Surreal. That's how my life feels Monday evening. In a long-distance phone conversation I learn that within 4-6 months my vibrant mother will no longer remember how to bathe, dress or feed herself and will require nursing home placement.
Stunned, my head takes in the information, while it has yet to register in my heart. It was only one month ago that I played Euchre with Mom, and she still had enough memory to know how to play and beat my husband and brother.
After dinner, in my "calm during a crisis" mode, I phone my daughters to explain that Grandma's inoperable brain tumor is malignant. The tumor has invaded the deep parts of her brain, damaging her cognitive functions. My brother calls from several states away and we talk. I also call my parents to check in, and to hear my mother's voice. Later that evening I call a good friend who recently placed her parent in a care facility. She listens with support and advice.
Tuesday morning I wake up after 7+ hours of straight sleep. I feel exhausted. I realize this is not a dream as the sadness wallops me before I even get out of bed. I grab my journal to pen a letter to God. I ask Him for an outright miracle, claiming His power on behalf of my mother. I tell Him that I need practice in asking for big, audacious help. That my request is more about my needing to ask and to trust.
During the remainder of the day I feel like I am slogging through heavy energy as I go through the motions of work and other responsibilities. I snap at my husband continually, taking my emotions out on him. I can barely handle the simple linear task of working with the travel agent to work out flight schedules for our daughter's study abroad winter quarter.
Wednesday dawns and I head out the door at 7:00 am for a work-related meeting. When I return, I call a close friend to share the news of my mother. As I do so, I realize how hard it is for me to reach out and ask for support. I break down on the call and allow myself to be on the receiving end of her caring. Later I go a step further and do the Gibberish meditation to help myself deal with the intensity of my swirling emotions - sadness, anger, and guilt for being 9 hours away and not being able to help as much. I feel my need to write on my blog begin to back up inside, but am too raw to do so.
Thursday I notice that I am doing less "slogging." My sadness follows me but does not steamroll me. I feel like parts of myself split up. I put on my actress hat, answering the phone when sellers call about their properties. I analyze deals and make offers. I pay our bills and handle the banking. I finally have enough energy to compose an email to send off to close friends and family to update them about Mom.
Once I complete work-related responsibilities on Friday, I begin researching home care options for my mother online. I quickly find a one-stop resource - Eldercare-Link. After completing the survey, I receive emails with all the local resources to assist my parents. I begin to feel a sense of relief. Okay . . . I can handle this in manageable steps.
Saturday morning I attend a Jazzercise class - the first series in our new facility. Everyone is in an exuberant mood. The routines pump up our energy levels. I catch myself smiling with my whole body. I move into a pleasant state of well-being. I feel good. In that moment I get that even in the shadow of loss, my life is a gift to live in all its fullness. I realize I am coming out of the fog that began Monday evening.
I am 56 years old and I am not ready to give up my mother. I am beginning, however, to give up my illusion that she will be around forever in earthly form. I feel pain in giving up that illusion. Yet that loss yields a gain. It gives me practice in jumping into the Now and learning to stay there longer to appreciate what is. What is right now - a mother who is happy and sweet and peaceful and much loved.