crossing a bridge

When you are a caregiver, you are the guide for your loved one as they cross the bridge toward death. The world, with colors and noise swirling around, keeps tugging and pulling on you, wanting you to come back, but the labored last few breathes of your loved one can’t let you go. You’re mesmerized. They are going to die and there is nothing you can do but help them across the bridge and try to get back to your side safely.

In spiritual folklore, some animals can cross between this world and the next. I am particularly fascinated by the folklore of the wolf. Wolves hunt in packs, dependent on one another to survive. But, when necessary, the lone wolf can travel without the others, their howls stretching high upon the heavens, to connect with the dead. Caregivers are like wolves. Fiercely pack oriented, they need a team to help but they are the only ones who can help their loved ones cross the bridge.

I remember my mother’s last few days, our downstairs den turned into the staging area for her crossing. I had a certification test coming up soon; nine months of work concluding with a grueling exam to determine if I was to be branded with initials at the tail of my name. But my mom was calling me to the bridge. The night before my test I went to see her; my inner lone wolf was howling. I had a sense that, during my eight hour exam, she would be gone, because we were counting hours, not days. When I got there, she already looked dead. Each labored breath seemed to be her last. Her skin was pale, her hands cold, her eyes glassy, her jaw was lax and skin tight, she looked closer to a skeleton than a woman. When I clasped her cold, clammy hand, she weakly gripped back. It was the softest grip my fleshy hands have ever felt but I was not able to break free. I just held her hand and tried to have her mimic my breathe. I wasn’t satisfied but I had to head back to my side of the bridge. If I didn’t, my side would be in shambles.

I passed my test and a few days later my mother died. I didn’t see her last breath. I didn’t need to. My side of the bridge kept calling and it repulsed me into anger; anger for the insensitivity of the pragmatic world, anger that my sweet mother was taken from me, anger and shame that I couldn’t watch her last breath. When I came back to my side of the bridge, I was different, I had changed. I wasn’t whole. The world, with all it’s color and noise, seemed different to me. I genuinely feel this side of the bridge has it wrong, our judgements, prejudices, and hate; that doesn’t exist on the other side. As you prepare to guide someone to the other side, all that matters is that you are able to pack enough love for their journey so they can streak across the heavens. Don’t forget to save some love for yourself though; you’re going to need it for the journey back across the bridge.


Shane P. Larson, CFP® has been a caregiver most of his adult life. With one semester left in college, his family received the devastating diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s for their beloved mother.

Starting his career while also being pulled back home to help care for his mother shaped Shane’s perspective of the world. Taking the skills he learned as wells as the family lessons gained from caregiving, Shane started his own financial planning practice to assist other families who are facing similar situations and help guide them through the difficult task of caregiving.

Currently residing in Seattle, WA, Shane enjoys writing, reading dense books, riding his bike, obsessing over baseball, enjoying a slice of pizza and a pint of craft beer, and taking impromptu trips with his wife.

Written by Shane P. Larson
Shane P. Larson, CFP® has been a caregiver most of his adult life. With one semester left in college, his family received the devastating diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s for their beloved mother. Starting his career while also being pulled back home to help care for his mother shaped Shane’s perspective of the world. Taking the skills he learned in his career as wells as the family lessons gained from caregiving, Shane started his own financial planning practice to assist other families who are facing similar situations and help guide them through the difficult task of caregiving. Currently residing in Seattle, WA, Shane enjoys writing, reading dense books, riding his bike, obsessing over baseball, enjoying a slice of pizza and a pint of craft beer, and taking impromptu trips with his wife.

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25 Comments

  1. I did the same for my mother just a few weeks ago. It was a profound experience and I felt peace in those moments….however now all I can think about is how sad she looked in the days beforehand (she had a stroke, so she could not really communicate much) and how unfair her death was (the stroke was caused by a staph infection she got from her newly implanted pacemaker)…how can I get past that to focus on the positives of the years we had together and how fortunate we were to be able to say our goodbyes to her (unlike my father who had died suddenly some years ago)?

    Reply
  2. I just walked my daddy across that bridge a few weeks ago where he met my momma… miss them both! Beautiful words

    Reply
  3. So thought provoking. We all have our own story. This one is beautiful. Record in your journal, you won’t believe your own story.

    Reply
  4. As I sat there the day before my Mother passed, I fixed her blanket, hands and flowers on her table.
    I knew she was going. I kissed her goodnight and said I will see you tomorrow. Told her I loved her.
    That was Friday. Saturday I got to the nursing home. The nurse on duty shook her head. I cried, composed myself and went in.
    I fixed her hands, with her rosary. I kissed her. Had music playing softly by her ear. Told her that it was okay to go. I gave her permission.
    A Cardinal was outside on the bird feeder. I had never seen a Cardinal there.
    I looked at my Mother and she took her last breath. I felt the pulse in her neck. Then it stopped.
    Her body was there.
    I do believe that Cardinal was her saying So Long.
    It’s the saddest of my days of life of a caregiver, yet the most rewarding of my days of a caregiver.
    I look at all Nature and see my Mother.
    I see her Steadfastness in the trees. Her loving ways in the morning sun rising. I realised. Her body left me but not her spirit essence.
    My Twin Flame.
    My Mother. ♡

    Reply
    • Fairytale story Mine is not going that way. My mom is home on hospice and having hard time passing She has terminal agitation they say and goes back and forth from waking up to checking out again for days from fear when she’s moved I have no idea what to do. I have full time aid with her and leave after a short visit if sleeping and caring for the house etc. I do all the pills and crush them because aid not allowed and pray she takes them We had a beautiful life together almost everyday and this is just unbearable to do alone

      Reply
    • Diane Breitfeller, I understand.
      Had hospice told you her time is near?
      If so, talk to the Social Worker.
      They are there to help you.

      Two weeks before my Mother passed I was told she’s in a decline.
      The week before she was speaking heavy things to all of us. Deep. Making us cry.
      The Friday before I gave permission for the morphine.
      My Mother hasn’t eaten in months. It was to ease that tenseness. But also it’s painful Starvation.
      It was her wishes.
      No feeding tube.
      I had put my mother in 300 mg of seriquill for the nights to knock her out.

      You have to remember. Dementia patients are not a steady decline. They rally back a few times. Which my mother had done.

      I know this is hard. Ask a neighbor to administer the meds if you cannot do it.
      That’s what I did. Company girls cannot Administer any meds.

      I send you strength.
      Remember hospice is there for you also.
      Blessings.
      Blessings to all Caregivers

      Reply
    • Karen Leifson Wilde

      I only spoke what I felt happened.
      I was not afraid of the death.
      I didn’t want to see a woman who if she saw herself would be upset.
      Passing was the humane thing for her at that point.

      I almost started to question everything.
      I stopped myself immediately.

      I made sure I hugged her so many times and kissed her.
      Then hoped all was waiting for her as she crossed over.

      That’s all we can do.

      I didn’t even hold her hand.

      I couldn’t hold her here. That would be selfish.

      We need to always focus on the Dash.
      Not the beginning date, nor the ending date, Only the Dash.
      That’s the life our loved ones lived.
      Blessings to all caregivers.

      Reply
    • Diane Laadyhawk Bobinski … I know what you mean. You put it all so well. I appreciate what you’ve written.

      Sometimes I think about having my life again. But then that would mean losing my mom.
      Caregiving is not for wimps!

      Reply
    • No its not Karen Leifson Wilde.
      No its not.

      I tell everyone
      We can’t fix it so work with it.
      Find what works and use it.
      That’s what I did until the end. 😉

      Reply
  5. As my mother approached that divide last fall, she fell in love with a painting I had started of a young stag photographed by a close friend. Over the weeks the painting was transformed into something very different than how it began, so that what I painted was no longer the living stag, but mother’s Spirit Guide.

    Reply
  6. give me the strength I will need

    Reply
  7. Perfectly written…my heart breaks as I read this. Caregiving on a daily basis feels like you’re literally stuck on the middle of the bridge indefinitely.

    Reply
  8. I just lost my gma on Thanksgiving day after many years of caregiving. Letting go after fighting so hard for her for so long was and is extremely painful. I miss her every moment of every day.

    Reply
  9. I lost my mother 4 weeks ago after caregiving for years. It’s the worst feeling in the world not having her in the house with me.

    Reply
  10. Very hard! Watching them decline….

    Reply
    • going through it now with dad. it’s a horrible roller coaster from hell.

      Reply

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