This story is poignant for me at this time as I prepare for my mother’s death. Because she is in the late stages of dementia, we have watched her slowly decline for ten years. It is hard to say when our denial ceases and acceptance begins. I struggle with how well I am caring for her, trying to fill the role of the oldest, ‘responsible’ daughter, and how I feel about her leaving me. I feel much of our difficulty with dying has to do with our uneasiness at being left behind.
I also believe how you live your life is deeply embedded in what you create. My mother loved to paint and loved people, so she used her ability to bring pleasure to others. She wasn't a religious person and didn't serve out of duty, but she practiced her craft day in and day out. She was prolific. I see that as a sign of great intelligence, yet she was oblivious to her greatness. It doesn't get more beautiful than that.
As I called in hospice and began talking with them about how to be with mom as she puts one foot into the next life, I began searching material to help me tell her goodbye. Unfortunately these books discuss conversations with terminally ill patients who can still talk, but that doesn’t help us as our mom can’t speak. As she began losing her memory, it didn’t occur to us to talk about how she felt to lose her abilities. She just agreed that it was happening and made some excuse that it was a convenient thing. She was an eternal optimist. Believe me, she can still speak her mind without words! As we celebrate her birthday with last rites this weekend, we will gather as a family to say thank you and ‘we love you’.
In short, my mother has lived her life ‘filled to the brim’ with the Holy Spirit, and that will carry her very well into the next life regardless of how much I dote on her. If I have faith that God has used her life to teach us how to love, without greed or anxiety, I can offer up her life in gratefulness and live her blessing.
Finding the real self of the other is like making a soul visible. I am soul to soul with my mother. I will miss my best friend.
“Take my thoughts, O Lord, and my memory. Take my tears, my joys, my liberty. Give me nothing more than your love and grace. These alone, O God, are enough for me.” Dan Schutte (These Alone Are Enough, 2004).
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