Robert, Oliver and Claudio Armbruster on Lake Constance in March 2019

Written by Claudio Armbruster

My parents always have everything under control. They look after my severely disabled brother, they support my wife and me, look after their grandchildren. They help as much as they can. Suddenly, they need help themselves. In 2017, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer – the family is destabilized.

Before

“Bad mother! Oliver sad! Throw away Oliver! Buy new Oliver!”
This is how my brother talks.
Our mother is the most important person for Oliver, his key figure in life and mood barometer. When we sit at the dining table together, he only talks to her, my father and me are secondary characters. We only get a “Good morning” or a “Enjoy your meal!” when our mother tells him to. He watches her all the time: If she smiles, he is happy. If she is serious, he blames himself, cries or throws a tantrum.
Our mother could never put up with the fact that Oliver behaves differently, that he is not “normal”. When he screams uncontrollably or talks to himself too loudly, she asks him to be quiet. When he gets a cramp or twitches, warns him to stay calm. She doesn’t like it when other people watch him in the supermarket or restaurant because he is different. Oliver notices that.
“Oh mother! Mother sad, Oliver bad, Oliver sick, mother sad, oh no!”
A vicious circle.

Oliver Armbruster painting, March 2019

Oliver is 45 years old, physically and mentally severely disabled. He can walk, eat without help and make himself understood with his very limited vocabulary. He needs help showering and getting dressed, someone has to prepare his food and manage daily tasks for him. Since the age of 5, he has been living in an anthroposophical village community for disabled people near Lake Constance and feels comfortable there. However, he also enjoys coming to his parent’s house on weekends and during the holidays which is only a few kilometers away.
Our mother takes charge of Oliver’s financial matters, insurances, his numerous doctor’s appointments, his hearing aids, glasses, simply everything.

My parents took the risk of becoming pregnant again after my brother’s birth and his two-year fight for survival on the intensive care unit. Now, there is the disabled son and the healthy son; one of them received more care, the other one got all the opportunities to develop.
And when the grandchildren were born, the grandparents were deeply in love. They often visited us in Mainz. My wife and I travel a lot because of our jobs. We are on a tight schedule with two children, the jobs and the household. Regardless of how well planned the children’s day care, school, after-school care and babysitter: the grandparents are there when we need them.

My parent’s marriage and division of tasks was traditional: He went to work, she took care of the children, the household, everyday life. She managed the family, organized the calendar, bought the birthday presents. They always got along fine, also when they retired. Then, everything changed.

Winter

“Go to the doctor, mom, you need to see a doctor!”
“I know, how many times are you going to tell me, I will go to the doctor…”

She doesn’t go. She goes there with my brother, his health is important to her. She also tells me and my father to go to the doctor when we have a cold. And what about her? “I’m taking aspirin, that always helps. Or those stomach drops, they are homeopathic.”
She’s had a rattling cough every morning for the past few years. “It gets better after a hot black coffee!”
She blindly trusts her doctor during the regular dentist appointment, doesn’t question or disagree – to her, doctors are “Gods in white”.

In January 2017, my parents visit us for a few days during our skiing holidays. They want to play with their grandchildren, build snowmen, go sledding and cheer them at their first ski race. But my mother coughs and is cold, her face is grey and she is weak, she cannot keep up with the children anymore, the short walk from the gondola station to the hotel is too long for her.
“It has been like this for a few weeks already”, says my father, “she is always coughing and wheezing, but she doesn’t want to go to the doctor.”
“Oh, Robert! You wouldn’t go to the doctor either!” It goes back and forth like this. Martial skirmishes: who is worse, who visits the doctor less, who is even more irresponsible with their own health. She promised us to get herself examined back home.
She didn’t like her family doctor, she doesn’t feel like he takes her serious, “he always examines me so quickly” – however, she stays with him. He gives her an infusion to get better and she is referred to a radiology practice. The X-ray image shows a pneumonia and an opacification of the lung. Helplessness. Antibiotics.
“That will work…”
From mid-February, my mother becomes thinner and weaker. In March, she goes to Freiburg with my father and my brother to visit the eye clinic. Oliver’s blind left eye is inflamed and hurts. The doctors are afraid that the inflammation transfers to the healthy eye and recommend to remove the inflamed eye and put in a glass eye.

My parents call me:
“Oliver always rubs his eyes with his fingers… – how is he supposed to deal with a glass eye?!” “And can you even manage that? You are so weak, mom!”
“No, I can manage it…”

After the appointment at the clinic, they want to visit Freiburg. But my father doesn’t only have to support my lightly staggering brother, but especially my mother. The kilometer from the old town to the pension is very hard for her. “Oh, mother, so tired! Mother doesn’t work anymore!”, says Oliver.
Back home, she has to go the doctor again. The antibiotics didn’t help. They do an X-ray again: the opacification got even worse. Finally, she is transferred to a lung specialist. When he saw my mother and heard her cough, he asks a question that many doctors ask over and over again: “Did you smoke?”
“No.”
“Oh.”
He sees that there is something wrong with this lung, but he doesn’t know what it is. He refers my mother to the Lung Center of the Clinic in Constance.

In this initial phase, I manage to drive from Mainz to Lake Constance one time to see my small, thin, suddenly old mother. She cannot play with her granddaughter anymore, she doesn’t go to the bakery with her grandson. She is weak and cannot hide it anymore. I am worried about her.

Now, I call my father almost daily. “Claudio, your mother still tries to clean the bathroom, and she coughs and wheezes at the same time. The cough and the bad lung probably comes from the cleaning products!”
Thus, he cleans the bathroom. She sits beside him, curses and isn’t satisfied with his work.
He is 77 years old and suddenly has to do the groceries, find out where everything is at the supermarket, always in a hurry, always afraid that his wife faints or falls while trying to hang up the laundry. He has to learn how to operate the washing machine, to use the right cleaning products, to change the sheets.
My mother on the phone: “No, it’s alright, dad is exaggerating, he is nervous and restless, I don’t even want to leave him alone anymore, it’s impossible!” They have been married for 54 years.

Spring

“Claudio, what is happening to me, what are they doing to me?!”, my mother asks.
“They are breaking my wife!”, my father curses.

She goes to the hospital for a bronchoscopy, an examination of the lungs – the most important diagnostic procedure for suspected lung cancer. Tissue samples are collected and a bronchoalveolar lavage is done.
Bronchoscopy is a low-risk but not completely risk-free diagnostic method. In very rare cases, pulmonary alveolus are injured during the sample withdrawal, which can lead to a pneumothorax, a collapsed lung.
This is what happens with my mother.
She can’t breathe anymore, artificial breathing is necessary, a thoraric drain is laid which should stay until the lung is inflated completely again and works properly. This works quickly for younger patients. But my mother isn’t young, her lungs are sick and fragile.
I drive 400 kilometers from one clinic, where our son is undergoing a minor surgery, to the next clinic. My mother is in pain, the drainage tortures her and she is desperate. The bronchoscopy hasn’t revealed anything but led to further complications. “No cancer!” is what they said, but it is completely unclear what this opacification is. My mother starts to lose her basic trust in doctors.

She stays on the intensive care unit. The doctors schedule an ultrasound examination of the stomach and an enteroscopy for the Thursday before Easter. They assume something worse than a pulmonary disease. My wife already drives to Lake Constance to my father with the children. I still have to work.
In the evening, I get a call from the clinic: “Your mother’s life is in acute danger!” During the examination, the intestinal wall has been perforated, injured. To such an extent, that an emergency surgery has to be performed at night in order to close the hole in the intestinal wall. It is not sure how the surgery will end. I’m panicking. What do I do now? I am too confused and too tired at the same time for a long night ride. I sat down and waited.
My father at home with my wife and my children was beside himself, he couldn’t assess the situation. He railed against the doctors: “Two complications during two routine interventions within one week!”
At five in the morning, the clinic calls me again: “Your mother survived the surgery!” I drive there immediately.
What would my mother look like, how would she react, could she react at all?
In Hegau, shortly before Lake Constance, the road splits up; one route leads to Obersee, the other to Constance. I always took the one to Obersee, where my parents live. It’s the first time that I take the departure to Constance and I know that it won’t be the last time. Or is it? I can’t go on anymore and have to stop – take a short break and breathe.
She looks terrible, there are tubes everywhere, her hair is messy. That is the worst part for her.

“Claudio, I look terrible.”
“No, mom.”
“Where do you even come from all of a sudden?”
“From Mainz, I drove off immediately this morning.” “Because of me? You didn’t have to do that, you have so much to do.”

My wife and me are invited to talk with Professor Rehfeld (name changed), the chief physician and director of the Lung Center. Of course, we are skeptical and scared. But we meet a young doctor who is open about his mistakes. Rehfeld explains what happened and what has to be done now. And he says that he as chief physician is now personally responsible for my mother. Of course, the clinic’s reputation is also at stake.
For the next months, he is now the most important contact person and hope for my parents. Rehfeld encourages my mother, tells her about her state of health and asks her to be patient, to keep on going. He becomes her new god in white, she always waits for him, his round, his statements. She likes him. Because he is honest, because he takes her serious as a human and doesn’t just see her as a patient.

We celebrate Easter with my father and my brother – but for the first time without my mother. The children are not allowed on the intensive care unit and we don’t want to take them there. Our three year old daughter is disappointed, our seven year old son is relieved. We tell the children that they can visit their grandma when she is doing better.
On Easter Sunday, I drive to Constance with my brother.
“Oh dear, oh no, hospital!” Oh dear oh no, oh no!”
Oliver has spent a lot of time in hospitals, he is afraid of doctors and people wearing white gowns. He clings onto my arm when we enter the clinic. He immediately starts crying when he sees our mother.
“Oh mommy, oh mommy, oh mommy! Mommy so sick, mommy hospital, oh no!”
“Yes, Oliver.”
“Mommy healthy again? Everything alright, everything alright, everything alright?”
“Yes Oliver, of course, soon.”

My mother stays in intensive care for two weeks, her lungs barely recover from the pneumothrorax, she still receives supplemental oxygen and is fed artificially. Her intestine that was operated still doesn’t work properly.

I write emails and talk to Professor Rehfeld on the phone. There is still no diagnosis, no cancer has been found, neither in the lung nor in the gastrointestinal tract. The findings of the bronchoscopy are sent to another lung clinic for verification.
No result. It is assumed that she suffers from a rare immune disorder.
Professor Rehfeld recommends and organizes a three-week rehabilitation measure in a rehabilitation clinic specialized in pneumology near Königssee in Berchtesgadener Land, Bavaria for my mother, hoping that she returns with more strength. As she is extremely thin, weak and mentally unstable, he asks me to take her there. For my father, the drive would be too long. From Mainz to Lake Constance. First, I pick up my father, then my mother from the hospital, who is already waiting nervously with packed suitcases, she is frail but full of hope. We take an oxygen machine with us, for the case that she runs out of air on the way. It feels like a surreal road movie to me:
From Lake Constance to the Königssee. When I was a child, my parents took me to the mountains to ascend 3000 meter peaks. Now, my mother sits on the passenger seat next to me, weighing only 40 kilos, wheezing but smiling.
We take her to her room, it is bright and spacious, but now she’s not smiling anymore.
“Oh Claudio, oh Robert, what a shame!”
It’s just not a vacation. How is she supposed to manage everything here on her own? She has never been anywhere alone. All the administrations, therapies, exercises, she can’t find her way around the big building, doesn’t find the canteen – and she is too weak to walk all the way without help. She cries. My father promises to stay with her.
He plans to stay for a week, then stays another week. I know that he is also at the end of his tether. We talk on the phone: “Dad, take a walk at the Königssee, breathe in the fresh air there!” However, he doesn’t go for a walk but spends every day with his wife. She can’t handle daily life in rehabilitation. She can’t eat. In the dining room, she sits in front of a plate of soup for an hour. Once she wants to sunbathe on the terrace, but she falls and hurts her forehead and arm.
My father calls me: “Claudio, your mother can’t manage this.”
In the background, my mother curses: “Yes, Robert, I can do this! You are going home now! I’m staying here alone for the last week!”

After three weeks at the rehabilitation clinic, I pick up my mother and drive back the whole way. When she sits in the car next to me and we drive through the Allgäu, she is simply happy. Relieved and happy that she can finally go home with her son. We are chatting, she wants to know how work is going, if there are any news in the neighborhood. I tell her – she smiles and falls asleep.

At home, she feels better and is full of hope. It’s June. She washes herself, dresses herself and walks the stairs on her own. Every step is a battle, but she doesn’t want any help. My father put  a stool in the staircase for her, as an intermediate stop. There she sits. curses and grumbles and walks on. She still can’t eat – my father always cooks her favorite food – but she is just not hungry and she doesn’t like the food anymore. She discovered something through Professor Rehfeld which helps her: Fresubin, high-caloric liquid food in bottles. “The professor drinks this too, when he doesn’t have time for lunch – imagine!” It becomes her main source of nutrition.
My father takes her to the terrace every day, where she sits in the sun and has a lot of visitors.  On the weekend, we go there with the children and reserve a table in her favorite restaurant directly at Lake Constance. She dresses up, puts on make-up, wears jewelry – and even though she doesn’t eat anything of course, it’s a nice evening at the lake. It’s warm, we sit outside, the children play, the sun sets on the lake. “Just like in the old days!”, she says.

Then, we return home. She sits on the sofa at home and doesn’t say anything for hours. “Robert, what if I die? If I die much earlier, before you. What do we do then?”
My father doesn’t want to hear that.
“Think positive, there is hope!”, he tells her.
He tells us on the phone: “My head is spinning.” The new household tasks and the daily life, my mother’s visitors for that have to be taken care of. And of course, my mother wants the house to look nice and tidy, as always. She scolds him when he doesn’t do it right.
“You need a cleaner, urgently! We already found someone, you only have to say yes.”
But they say no. They don’t want someone they don’t know bustling about their house. “And it costs money, too! We can still do it on our own!”
How often did we visit our parents on the weekends, did the weekly shopping and organized everything, my wife cleaned the whole house, the bath rooms and the kitchen, did the laundry, changed the sheets… and kept the mood positive.

Summer

At the end of June, after one month at home, the first follow-up appointment in hospital after the rehab approaches. Full of hope and fear, my mother can’t wait for the CT: “What will my lungs look like?”
It looks a lot worse than before, the opacification is stronger and darker.  They immediately make tests, a complete blood count, examinations by immunologists and rheumatologists. We wait anxiously again. And again, there is no result.
This damn uncertainty for months! Nothing helps, no rehab, no cortisone, nothing. Everyone is worn down, everyone is helpless.
Professor Rehfeld sits with my mother. “I cannot treat you if I don’t know what you’re suffering from.” He urgently recommends another bronchoscopy. “I will do it myself! And if you allow it, I will take small biopsies with the forceps, I need tissue from the lungs for a diagnosis.”
She has a pneumothorax again, the lungs are just too fragile. She is in intensive care again. However, the result of the tissue removal is very clear this time: an especially insidious and serious lung cancer which wasn’t visible nor provable in the pictures and samples before – pulmonary adenocarcinoma with a lepidic growth pattern.

That’s the diagnosis. My mother feels almost relieved to finally know what is going on. We don’t.
Professor Refeld asks the question:
“Do we cede the victory to the cancer and put you on medication, so that you can survive the next months without pain or even enjoy them? Or do we, do you want to fight? Heavy chemotherapy with all known side effects – which is especially hard in your age and state of health!”
The answer: “I will fight!”

With my mother, I sign the information sheet and the consent on chemotherapy for cancer.
Then, we fall silent. My mother doesn’t like to talk about her feelings with my anyways. However, she always wants to know how I am feeling. But I don’t talk to her about my fears and wishes either. We rather talk about what’s happening in her life, which artists I meet on my filming expeditions, what the children are doing.
From the window of her single room, you can see Lake Constance.  The sun is shining, the shadows of the trees are moving on the wall. It’s a nice atmosphere. Then she starts: “At the last funeral, the family members ordered a speaker who delivered the funeral speech, he was really good at it.” “But mom! You are starting the chemotherapy, you aren’t dying now.”
“But what if I am?”
“If you die, shouldn’t I deliver the funeral speech?”
“Would you do that?”
“Yes!”
“Then I want you to do it and also talk about my biography, the whole story, born in the war, the ruins, and then the birth of your brother and so on, the whole hospital story. Do you remember everything?”
“Yes, of course I do, mom.” We both cry.
“I’m scared.”
“I know”, she says.

ZDF editor Claudio Armbruster wrote down this report.

Then I have to leave again, I have appointments in Zurich. I walk along Lake Constance in the most beautiful summer weather, over the Rhine bridge to the train station in Constance. There is always this sigh of relief when leaving the hospital – just get away from this oppressive environment and situation! The relief is only temporary, I have a bad conscience. Am I doing to little for my parents? Should I stay with them longer and more often, talk more to my mother and relieve my father? My wife and I decide to cancel our holidays at the North Sea and instead visit my mother with the children.
She immediately sends us away again.
“I want you to go on holiday! Undo the cancellation! You need recovery and I don’t want you to sit around here!”
So we undo the cancellation and go on holiday, it feels good. A two-week break.

From the North Sea, we drive back to Lake Constance. My mother is at home, she only has to go to the clinic for her chemotherapy. However, she suffers day and night, is in pain, throws up, loses hair, has doubts and is desperate. There are days when she only lies on the sofa crookedly and groans and only has a tiny sip of her astronaut food which she immediately spits out again. But there are also days where she laughs and eats cake, sits with the children and plays with them although she looks so different and smells weird.

Autumn

On the 20th September, Professor Rehfeld asks my parents to come to his office. Shortly before, a CT-scan of the thorax was made in order to check on the condition of the lungs and the effect of the therapy after the third cycle of chemotherapy. He has the results.

“Professor, how long am I going to live?”
Rehfeld takes my mother’s hands: “Ms Armbruster, only a few weeks.”
The chemotherapy didn’t help. The cancer is incurable. There is no other therapy available.

I’m at the swimming pool when my father calls me: “Mother will die.” We cry on the phone. Then I talk to my mother for a while. She only says: “Oh, Claudio, what a shame!”

Rehfeld makes sure that she gets a room on the palliative ward of the hospital. A single room, quiet, without the usual bustle of the nursing staff, cleaning staff, doctors and visitors. Silence – terminal palliative ward. But silence is not what my mother wants now. And especially not a room for dying.

Cancer patients are not only looked after by doctors and nursing staff, but also by psychooncologists. They accompany and support the patients during the course of the disease and help them cope with their disease. On the cancer wards, they are often the most important contact persons for the patients and their families. Also for my mother. Miss Tiefensee (name changed) is a strong, caring and empathetic woman – my mother immediately takes her to her heart. During the chemotherapy, Miss Tiefensee already visited her daily. The talks give my mother strength and comfort. But not only for my mother, also for me. In the months to come, I talk to her on the phone regularly. She tells me about my mother’s fears, thoughts and feelings and vice versa. Miss Tiefensee is like a pastor for us.

I keep the role of the organizer, I manage and mediate for my mother. But I don’t really talk to her and she doesn’t talk to me. We only chat as if this would go on forever. But she wants to talk. When she lies in her room on the palliative ward, she says to me: “Miss Tiefensee has such beautiful, warm brown eyes – I would love to see her.” I call her and she arrives as quickly as possible.
“Miss Armbruster, what do you wish for? What is your biggest wish in this moment, in this situation?”
“I wish I could finally make my own decisions again. For the whole year, I was directed by others. They told me what was going to happen to me, I was send from one place to another, to doctors, to the hospital, to the intensive care unit, to the rehabilitation clinic, to oncology, now to the palliative ward – I have to die, I want to make my own decisions again.”

And so she decides to pass her remaining lifetime with her husband at home. “I am with you until you die and when you die.”, my father says.

The ambulance stops in front of the door – finally home again! And it’s beautiful at home. The table is set although she cannot eat anything. The windows should be cleaned, the house as well, fresh flowers on the table – my father makes sure everything is perfect. It is very important for her that everything is as always at home: clean, comfortable and beautiful. The form should be preserved and with it her pride and dignity.

In the hospital, they explain my mother’s medication to my father and give him the complicated regime along with the well-filled box of medicine. He keeps a meticulous calender of when she needs to take which drug and becomes a nurse. In the beginning, my mother still sleeps in their double bed. He puts the extremely loud oxygen breathing apparatus in an adjoining room and installs an oxygen pipeline between the rooms. He accompanies her to the bathroom three to four times every night. He helps her in the bathroom in the morning, helps her down the stairs into the dining room. The stairs become her enemy, she needs up to half an hour for the few steps. She always takes her sick bag with her, as the side effects of the chemotherapy still continue for weeks. For breakfast, she eats no more than a tiny piece of white bread and stares at her plate for the rest of the time. Then, my father takes her to the sofa in the living room where she sleeps or just sits. She used to like reading books or the newspaper, watch television or the news, it was important for her to stay informed, now it’s too burdensome for her. She does however enjoy visits from the neighbors. For my father, every visit is more stressful. He doesn’t want to chat anymore. He mostly uses the time to take care of himself, to finally take a shower or to shave. Or he drives to the city to do the shopping or get new medicine. He’s always in a hurry, always worried.

Robert Armbruster, March 2019

We visit as often as we can and help where we can. But we see that it can’t go on like this. My father is shaking. He is about to collapse under the workload, the responsibility and the nervous strain.
To my father, my mother’s wish for self-determination means self-abandonment.

They need external assistance – but they don’t want any. That will be the biggest conflict, at first between my parents and us. We have a long discussion before they allow a cleaner to come to the house. My mother watches her grumbling with an eagle eye: “She’s not good at this, she doesn’t even see the dirt…”
It goes on like this. Soon, she can’t reach the toilet in time anymore – but she doesn’t want a mobile toilet chair. I get one against her will. She curses, but she needs it. She rejects the nurses from the health center to help her with her personal hygiene, although she knows and likes them. I worked there as a young man doing community service, she worked there to help out in the neighborhood. Still, she doesn’t want the nurses to come to her house. But then, my mother can hardly move anymore: It’s just one step from the sofa to the toilet chair, but she feels that she can’t do it anymore.
We put the hospital bed into the living room so she has a view of the garden. The nurses from the health center come. At first, once a week, then twice, then daily, then three times a day. She thinks it’s too much. “Why can’t Robert do it?!”, she nags.
There is no gratitude. She insults the person who is closest to her, whom she loves and who cares for all day long. He can’t do anything right, she cries out at every touch. And with whom should she let out all the pain, the fear, desperation and aggression? My father gets all of it. Sometimes she realizes it, cries and shakes her head. “It’s all a bunch of shit! Oh, Robert…”

“Claudio, I am only functioning now. Like a robot. Day after day.”
My father knows that he needs support himself now.
He barely sleeps anymore, he always listens to his wife’s rattling, shallow breathing. He doesn’t sleep in his bed anymore but lies down in the living room next to the hospital bed to be able to watch over her sleep.
“When she dies, I have to be with her!”, he says, “Uschi should die in my arms.”
We try to explain to him that it’s too much! That he can’t sit with her 24 hours a day.
I talk to the director of a nearby hospice. There’s a room available. I almost don’t dare tell my parents about it. And they immediately reject it with indignation. She wants to die at home.
At least my parents allow palliative care professionals and doctors to come in addition to the nurses to take care of the medication. In the end, there are also helpers from an out-patient hospice service who read to my mother, talk to her or just sit with her for two hours. She likes to see other people and to listen to them, it brings life into the house. The permanent presence of my father, his continuous caring, his worries is too much for her. “Robert, leave now!”
So he leaves. He didn’t take a walk for weeks, didn’t get any fresh air. Take a deep breath.
He has to talk to get rid of his worries – nurse Nina from the health center helps him. She listens to him, gives him advice and comforts him. When she takes care of my mother, she sings to her. Before she goes, she strokes her head for a long time. My father calls her “our angel”.

My mother becomes smaller, thinner and lesser. Like sand in an hourglass.
We decide to not take the kids to their grandma anymore. She can barely speak, saliva is dripping from her mouth, she lies on the sofa looking like a picture of misery, unable to hold herself up. It’s a disturbing sight for the children. They witnessed the course of the illness from the beginning and we always told them everything and tried to explain it. But now it’s getting too bad.
Again and again, she falls into coma-like states, doesn’t move anymore, doesn’t react for hours. My father gives her morphine injections for the pain.

My mother doesn’t call me Claudio anymore, but the pet name she gave me when I was a small child. She talks to her dead mother and aunts in a semi-sleep state.
I can barely endure this slow process of dying, the bedpans, the smells, the sounds, the delirium. My father can. My brother, too. Oliver often visits our mother during this time, sits with her, cries and expresses his feelings. I’m not able to do that, I suppress my feelings, try to function, as always during this damn year, I have to. At least, that’s what I think.
I learn a lot from my brother these days.
On the 22nd December, Oliver’s housemother calls me and says that Oliver urgently wants to see his mother. So I bring him to her. “Oh mom!” He cries and cries. My mother opens her eyes, recognizes him and says clearly: “Goodbye, Oliver.”
I actually don’t want this: to consciously say goodbye. But when I hear this from mom and Oliver, I know that he’s doing the right thing. On the 23rd December, I get into the car and drive to her. She is only lying there, barely breathing, doesn’t look like my mother anymore. I just sit with her – and two hours later she lifts her hand and says with her eyes closed: “Claudio, Claudio.”
I drive back to my wife and my children to celebrate Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, my father calls me: “Your mother dies in my arms.”


This is a text written by Claudio Armbruster from the book: We are here for you! Cancer and Family – 11 Reports (German version). Text written by Claudio Armbruster, Pictures: Private

If you are a relative of a person suffering from cancer and are looking for help, you can contact the Lebensmut association. Families with children with cancer receive help from the German Childhood Cancer Foundation.