Sunday, July 24, 2016
"Are you excited?" I hardly know how to answer. Sure, my Anglo side looks forward to being back in the throes of English culture, and while not an easy task, I'm thankful having this last chance to truly help my elderly mother. Aiding my sister too with all that's entailed there with advancing dementia and limited mobility will not only touch our mother but my family as well who contend with these challenges everyday. That is immeasurable.
As a friend noted, "She was there at the start of your life, and now you will be there towards her end... Death is a part of life; both involve pain—one physical, the other, emotional." While it's an honour to have this opportunity, I'm all too aware that it is indeed brief. She may live another year, perhaps two, but her mental health declines assuredly each month, as my niece acutely noted when returning from just a three month stint away.
It's a strange dichotomy, this time of our life. On one hand, our precious daughter, Rachel, is embarking on a new adventure, pregnant with twins (expecting in October)! While I know that she is in good hands, her husband too by her side, we're sorry it turns out that we'll miss the births. Unlike with my childrens' grandparents and for my own on both sides who were afar, she will have the blessing and regular help needed from so many of us right there during these fragile, precious years of infancy. That is also immeasurable. Here's the celebration of new life—a window is opening to lives full of promise, experiences, learning and loving the joys and challenges of parenthood, grandparenting and so on. It's an incredible time of firsts for all of us.
While one window opens to that vast vista of life, the other is closing. My aunt's passing last year reminds me that if my mother is at all like her sister, her own end is at hand. Certainly, life's receding has already begun—she is a mere shell of who she once was: a woman so gregarious, engaged with cultures, people and life. From one who has lived seemingly everywhere in the world to one who now walks no more than perhaps 50 feet a day, spending the first two to three hours not even knowing where she is.
My mother's natural intellectual curiosity and vivaciousness has sapped away. "I can't be bothered" is now the usual refrain. Life is hard; living is hard; all her friends are dead. At least, for these next three plus months her "so far away" son will be there to help bring some newness back to her pallid existence. I'm hoping there will too be moments where we'll see flashes of that quick wit and sharp mind she once enjoyed, or, if lucky, maybe even hear anew some of her incredible stories living in the tropics or such. We shall see.
"You shared their life, now share their death," this same friend profoundly reminded me today. Confronted with one's parent's passing, for some the inclination is to run and/or be in denial. Before, my thoughts too would have been to avoid it, but I've come to appreciate that due to the nature of aging and dementia, it is in itself a rare moment like birth but one that promises a certain end. To be able to savour this closing act is something I shall never take for granted. In fact, whenever my mother dies, I will hopefully now be able let her go with more of a sense of closure and, admittedly, less guilt too from all those decades of rarely being able to visit while starting and nurturing my own immediate family.
Just a few days ago, we packed up all our belongings not sold or given away into the back of a pick-up truck to store at some long-term friends until our return. This too has been a time of letting go, even literally as you can see—down to only 17 boxes or tubs worth of all possessions for us both. (It was too expensive to rent storage and too pricey to keep paying rent here and in the UK at the same time!) De-cluttering helps one put focus on what really matters. Our possessions are just things, they can be replaced. Our family cannot.
And so, here we are one week out from crossing the pond, blessed to temporarily abide in this little loft behind our dear friend's home. Getting there requires walking through the narrow gate and across this incredible little garden, attentively cared for throughout the year. How very apt. Life is precious and miraculous in every season—in its awakening to spring, in that fullness of summer or the stillness of falling asleep to winter. Grieving too has its own agenda. We are ready.
Tuesday, July 12, 2016