Sunday, July 24, 2016

Transitions


"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.

~ Michael 

21 comments:

  1. Hi Michael, I wished I had spent time with my mum, a sudden illness and no time for goodbyes, my crossing the pond was to wrap my arms around my brother, and say thank you to my mum's friends for being there in her time of need.
    I wish you and Alexandra a safe journey, and precious moments spent with your mum and family bring endless memories.
    Hugs,
    ~Jo

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    1. Oh, thank you Jo, so much for taking the time to visit us her. I don't which is worse-- a sudden goodbye or a slow decline. I am sorry though you had no time to say goodbye. Hopefully, perhaps, you had some chances to visit in the years prior.

      Thank you for those lovely well wishes too. It's not been easy but a sacrifice worth it, I think, with all things considered and the distance, cost, and so on.

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  2. beautiful post, you write so well Michael, I am touched.

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    1. You are always so mindful to leave such encouraging words. It is truly a gift you must possess, Christine. Thank you so much! Writing from the heart is the easiest prose...

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  3. Michael, this is an amazing post about your dear mother and the plans for you and Alexandra to be there caring for her these coming months. It is a huge upheaval but one you will never regret. Having gone through similar years like you, far from our UK families, I know how hard it is as parents age and become frail. Not being there, except for the quick trips home each year, did bring feelings of guilt as I saw my wonderful brother do many things I would have liked to have shared in as my mother's health failed. I was with her the day before she died though - had arrived home the previous day knowing perhaps she didn't have long - but really never expected it to be that soon! I was then there to assist my brother with all the required things which a death brings. We then had two special weeks together which included a wonderful 'send off' for mother with family and friends.

    You sound well organized. I pray the journey home goes smoothly and that you and Alexandra settle in and, in between your caring duties, you can find time to enjoy London and the beautiful surrounding countryside whilst home.

    The news about your daughter expecting twins is fabulous - are you prepared to return as a granddad? I wish her good health and, as October draws near, will be thinking of her (I'm an Oct. baby too so will remember when her time comes!).

    Are you taking Brendel to England?
    My thoughts are with you all - take care and be happy each day.
    Will look forward to you guys posting whilst away - please don't leave us behind!
    Huge hugs - bon voyage.
    Mary -

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    1. Wow, that must have been incredibly shocking and hard to have that happen so suddenyl but how glad you also must have been to be there and actauyll be able to help your brother and family when nromally so far away. thank you, Mary, for this very thoughtful, lovely note. It is so appreciated as this move is difficult on many levels, as in leaving here for one, but I know it is something I need to do and is, in the long run, as you note, something I will never regret. It is the least I can do after so long away and often going 5 years between trips up until fairly recently!

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  4. It is hard living apart from our parents when they are older. I know what you are feeling. Although my parents are not on another continent, it is still hard. I'll be thinking of you two over the next few weeks and months. Safe travels to you!

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    1. Yes, it is and I'm sure you can appreciate the distance factor even so. Thank you, Sue, for your well wishes! I hope we see you on the next Ct theme too. Just put up btw! :)

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  5. I wish you both a safe journey, wonderful travels into a new life spiced with many happy moments with the British side of your family.

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    1. Ha, thank you, Claudia. I like the way you say that. my mother, alone, is spicy enough, so I'm sure there will be plenty of that going around. ha. Oh dear me. :)

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  6. Michael, thank you for sharing from your heart. I wish you and Alexandra all the best in this new season of your life. 😊

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    1. Thank you, Tracy and I know you will think to pray for us whenever led. Even if it's jsut once, I never take that for granted. Take care. Good to hear from you! :)

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  7. Such a moving and eloquent narrative Michael. No doubt it will lift your mother enormously to know that you are there and those months will be filled with both sadness and laughter, which will be precious. I hope you and Alexandra have a safe and pleasant journey.

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    1. "Precious" is the perfect descript for this opportunity. Thank you so much, Linda, for taking the time to write these words for us! :)

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  8. A very touching and beautiful post Michael! I am sending you and Alexandra all the best and I pray you have some laughs with your mom, before she passes! Big Hugs!

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    1. Thank you , Stacey, for the visit. Alex told me who you are adn your big heart. That means a lot.

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  9. Hello Michael, all prayers for you both as you head off to England to care for your mother. Life is certainly full of changes and unexpected surprises around the next corner, but we know God is good and I pray your time with your mother will be blessed with a true connection despite her progressing dementia and all that entails. Sara

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    1. Sara, long time since Ive heard from you but very reassuring knowing that you are out there, checking in now and then as I do of with your site. We truly are buoyed by such prayers. Thank you so much.

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  10. Beautiful post Michael! I'm so sorry to have missed the latest CT. I've been working a lot and really tired. Sending you and Alex all the best, and all my love for everything with your Mom. Family things are so hard, but she is lucky to have you going to her and helping her. Email me or comment back to me here if there's anything I can do <3 Best of luck to you and I hope you enjoy what you can of the beautiful things out in the U.K.

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    1. That is very sweet of you, Donna. You good wishes and contributions to CT whenever you can make it are good enough. thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. :)

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  11. What your friend said is so touching and true♥ Sending you and your family hugs♥

    summerdaisycottage.blogspot.com

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