Lupus and Caregiving: Contemplating the death of a loved one
A friend of mine, also a caregiver for her aging mother, recently said how difficult it is to imagine life without our moms. And I agree. I almost can't even get there.
Of course, I've been contemplating this notion for awhile, given my mom's current diagnosis and decline in health. When my dad passed three years ago, we had time to grieve, but the focus quickly shifted to my mom and her care. This time around, it will essentially be just us - my sister and me, our husbands, and our kids. What will that feel like?
Ten years ago, I remember thinking there would be this great responsibility bestowed upon me when my parents passed. It would be this ceremonious passing of the torch, and suddenly, I'd be expected to have answers to questions I didn't know, or make decisions I wasn't prepared to make. And I worried I would never measure up. How could I, with the fine examples my parents had set for me?
But as time marches on, I realize I'm not concerned about the questions, or the answers, or the measuring up. Time will continue as it always has - with difficult questions being answered as best they can, using the knowledge and experience I have at the time. (Thank you, Mom and Dad!)
But I do wonder if I'll feel lost without having both of my parents whom I love so dearly here on earth. Will I feel untethered, like I'm swinging in the wind without anything to hold on to? Do I risk becoming ungrounded, and how, then, will I be able to help my kids feel grounded, if I'm now flailing? Will I have to start establishing footholds from below?
Now I know for a fact that my dad continues to guide me from above. I see his handiwork in many things I do and say, and I find myself silently saying, "I know, you told me so" when I know I could have done better. While my dad's earthly presence is certainly missed, we are most definitely still connected. When my mom passes, how will that connection be weakened? Or won't it?
I think I just answered my own question.
I have to stop thinking, and start trusting. Nothing, not even death, can change the deep, beautiful, loving relationship we've had all of these years. It can't. It won't.
I think I'll spend a little more reminding myself of the words someone shared with me when my dad passed. Please feel free to forward to someone in need:
Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.