‘Promise Me’

Joe, promise me. Promise me right now that if I ever get that bad, you will not let me suffer.’

I remember the moment as if it was 5 minutes ago. My mother and I had just left the hospital, visiting my grandfather, her dad, who was in the hospital battling Alzheimer’s and pneumonia. At the time, one of the doctors called it the worst case of Alzheimer’s he had ever seen.

Promise me Joe, you won’t let me suffer.

I remember thinking, OK Mom, I get it, I won’t let you suffer. Why? Cause you will live forever. That is what moms do. They live forever.

Two years ago today, I told the doctor to stop giving my mom medicine that kept her alive. She was gone in about 12 hours. She was also stricken with Alzheimer’s and had COPD, which kept filling up her lungs and they kept pumping the fluid out.

She was suffering. Badly.

Promise me Joe, you won’t let me suffer. When the time comes, just let me go. It will be OK.’

I remember pulling my brother to the side and saying, I have had enough.

I can’t do it. I can’t watch her like this anymore. This is not what mom wanted. I didn’t know what to expect his answer would be, but it was, ‘I agree.’ We both walked back in and told the doc, stop it.

It was time to say goodbye.

You see, Alzheimer’s did not kill my mom, the COPD did. Alzheimer’s took my mom away. Quickly and without mercy.

She remembered me only half the time. That was OK.

She forgot the names of my kids. That was not OK.

She forgot certain times and moments. That was OK.

She remembered things from 30 years ago, like they were happening right then. That was OK.

She was not my mom anymore. That was not OK.

As I told the doc what we wanted to do, I kissed her head, whispered in her ear, ‘I am sorry,’ and left the nursing home and got in my car.

I cried for 30 minutes.

‘Promise me. You won’t let me suffer. Promise me.’

Promise me. You won’t let me suffer. Promise me.’

I also had to work that day. I had to work. Not because I was being forced to work. I couldn’t sit there and watch her die. I had been watching her die for a year. Mom had told people for years, before she got sick. ‘Joe is very strong. He doesn’t like death and won’t handle this well.’ And I thought, “Whatever! I am a big man, I can handle anything. Anything that can come my way.”

Moms are never wrong.

I arrived back at the nursing home at 11 that night. The nurse said, ‘she has a strong heart. But you did the right thing.’

I was lying in the bed next to her

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left, she had been there all day, and my brother was just outside, restless and walking around.

Promise me. You won’t let me suffer.’

I kept that promise to my mother.

It is the promise that keeps me up almost every night.

It is the promise that wakes me up, almost every single morning, at 2:22. Why that time? I have no damn clue. But it does.

It is the promise that I said would be no problem to keep for my mom.

And it was both the easiest and most difficult decision of my life.

I kept that promise to her because of one thing.

I did it because I have the promise that one day, I will see her again.




  1. James June 26, 2013 4:50 pm  Reply

    Very touching, Joe. Death is always hard, and some handle it better than others, but I understand what you went through.
    Thank you for your twitter feed, it is my personal favorite.

    • Joe Dubin July 1, 2013 11:58 pm  Reply

      Aww, man, thank you……I appreciate that…

  2. Victor June 26, 2013 5:01 pm  Reply

    That is some story Joe, Going through the same thing with my dad who has severe Alzheimer’s and my mother has COPD, so life is a challenge. The honor to a promise made not easy. Bruno Kirby’s character told a story in the movie City Slickers in describing the worst day of his life. At the end he was asked to describe the best day. He said “same day”. That applies here. A toast to your mom until you meet again. God Bless

    • Joe Dubin July 1, 2013 11:58 pm  Reply

      LOVE LOVE that line…that line made the movie….thanks for the kind words Vic

  3. Jane June 26, 2013 8:39 pm  Reply

    i’m scared, i mean REALLY scared of the day i have to make that decision for one or both of my parents. I’m 46 years old and i’m not ready to be without them. I can’t imagine what you are going through, but know that someday i will know, and it scares me……

  4. Jenny June 26, 2013 11:35 pm  Reply

    I’m fighting back tears reading this, and I’m losing that battle. Simply beautiful.

    • Joe Dubin July 1, 2013 11:57 pm  Reply

      Thank you!!

  5. Angela Dillon June 27, 2013 12:42 am  Reply

    So well written. We are dealing with making decisions for a grandparent…they are worst & best decisions to make. Peace, friend.

    • Joe Dubin July 1, 2013 11:57 pm  Reply

      Thank you!!

  6. Krazy Kyle June 27, 2013 2:33 pm  Reply

    Thank you Joe for being a great example for all of us going down that same road. Blessings to you Joe. Now cover that story of the Swiss watch in the ancient tomb!

    • Joe Dubin July 1, 2013 11:57 pm  Reply

      I love you KK….Kim or Kyle..I dunno…

  7. Jerry June 27, 2013 3:34 pm  Reply

    Well it’s obvious she was right about a lot things, one of which is Joe is a big strong man. This was very touching and well said Joe. You will definately see her again and she will remember you and thank you for keeping your promise. I look forward o the day we see our Mothers again myself . I had to say goodbye myself 5 years ago and left the evening before she died. My sister had to be right there in bed with her. I have no regrets because we said our goodbyes the day before and I knew she was going home. Still I miss her everyday and wish I could have another call or another visit but I am happy she is not suffering and like you I know I will see her again. Thanks again for this touching story.

    • Joe Dubin July 1, 2013 11:57 pm  Reply

      THanks for the kind words my friend…..and I am sorry for your loss too…

  8. Shirley Schettino June 27, 2013 6:05 pm  Reply

    Someone once said to me that if you look at the clock, and it regsiters the same time every day, as in your “2:22 a.m.,” that’s when you thank that angel for reminding you they are keeping watch. Your “angel” is simply saying, “I’m right here.” You are a good son. Blessings.

    • Joe Dubin July 1, 2013 11:56 pm  Reply

      Thank you!!!

  9. Jana June 27, 2013 7:13 pm  Reply

    Joe – your mom is proud of you still. That’s such a hard thing to do & have gone through, but your Mom is happier for it & in a much better place. I’m sorry for your loss, but it’s heaven’s gain.

    • Joe Dubin July 1, 2013 11:56 pm  Reply

      Thank you for the kind words!

  10. jen July 1, 2013 8:11 pm  Reply

    This made me cry and smile at the same time. <3

    • Joe Dubin July 1, 2013 11:54 pm  Reply

      Thank you!!

  11. Mandy Burns July 2, 2013 2:57 pm  Reply

    That is the most beautiful and sad thing to have to do. I know your moma is proud of you!

    • Joe Dubin July 8, 2013 11:33 pm  Reply

      Thank you Mandy….

  12. Tevin Peterson July 2, 2013 3:18 pm  Reply

    Wow. Thanks Joe. That was truly touching buddy! Reminds me vividly of the months & months of slowly losing my dad (when I was 18) — God used that painful process to draw me near to Him. So that I could say with certainty that “I may have lost my earth father, but I have now gained a Heavenly Father…. one day I will see them both face to face. Joe – you are a good son & a good man. Keep loving & serving your kids faithfully — they have got to be our #1 priority!! > Then one day, when it’s our time to go, they’ll have the strength & ability to understand that promise. Take care my friend!!

    • Joe Dubin July 8, 2013 11:33 pm  Reply

      Tevin, that means the world to me coming from you. thank you!!!

  13. BigJoeOnTheGo » One Frickin’ Year Already? June 4, 2014 12:40 am  Reply

    […] My favorite story was this from last June.  The one about saying goodbye to my mom.  Took a lot to write that and boy was it tough.  http://bigjoeonthego.com/promise-me/ […]

    • Joe Dubin June 9, 2014 10:47 pm  Reply

      Thank you!

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