ward of Memorial Sloan Kettering ...
New York, N.Y.
“I would urge everyone to sign a clear and comprehensive directive that covers feeding tubes and other end of life issues to spare their loved ones the agony of such decisions.”
Our father died November 6th, finally joining our mother who had died in 2010. They had been married 65 years. He had developed a subdural hematoma (swelling of the brain) after striking his head during a fall in his assisted living home. ...
Newport Beach, Calif.
“I am in favor of choosing life over death, because death is final.”
My mother chose palliative care in 1989 and Medicare paid for home hospice care. They furnished us with a free hospital bed and wheelchair as well as nurse who came three times a week (and was on call -- she came one night ...
“Mother had lived her life to its fullest and was always there in times of need.”
Morning Steve: My mother just passed away 11-5-11. It was peaceful, yet still wrenching for myself, and 2 siblings. She had had 2 cardiac arrests over the last two months and was placed in hospice. Being a giving and simple person, she preferred cremation and a 'celebration of life' ...
“A year ago, he was different man, a very active 95 year old.”
Yesterday, my 96 year old Abuelito, Mariano Rodriguez, allowed himself to be taken out for a walk in his wheelchair. It had been sitting unused in the corner of his bedroom for a ...
Angelica Portillo Heap
“End of life conversations [are] ... not something to be avoided.”
My mother died a week ago at age 95 -- and the compassionate staff and volunteers of our local hospice were the difference between 'a good death' for her and for us, her ...
“He suffered more than was necessary.”
I faced a similar decision and opted to have an oral feeding tube given to my husband who was suffering from advanced dementia. A huge mistake. He eventually recovered his ability to swallow, but suffered ...
“There is no such thing as 'natural' death any longer.”
There is no such thing as "natural" death any longer and is an illusion in two senses: 1) medical advances routinely extend life beyond the point of dying of "natural causes" ...
Portola Valley, Calif.
“We would have leaped a the chance for a humane and pain free option.”
I had a brother in a coma, a persistent vegetative state, for seven years. He had very little brain function, ...
Woodland Hills, Calif.
“December 6th is the fifth anniversary of my dad's death and it still pains me to talk about it.”
December 6th is the fifth anniversary of my dad's death and it still pains me to talk about it but I did read your article, Mr Lopez, and I all I can say is I wish you the best. I grew up in Temple City. ...
“My only regret is that I never had the courage to speak to Dad about dying.”
It’s startling for today is the second month anniversary of my Dad’s passing and my mind is full of thoughts as think ...
“Alzheimer is bad for the sick person and for the family too.”
"Mr Lopez I'm an Italian girl who loves your story and while I'm reading your column I can't help thinking to my grandma. She had Alzheimer's disease and she passed away in 1998. She was a ...
“You have to honor their request to let them go to a better place than to see them suffer.”
Thank you Steve Lopez for your insightful columns on the end of life and aging parents. I am going through the same thing with my mother Helen. She just turned 88 years old and she is in the later stages of dementia/Alzheimer's . My father passed away 3 ...
Costa Mesa, Calif.
“As I've read these stories I keep thinking how lucky we all were for an end she dearly wanted.”
My mother, at the young age of 82 yrs., felt bad one Friday evening. My father called my brother and told him he was taking her ...
“My only terror is that one of my children will suddenly appear and demand that "everything be done to keep my mother alive."”
I grew up in a small, ancient farming/ranching village in New Mexico where the population was about 80% Spanish Catholics, descended from the ...
Nancy Winslow Johnson
“End of life decisions are painfully difficult ... ”
My father, Lee Casey, was a robust Irishman with a hearty laugh and full red beard. He had beat cancer once before, but became ill with lymphoma complicated by pneumonia. Through it all, Dad’s mind remained sharp though he had become weak ...
Oak Park, Calif.
“It was her last unselfish act for which I am forever grateful.”
I have gone through what you are going through right now with your father and it is so difficult. My mother had Parkinson's disease for over 30 years and also COPD. My parents had a living will and ...
Long Beach, Calif.
“My mom's my hero.”
My Mom is my hero. She will be turning 85 year on December 23rd this year. Her health was basically fair having high blood pressure, stage 4 kidney disease, and diabetes but suddenly changed with ...
“She prays every day that her life will end so she can go be with him.”
Watching my husband's grandfather pass away this year at the age of 94, after seeing his hearing and sight deteriorate to the point where he was blacked out of ...
“There are no words to describe that moment when you realize there really is nothing left to be done.”
I knew the day would come, we had planned for it, talked for hours about it and filled out all the necessary paperwork. When the hospice nurse walked into the hospital room I still couldn't really deal with it. My partner of 8 years was diagnosed with a rare ...
“No one can fully prepare you for the experience of being a spousal caregiver.”
My dear husband Frank was diagnosed with advanced liver cancer in 2009. At the age of 44 his life expectancy was 3 months. He surprised everyone by withstanding over 20 rounds of chemo and living almost two years more. At first it looked like we might just win ...
“What a blessing for me to know how to honor her wishes.”
I can't thank you enough for what you are doing for our community, bringing the issues of death and dying into clearer focus. We plan the most important milestones in our lives - our education, our careers, our marriages, our children. Yet the one certain event, the death ...
Woodland Hills, Calif.
“Why aren't you required to fill out an advance care directive when applying for Medicare?”
My Dad had the perfect death as far as I'm concerned. He got up one morning, had a cup of coffee with my Mom, put the coffee ...
“I just want to die naturally, and in my own bed.”
Thank you for calling attention to this subject that no one wants to talk about. I am a 75 year old male widower, in good health, ...
John A. Burke
“We all know that we are served with our exit papers as soon as we are born, but no one knows when and how we will meet our end. ”
We all have to face the reality and certainty of the mortality of ourselves and our loved ones. We all know that we are served with our exit papers as soon as we are born, but no one knows when and how we will meet our end. It is ...
Santa Monica, Calif.
“At 76, I'm still in moderate shape physically, but increasing memory lapses and difficulty concentrating are beginning to concern me.”
At 76, I'm still in moderate shape physically, but increasing memory lapses and difficulty concentrating are beginning to concern me. Some of my friends have begun ...
“We have developed many techniques to keep people alive, but the cost emotionally for families, the patient and financially to our society are terrible.”
On April 15, 2002 my father had another massive heart attack. His chance of survival and to live, know who we were and function was only 2 1/2%. We went home hours later after being told to gather the family to say goodbye. At 10:30 that ...
“Hospice was arranged and the most kind-hearted people came to her home, set up a bed, and watched over her at all times to make sure her pain was eased.”
In October, my mother-in-law fell going to get the newspaper for my father-in-law because he didn't feel good. When Mom fell, she broke her neck and tore open her forehead on the driveway. She wasn’t paralyzed but that was the beginning of watching her struggle and fight for ...
“Every single American should visit a nursing home at some point in his or her life.”
Every single American should visit a nursing home at some point in his or her life. Not a fancy retirement home for the well-to-do. Not a souped-up "village" for active seniors. But a real, honest-to-goodness nursing home. Stomach-turning smells, ...
“My mother’s end of life was 15 years long.”
My mother’s end of life was 15 years long. It began the day my father died and she became involuntarily dependent upon her children to perform all the roles that he had played in her life during their 61-year marriage. ...
“My family is lucky. My Mom has always talked openly about end of life issues.”
My family is lucky. My Mom has always talked openly about end of life issues. She is no longer capable of making decisions. We will carry out her wishes with no arguments or regrets. She ...
“I believe in a quality of life, not a quantity.”
My situation is a bit different---married at 19 to someone 31 years older, I had time (41 wonderful years) to think about what would happen if....Rediagnosed with colon ...
“My husband wanted to die at home, with me at his side, and he was able to do it with dignity and grace.”
My husband developed a cough that would not go away. After many tests, and doctors, then a specialist who said without blinking ...
“I wrestled to accept the unsettling fact that my mother genuinely wanted to die.”
My sisters and I didn’t pay much attention when my stoic, patrician mother began talking about “ending things,” and filling her bookshelves with multiple copies of Final Exit and The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. We chalked it up to a mild ...
Zoe FitzGerald Carter
“I knew I was honoring his wishes, I just didn’t think it would be so hard.”
My father’s dementia had gotten worse. He had been in a nursing home for over a year, each day slowly losing more of his abilities. He was 93, he ...
Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
“Death and tragedy will one day visit us all; the common denominator we all share as human beings.”
Antonio Dacut was a strong vibrant man before a car accident incapacitated him in 1984. For 2 1/2 years he lay in a ...
“It was extremely painful to see my grandmother in and out of the hospitals and going through chemo. ”
Death has taken three important people in my life. My maternal grandparents (whom I was raised by) and my aunt. In 1995, my grandmother died of cancer at age 52. For ...
“Losing both of my parents within six weeks of each other has taught me that yes, believe it or not, we are all going to die.”
Dear Steve - Thank you so much for this series. In August my mother's breast cancer took over, and by Labor Day we had been told we needed to make a decision, basically about where she would die. We brought her home where she lived ...
“Dad was a tough old guy but caring for mom had aged him considerably.”
My first visit to care for my elderly mother was planned for 6 weeks and mostly I was there to spell my father, who was 83, and evaluate their overall situation. When I was through with my evaluation I returned ...
“I've lived with a lot of death.”
I've lived with a lot of death. My hero/ father died of a massive heart attack when I was twenty. My mother jumped off a building when I was twenty-nine. Both ...
“When my Dad was diagnosed with cancer he and my Mom talked about every detail of getting sick and ultimately dying. ”
When my Dad was diagnosed with cancer he and my Mom talked about every detail of getting sick and ultimately dying. After they had their "ducks in a row" they sat us kids down and shared their wishes with us. In one of lifes ironies, ...
Woodland Hills, Calif.
“The only thing any of us really owns is our death. I refuse to squander mine in some ER.”
My grandfather and father both died on December 20th at nearly the same time twenty-eight years apart. My grandfather died slowly taking over a year to finally succumb to his heart condition. Two years ago my father went in less than 48hrs. ...
“He was so tortured and we were completely helpless to relieve his suffering.”
My dad died in August at the age of 90. He had been struggling with a number of physical and memory loss issues for several years and had a massive heart attack in July, which led ...
Susan Levy D'Anna
“At the end she did not know me or my children ... ”
I wrote long ago to Lopez and never heard back. That was before he had any personal involvement in death ...
“The last vision either man had was the acoustic ceiling in a hospital room. ”
My grandfather and father both died on December 20th at nearly the same time twenty-eight years apart. My grandfather died ...
“He knew it was time to stop the hard fight. ”
It was the hardest decision in my life. Although my father could no longer speak, I was able to communicate with him. He ...
Santa Fe Springs, Calif.
“We couldn't honestly talk about all this.”
My mother died at age 83, after years of struggling with vision loss, an enlarged heart that made it hard for her to take the walks she had enjoyed for her whole life, breast cancer, and an ...
“As humans we are selfish and want things to be the way they have always been ...”
Shared stories of aging parents and the lives they live and the suffering they go through as they age brings tears to my eyes. In the last couple of years my siblings and I have started to experience the sadness of seeing our once strong, efficient, happy ...
“He said “I am going to fight this!””
My Father Our Hero” is the prestigious words that describe my father. In 2004, my father spiraled into his journey of battling heart disease. He then learned ...
“So we suffered silently, cut off from each other by the unspoken command to avoid contemplating Mom's death.”
I was 16 years old when my mom died of cancer in 1985. Sadly, she was unable to face her impending death head on. Her denial of its inevitability, which encouraged the same in her family, denied us all ...
“I am not afraid of death but I'm more scared of what I will have to go through if and when the time comes. ”
A special thank you for sharing your personal experience it touches my heart. I am 81 years old. I've been a productive R.N. for over 50 years and witnessed much suffering in the senior population. My medical cost in the past year was the ...
“Then I asked myself, "Should I let her die?"”
I chanced upon your interview on KPCC today. I am 56 years old and both my parents died - relatively recently. My stepfather went first - in November 2009. He, too, had wanted to die at home as many people have said, but my ...
San Bernardino, Calif.
Credits: Megan Garvey, Soo Oh, Ken Schwencke, Ben Welsh