Thoughts on My Mother’s Looming Death

April 14, 2011
300px PET Alzheimer1 Thoughts on My Mothers Looming Death

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For the second and final time, I am watching my natural parent succumbing to an extended illness.  In this case, my mother does not appear to have much time left at all.

Corticobasal Degeneration

You might skip this section if you are sensitive to reading about one’s gradual loss of the use of her body.

Mom has what we are pretty sure is corticobasal degeneration (CBD).  The lack of a definitive diagnosis is based on the rarity of the condition, and that very few doctors are even aware of it, let alone have any expertise in it.  What is understood is that it is a degenerative disease with similarities to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or Lou Gehrig’s Diseases.

CBD is a cruel, cruel monster.  The victim is helpless as he or she watches her body deteriorate gradually but surely over a period of about 5-7 years, but with the mind fully aware of the diagnosis and prognosis.  There is no known cause and no known cure.  The only therapies available are to merely slow down or relieve the symptoms.

Five years ago, Mom was climbing a mountain in Greece.  Soon after she first felt a pain in her left leg, the CBD went through her body systematically as if it was using a checklist rather than attacking everything at once.  OK, left leg – is it weakened?  Check.  Is she unable to use it?  Check.  Now let’s go to her left foot – is it weakened?  Check.  Can we work on the brain yet?  No – remember your orders – one body part at a time and leave the brain until the end!

Ah, but guess what!  We seem to have ended up with a sympathetic strain, as this CBD was good enough to impose dementia before Mom’s complete loss of use of her final limb and her swallowing reflex.  Without going into any more of the brutal details, events of the last several weeks leads to a pretty safe conclusion that the handwriting is now on the wall, in permanent marker.

Estate Planning is for the Living, Not the Dying

You know what?  As brutal as this story sounds, everyone has or will have a story like it, whether the death took years or was instant.  My family is not any more special because of it than anyone else’s.  In fact, we have had four different neighbors lose a parent within the last few months, two other good friends recently lost a parent, and another close friend is close to losing her grandmother.  It’s just our turn.

The point of sharing all of this today is not to fish for sympathy.  It’s not to point out whether or not Mom is adequately protected by a sound estate and financial plan prepared well in advance of all this.  It’s not even to encourage you to call an estate attorney or a financial planner or to buy software or do whatever it takes to get your plan done today, right now!

Instead, the point I’d like to share is either a lesson or a reminder that when the death of a parent is imminent, the notions of who gets what, where everything is, and whether it’s all set up right begin to feel quite trivial and even petty.

I hope it is not a betrayal of any kind to say that today I don’t really give two hoots about whether Mom has the latest, greatest trust or a well-diversified portfolio.  I instead want to know if she’s comfortable, if she still has awareness, and if Mom’s partner, my sister and I are doing enough for her during her final days.

Today, after seeing the shell of my fascinating and wonderfully unorthodox mother lying (hopefully blissfully unaware) in her hospital bed, I’m not really in the mood to think about her estate plan, because it’s really not about her, is it?

 Thoughts on My Mothers Looming Death
 Thoughts on My Mothers Looming Death


Scott R. Zucker, Esq. is the owner of The Zucker Law Firm PLLC, located just outside the Capital Beltway in Annandale, within five miles of the City of Fairfax, the county seat of beautiful Fairfax County, Virginia. The firm focuses mainly on estate planning services for Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania clientele, and seeks to do so in an affordable and approachable way. People interested in learning more can contact Scott by phone or email.

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8 Responses to Thoughts on My Mother’s Looming Death

  1. Laura Brodsky
    April 14, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    {{{Scott}}} Thinking of you and Karyn and Wendy-

    • Scott
      April 17, 2011 at 9:50 pm


      Thank you so much. It has all happened so quickly.

      Will certainly keep you posted.

      With love,

  2. Jen Santini
    April 14, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Scott – my sincerest sympathies to you and your family. I lost my mother 10 years ago at 19 years old to an illness and I think the hardest thing for me was becoming the caretaker of the caretaker. It is hard to see our parents in such a debilitating state. I do agree – at the end of the day, you just want them to be comfortable. I do believe your mom knows that you, your sister and her partner are there for her.

    Thank you for sharing such a personal account.

    • Scott
      April 17, 2011 at 10:11 pm


      Thank you so much for commenting! It is always a treat for me when a professional drops by!

      We spend our professional lives encouraging others to prepare (or think about preparing) for death, then when the time comes for our own families, the whole issue seems to take on a new vibe, doesn’t it?

      Take care,

      Though she is the type of person that would tell me an endorsement is unnecessary, especially as a comment on this kind of topic, I do highly recommend you check out, a collaborative blog between Ms. Santini and three other estate planning lawyers in the Twin Cities, MN area. It was just named a top 25 Estate Planning blog by

  3. Ian
    April 16, 2011 at 1:16 am

    As a random financial planner who subscribes to and enjoys your blog, I just want to say all the best through difficult times for you and your family. A time to reflect, learn, grow, and appreciate what’s truly important.

    • Scott
      April 17, 2011 at 10:14 pm


      Thank you so much for your comments.

      By my estimation, you taking the effort to send your kind wishes my way makes you more than just a random financial planner.

      Take care,

  4. Jessica
    May 23, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    Kudos to your Mom for raising such a compassionate child. I am certain she is very proud of you. Reading through your site and just blown away by your ease of explaining complex subjects and yet you still have a section to thank those that enlighten your life- if just for a moment (how enlightening to me.)

    • Scott
      May 25, 2011 at 12:34 pm

      Thank you so much Jessica!

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