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Mom With Cancer Furious After Daughter Refuses To Give Her Estranged Son’s Phone Number

National Cancer Institute/Unsplash

In a loved one’s final days, we would like to be able to give them what they want, so they can find peace.

But when that comes at the expense of someone else’s boundaries, it’s hard to decide what to do, admitted the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.

Redditor thr_owaway474 was thrown into the middle of the quarrel between her parents and brother, who had gone no contact nearly a decade prior.

When her parents began to accuse her of torturing a dying woman, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if she was wrong to choose her brother’s boundaries over one of her mother’s dying wishes.

She asked the sub:

“AITA for not giving my mother my brother’s phone number?”

The OP was still in touch with her brother after he went no contact (NC) with their mother.

“My (16 Female) mother has cancer. She’s getting treatment but I don’t think it’s working well. It’s hard and we’ve all been a mess.”

“But yeah, my mom has a son from her previous marriage, Brady (27 Male).”

“My mom didn’t treat him well and he cut contact with her when he turned 18. I’m pretty sure he calls his stepmother, mom.”

“I don’t blame him and can respect and accept the fact that while mom was a great mother to me, she was a terrible one to him.”

“We talk occasionally but it’s usually just him sending me pics of his wife and kids and me sending him pics of my cat and me. He has zero contact with my parents.”

The OP’s mother recently started asking about her brother again.

“I don’t know if it’s the cancer or the inevitable, but my mom has been asking about Brady a lot.”

“I tell her things like, ‘Oh, he’s fine,’ etc., you know, a general idea, but I don’t go into detail to respect his privacy.”

“But then my mom started asking me to make him visit at least once.”

“So I texted Brady and asked if he wanted to visit, and he said no. It would be too hard and then he just changed the topic.”

“I didn’t ask him to explain.”

The OP’s mother pressured her for information.

“I told my mother and she started crying.”

“She begged me to give her his number and that she just wanted to see her first baby one last time.”

“She wanted a chance to apologize and tell him that she loved him.”

“I was really tempted, NGL (not gonna lie), but I just couldn’t. I love my brother and he’s always been kind to me, the least I can do is respect his wishes.”

The OP felt conflicted.

“It hurt to see my mother cry while she was already in such a weak state, but I refused to give her his number.”

“She just cried harder and asked me why I was torturing her as well. Basically implying that I’m in the wrong for preventing her from seeing her son.”

“My dad is upset with me as well and said that he can’t believe I’m choosing a ‘spoiled b**tard’ over my sick mother.”

“I don’t think I’m the AH, but I do feel horrible. My mom is incredibly unwell and it’s true that she can’t really do anything. It’s the only thing she’s asking for these days. But I just can’t.”

“Does that make me the AH?”

Fellow Redditors weighed in:

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everbody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

Some thought they knew exactly why the brother went no contact (NC).

“NTA. You can’t be an a**hole for respecting your brother’s feelings. You’re being a good sister.”

“Also with what your dad said, I have a feeling the way your mom treated your brother isn’t the only reason your brother went NC with her. Because your dad was definitely the a**hole in this situation.” – SciFiChickie

“NTA.”

“Your dad said that? Spoiled B**tard? No wonder he doesn’t want to talk to them.”

“It’s his choice. All you can do is advocate for your mother, but it would be a huge breach of trust if you give up his contact info after he expressly declined.” – LockSea8204

“NTA, especially after what your father said. Your brother is a person just like your mom and just because your mom is upset now doesn’t excuse her behavior toward your brother. You might end up having to go stay with your brother if your dad decides to continue being angry with you after your mom passes.” – BriefHorror

“Her mother is turning her teenage kid into a flying monkey for her. If she’s not careful her bro might decide she’s not a safe person to speak to, as she’s not respecting his boundaries.”

“Bro had his closure, he went NC, rightfully so. Anything else he does at this point isn’t for him, it’s for his abuser.” – Disastrous_Cress_701

Others confirmed the OP would need her brother’s consent to share his number.

“NTA.”

“Your brother went no contact for a reason. He doesn’t want to see her or talk to her.”

“You shouldn’t give someone’s number to someone else without their consent, and you definitely shouldn’t give it to someone they have no interest in contacting.” – unstablechickens**t

“NTA.”

“Acquiescing to her demand might mean he goes NC with you for refusing to respect him. Your mom created this situation with your brother, you didn’t. She shouldn’t be involving you at all on that score.”

“The emotional blackmail coming at you now from your parents is wrong. They shouldn’t be doing that. They are being extremely selfish and self-centered.”

“Stand your ground, and tell your mom that you don’t want your brother to cut you off because she convinces you to stomp all over his VALID boundaries. That as much as you love her and truly believe she’s been a good mom to you, your brother doesn’t share those feelings, and you have no desire to get in the middle of things between her and him.”

“Ask her if being on bad terms with both of her kids is better than being on bad terms with just one of them. Because this is a line in the sand with your brother that you are simply not willing to cross over.” – jammy913

“OP, this is a litmus test. If you suggest to your mom that she write a letter to her son (or make a video for him) so that she can say what she needs to say while she can, and she accepts it, then that’s okay. That’s respecting your brother’s boundaries while still honoring her own need to communicate before the worst happens.”

“If she refuses to write a letter and keeps demanding you give her his number… she’s really only doing this to exert control over him one more time. She doesn’t get to do this, no one does, and you are absolutely right for defending your brother’s clearly-stated boundaries.”

“I want to share a story that might help you here. I was 24 when my mom died, and one of her last wishes was that no one but her children sees her if she wasn’t conscious or was actively dying. Specifically, she requested that my dad not be allowed to see her because he’s a HUGE gossip. She was a private person and didn’t want the details of her death shared with his network of gossipy friends.”

“So fast forward to when she slipped into a coma and wasn’t going to come out of it. My two sisters and I were in the hospital with her (this was during the Plague, so only two people could see her/sit with her at any given time in the ICU, so we were rotating in shifts).”

“When my dad got there, I had to be the one to tell him that she had told me he wasn’t allowed into her room to see her or say goodbye. He sat outside in the waiting room for about 8 hours and didn’t get to see her at any point (closed casket funeral, so really never again).”

“The important part of this story: My dad didn’t complain once. He may have been upset about it, but he didn’t burden me with that knowledge. My heart broke for him not being able to see his wife one last time, and I’m sure it hurt him deeply, but he didn’t blame me or shoot the messenger. He accepted the boundary that had been set, and we got through her death together.”

“All this to say, OP, that being in extremis does not give us the right to violate boundaries. Death is a challenging thing to accept, but it doesn’t (and shouldn’t) be used as an excuse to demand things from others that they are unable or unwilling to give.” – Psychological_Fish42

Some suggested other approaches the OP could take to ease her mind.

“I would give your brother HER number, tell her you did it, and let him ‘make the call,’ if he wishes.”

“You’ve done your part, no guilt on you, then it really comes down to his decision (which it always has been). Sad for your mom but sounds like your brother will not regret it when she’s gone.” – Global_Sno_Cone

“NTA. You may want to consider adding a password to your phone (if you don’t already have one) and changing your brother’s contact name on your phone, in case your mother decides to go snooping for his number.” – landlordisac**t

“NTA. She’s had years and years if your brother’s a dad. Now it’s making her realize what she’s done. As much as the general advice is usually to stay out of it, part of me feels that you might suggest she writes down how she feels, and then you just tell your brother that you have this.”

“And that it’s then left to him if he reads it or not. But she’s given a chance to make her peace but if he then chooses not to read it or respond, your conscience would be clear. You absolutely poor thing to be in the middle of this.” – pinguthegreek

While the subReddit could understand why the OP was so upset, and some of them even offered suggestions for additional actions she could take to clear her mind, they otherwise insisted she was doing the right thing.

By listening to her brother’s boundaries, she was doing something for him that his mother never had, and it was showing in her final days.

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.