I wrote this post in June 2015; Mom died on August 17, 2016. I am so grateful I saw her virtually every day for the last four years of her life and lived with her 24/7 the year before that. I will never regret the time I spent with her. Now that she’s gone, I still visit her every day–in my heart.
Some people think I’m crazy to visit my mother every day. Others think I’m a saint. Who knows? Maybe I’m one or the other or a little of both. Then again maybe I’m neither. I haven’t seen any wings sprouting from my shoulder blades, or halos floating above my head. Not yet. I don’t visit Mom every day out of a sense of obligation. I don’t feel I owe my mother anything. It’s not a duty or a chore.
Still, there are good reasons behind my afternoon ritual:
1) it’s joyful for her
Within moments of seeing me, Mom’s demeanour changes. She may or may not recognize me, and it doesn’t matter if she does or doesn’t. She recognizes love. She knows familiar faces. She feels who loves and cares for her and who doesn’t.
When we’re together, she can stand up when she wants to. She can sleep, wake up, talk, or be quiet, if she wants to. She can reach out for someone’s hand and know someone – me – will reach out and take it without expectation or judgment. All those things bring her joy.
2) it’s joyful for me
There’s a lot to be said for receiving, but it tends to be fleeting and superficial. Giving is more joyful, more lasting and more profound. It’s spiritually satisfying and expansive. It’s more of everything that’s good and right.
Mom’s material needs are few; the most precious gifts I can give her are my time and my presence by her side. It brings me joy to see a smile on her face and a light in her eyes, and I take pleasure in exploring the possibilities that life still affords her. This time is a gift.
3) it’s good for her health
Whenever she’s willing and able, Mom and I walk together. Not the same distances we used to, not even a fraction of those.
We shuffle from one side of the room to the other, rest, and then shuffle back. Those 50-foot micro-marathons are a godsend; they keep Mom going. They focus her mind ad her body. They replenish her mentally, physically, and emotionally. They challenge and reward her, make her feel strong, skilled and competent. She takes pride in each step.
4) it’s engaging for her
As her dementia progresses and Mom’s capacity further declines, it’s even more important that she continue to learn, grow and engage life in whatever ways she possibly can.
She needs support and assistance to do almost everything at this stage. But we can still walk, talk, rhyme, read, socialize, sing, sit, laugh, smile and just be together. We’ve crossed many activities off the long list of things to do, but we’re not done yet.
5) it’s a blessing to me
I’m an active and creative person who lives fully on a multitude of levels. I constantly try new things, work at broadening my horizons and seek new paths to greater self-awareness.
When I’m with Mom, everything slows down to “now” time. There’s no yesterday, no tomorrow; there’s only this moment, this minutes, this breath. Our time together complements other aspects of my life experience. It’s simple, enriching, and impactful.
6) it’s the right thing to do
If I didn’t, who would? There are millions of elderly people living in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, alone in their own homes or on the street who go for days, weeks, months, sometimes even years without visits from “friends” or family.
What a tragedy. What a travesty. All that isolation and loneliness. All that wisdom gone to waste. All that potential happiness unrealized. My daily visits with Mom are a drop in the bucket, but they contribute in some small way to righting that enormous wrong.
7) because I can
My destiny has unfolded in such a way that I’m free to be in this time and place, my unknown destination for the moment. I’m lucky to have the financial, physical and emotional resources to be able to live near where Mom now resides. Some people live far away from their parents. Some are unable to watch them die. Some suffer broken relationships. Some are bitter and twisted. I have removed the barriers that might have prevented us staying connected during the last chapter of our lives.
I choose to make time to spend with my mother because it means a lot to both of us. I choose to be with her simply because I can. Life is fleeting. Hardly even a speck in time, smaller than a grain of sand, barely a whisper in the wind. One day soon Mom will be physically gone.
I will miss her then. It would be a shame to also miss her now.
Note: I first posted this on June 7, 2015. Mom died a little over a year later on August 7, 2016. I have no regrets; I couldn’t have done any more than I did. Our time together in this place had a purpose which I continue to fulfill.