During my next two posts, I’m going to share a personal story that has forever changed my life and which serves to remind me that true love transcends all boundaries.
Today’s post will showcase most of the story, then my concluding post will complete the story and provide you with ten powerful takeaways.
“You’re such a kind daughter,” she said, voice quivering, as she awkwardly clung to the sink on her left and palmed the wall to her right. “I never knew you were such a kind person,” she continued, As I knelt beside her, I looked up, my eyes clouding with unshed tears, as her words echoed in the small space. Here was this amazing woman, my mother, who had molded and made me who I am, marveling at my kindness. The woman who had shown me unconditional love and kindness my entire life had just looked into the mirror of her life’s work – me.
My most recent journey of ‘kindness’ had started some two years before, after the ordeal of watching my father die a slow, horrible death from cancer which, had virtually consumed his entire body. They had been married for more than fifty years and she had never lived alone, so the thought of having her live alone this time in her life, was unthinkable. My siblings and I sprang into action and we agreed that she would move in with my daughters and I. Within days of dad being laid to rest we moved her from the warmth of Florida to live with us in Ohio. Three weeks after she moved in, mom was diagnosed with colon cancer.
As profound grief, shock and heartache continued to reverberate through our family, I made the momentous decision to take a leave of absence from work to care for her. For the next year I tended to her needs through her hospitalization, surgery, treatments, myriad doctor visits and her ultimate recovery. Yet, a year later, she was faced with another medical crisis that worsened her physical condition day by day . A series of hospitalization and nursing home stays became the norm for her however we knew that she needed to be with us and each time we welcomed her back home.
The two years she lived with us had been the most trying yet, they became the most rewarding of my life. It was never easy for her or for me. I learned the meaning of service, unending patience and unconditional love and I reveled in her wisdom, faith and spirituality. She had lived a life of love, sacrifice and dedication to her family. It was my time to return the favor.
I became reacquainted with who she was since I had left home to attend law school right after college. My daughters also received the gift of getting to really know her. The love and care they showed her made each sleepless night, every day of worry, and all the moments of concern, worthwhile. I enjoyed listening to the frequent banter and laughter between her and my then sixteen year old and appreciated the quiet bond flourishing between her and my eleven year old who showed her love by preparing a meal for mom each day after school.
Now mom’s deterioration had taken another turn. That particular day I begun to realize how eerily quiet the house had become and that mom was not responding to my intermittent chatter. Quickly scanning the various rooms I zeroed in on a closed bathroom door, approached and tapped softly. There was no answer. “Mom, are you all right?” I repeated, as I tapped again. “No,” came her almost inaudible, yet plaintive reply.
”I’m coming in,” I announced as I slowly turned the knob, relieved that she had left it unlocked. My heart silently cried out as I surveyed the messy scene. Mom was half sitting-half standing with her back to the commode, unable to stand, sit or move from her seemingly stuck position, with soiled clothing crumpled around her ankles. She had not gotten to her destination in time and the evidence of this trailed down her shaking legs and accumulated in telltale mounds on the floor .
Her embarrassment was evident as she turned in my direction, unwilling to meet my gaze. I automatically went into action. “It’s OK,” I repeatedly murmured as I rushed towards her and she fell into my arms. She felt so alarmingly frail as she leaned against me and trembled from a combination of fright, embarrassment and confusion. I gently led her the rest of the way to her originally intended destination and carefully sat her down.
The time-worn phrase, ‘once a man, twice a child’ raced through my mind as I donned a pair of gloves. I absentmindedly grabbed nearby towels, soaked them in a basin of warm water and gently began to clean her legs and feet. I then tended to the soiled floor, all the while murmuring in what I hoped were soothing tones, that everything was all right. Yet in my heart, I somehow knew that we were marching to that inevitable place – I had lost my dad two years before. Now it seemed that I was beginning to lose mom.
(Please Stay Tuned for Part Two – Publishing Tuesday, June 21st)