Sandi and I have arrived in Maryland, where my sister lives with her
husband in an old historic town. The houses are from that era when
builders left about three feet in between each house and the sidewalks
are still mostly large red clay brick. Most were built before the
impact of automobiles and therefore don’t have driveways either. As a
result the streets are lined on both sides with cars, vans and SUV’s.
When we left Boone early morning Friday, the temperature was around 34.
By the time we arrived in Northern Maryland it was 12 degrees out. It
was a seven hour drive and we occupied our time in the car with several
teachings that I had downloaded onto my Ipod from a site called the
Elijah List. It is a great way to pass the time and learn a thing or
two at the same time.
The reason for our quick trip: to visit my sister and my mother who
recently fell and broke her hip and is now in a nursing home. My mother
has lived with my sister the past several years (as many as 15) and has
been in declining heath for the past three or four. Her fall was the
most recent health challenge and one that she most likely will not
As the title implies, this was not a trip that I looked forward to making. I guess we are never really fully prepared to face the declining health of a loved one—especially a mother.
But it was trip that we (Sandi and I) needed to make.
As I begin to write this, I remember a friend of mine from many years ago who had been dumped rather rudely by a girl that he thought was the “One”. This was during the Jackson Browne era of “The Pretender” and we were all looking for the meaning of life behind every corner and every life circumstance. My friend thought of himself as a poet/writer and was always looking for things to explore so that he could write about them.
After she left him he told me that it was the hardest thing to go through and that it was ironic that he would have to write about it in order for it to be fully processed and experienced. That we have to make a story or poem or song of the hard stuff in order to get past it and deal with it is a mixed blessing and as he put it, not a very fun thing when you really think about it. We hope for things to write about and then find that some of the stuff we are given is not that easy to process.
So, my mother is currently in an extended care facility and not doing very well. She is almost 80 and as we never know when things will change, this weekend sounded like a good time to make what could well be the last visit.
I recall talking with a wise person several years ago before my dad passed away. I was trying to decide whether to visit him or not after he told us that he had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer. He lived on the west coast and I was self-employed at the time and didn’t have a whole lot of money for plane tickets and so forth. All those little things that come to mind when you think about doing anything out of the ordinary.
This person told me that the hardest thing he had ever had to live with was not having visited soon enough when one of his parents had taken ill. Knowing this helped me make my decision in that case (I took the trip to the coast) and to some degree to visit to my mother this weekend.
In one sense, everytime we leave someone after a visit, having traveled any distance at all, we are saying goodbye for the last time. But in the case of sickness or disease, we never really know which good bye could be the last. See you later is no longer an option—it really becomes now or never.
There are a lot of thoughts swirling through my head at this point.
I know that what I have just written is the skeleton of what is really going on in my life. I am hesitant about going into that place of digging around my feelings surrounding death and dying.
I will most likely leave that for my private journal. But I do know I need to get this out and then allow myself to go on with what is going on in my life.
My youngest is growing like a weed. My son is getting married this summer and maybe one of my daughters as well. As my wife says there are dinners and receptions and things that cost money that we need to think about.
We need to get rid of lots of stuff in our basement—stuff that is taking up too much space in our house and our minds as well.
In all this, I am glad that I had this past weekend with my mother and my sister—that’s what started this whole thought process. Things went well—I was able to say goodbye to my mother and let her know how much she means to me. That I will not remember her as she looked lying in that nursing home bed—but as she looked during much of my youth—a time when things were much simpler and a long way from the pain and sickness she has experienced the past several years.
I told her that I wlll remember the good times—and in that I thanked her for yelling at the bullies that had followed me home from school that one time. After they heard my mom they didn’t want to mess with me anymore. I told her once again how I forgave her for the mistakes that she made and asked her once again to forgive me for the hurt or pain that I had ever caused her.
It is all a part of the process of making sure that she is ready to face eternity and that we have done all that we can to help in this endevour. At some point, after we have done what we can, we must leave her in the hands of a merciful heavenly Father, who only has her best interests at heart.
(During the weekend, I was also able to spend some quality time with my sister and her husband. This time with them made the journey much more meaningful and enjoyable. I also got to see my youngest brother whom I hadn’t seen in some time.)
Have I done enough? I am not sure. Have I done what I felt I could at the time—yes!
Will there be any regrets—maybe—but not about not going to see her during this painful time.
It was trip I didn’t want to make—but I am glad that I did.