It is true what they say – as you get older, you progress from a child to the parent of your own children, and then one day you find yourself parenting your parents as their bodies and minds become frailer.
My mother is at that stage now – her body is becoming weaker due to the ravages of cancer. She has done well up to this point, but she fell at home last week and was unable to get back up – her legs would not support her any more. She is now in a hospital bed at an assisted living facility, and she will probably not ever be leaving that bed.
Four years ago, she was the one helping me when I found myself confined to a hospital bed for two months following intestinal surgery. I now find myself drawing on that experience to give her suggestions on how best to reposition herself to find a comfortable place to rest.
I remember how utterly exhausting it was just to turn over in bed, and how many “steps” it took to do something that I had done almost mindlessly before the surgery. I find myself uniquely qualified to empathize and to help her get from point A to point B.
The major difference between then and now is that I was on the road to recovery, while she is on a decline. She is finding it harder and harder to do things.
I had forgotten how hard it is to THINK when you are laid low by disease – so much energy is spent just thinking about how to do the most basic of movements. By the end of the day, there isn’t any juice left to make decisions; you quite literally find yourself telling others to just do whatever they think is best. It’s very frustrating.
I remember how incredibly comforting it was to know that my mom was going to be there in that hospital room with me every day; that everything was going to be okay, and that she would be able to get me the things that I needed. I remember how utterly lost I felt when she had to go back home after so many weeks by my side, and how she stayed an extra week because both of us instinctively knew that was what I needed.
And I know that I will now be able to provide that peace of mind and spirit for her, for as long as she needs it.
I know that our time together is coming to an end. I see her looking off into space, and I can tell that it is “different” from ordinary daydreaming. She told me yesterday after one of her naps that she thought that she had passed over to the other side.
I know that she is slipping away, and I am so very thankful that I can be with her on the final leg of her journey.