Sylvia's Blog

This blog was created in memory of my mother, Sylvia Siegel, who passed away peacefully in her sleep on 8/18/2007. It's intended to serve as a collection point for articles written about her, and for any type of anecdotes that anyone would care to share. So feel free to post entries and share. If you want to be added to the list of contributors, just send me an e-mail and I'll add you to the list. Also in my mom's memory, I will use this as a vehicle to post consumer-oriented information, especially related to telecommunications.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mom's last couple of years

Thanks to all who have sent your well wishes... it has really meant a lot to both me and Rich. It's touching and gratifying to know how many people have admired her and been impacted by her life's work. Her death has also been a chance to reconnect with old friends and family who contacted us after learning of her passing.

For many of you, Mom's death may have been a surprise or a shock, but for us, we are feeling a mixture of sadness and relief, as she has been on a long, slow descent. A lot has been written about her career until she retired, but I thought you might be interested to hear about the last years of her life.

She has been on a steady decline for the past several years, suffering from disabling rheumatoid arthritis and the after-effects of a broken hip, which left her unable to walk or even transfer herself from a wheelchair to a bed. More recently, in the past couple of years, she has suffered from increasing dementia. In January of this year, after two acute illnesses, we enrolled her in hospice, as it was clear that she didn't have much longer to live, and we wanted her to spend her last days in as much comfort as possible. Hospice was wonderful, coming to visit during the week, and administering medications that kept her as comfortable as possible. It's been difficult for us to go see her much recently (for a lot of reasons), so hospice gave us some measure of comfort that she was not alone. About a month before her death, her knee (replaced 15 or so years ago) completely failed, leaving her unable to move her knee. About a week before her death she stopped eating, and became completely unresponsive a couple of days before she finally passed away. It was time, and we're thankful she went so peacefully.

Over the past six years, despite being in a lot of pain from the arthritis, and seeing her mobility decrease every day, she never complained. She did, however, yell, as befits her nature. As you might imagine, Mom's strong character and colorful personality was an incredible asset as a consumer advocate. It was not, however, for communal living!

When we first moved her to the Redwoods in Mill Valley (a wonderful facility), she was placed in a room close to the dining hall (due to her limited mobility) with the mother of our high school math teacher, Frank Gold. Mrs. Gold was a vibrant strong, opinionated woman, just like Mom. Needless to say, it didn't take very long before she had to move rooms. I'd say that in the time she was at the Redwoods she must have moved ten times, due to "incompatible" roommates. With one, it even came to blows! (Of course when you're 87 and severely disabled, it's difficult to do actual harm. But it's grounds for a change of roommates!) In the early years there, her best roommate was comatose.

I do think that despite her ornery nature, the Redwoods staff did enjoy having her there because she was colorful and had a great sense of humor. She loved to sing to herself whenever the mood struck her, and always enjoyed her 4 PM glass of watered-down scotch, which we had to keep stocked at the Redwoods for her use.

I remember one time when I came to visit, I found her sitting in the dining hall, "reading" a Wall Street Journal. She remarked to me that she was very busy because Con Edison had just done some outrageous thing that she was going to have to do something about. In the later years as her dementia got worse, she lived in her mind in a time in the past that was very meaningful for her. She liked to say that she had an active mind, and she really did. I think that she might even have been happy, even though she was living in a different decade.

Mom was an extraordinary woman, and accomplished great things, many after the age of 50. She will always be an inspiration to me. I can't help thinking that whereever she is right now, she's stirring up trouble...