Guest Blog by Linda Prosche
I was dreading my trip to the Midwest. My father was dying, and it was time for me to be there. Because I lost my husband five years ago, the support my mom would need was clear…I had been through it before.
I arrived at the retirement community in time to hug my mom and accompany her and 20 other “white hairs” in the chapel. Most of the chairs had wheels and my dad was on the other side of the room, unaware of my presence. This was their weekly exercise group and somehow, even with his prosthetic leg, he was still able to move his limbs, an 88-year-old, nearly blind, brittle diabetic. He was kind of amazing when it came to daily exercise; his discipline was out of necessity and respected by everyone. Mom joined in simply to keep an eye on Dad, but for her it became an exercise in irritation. She always placed my father’s needs before hers and after 50 years there was plenty to complain about.
Those first two days in the retirement community were a bit scary. Everywhere we went we were greeted with a “how’s Dick”? and what my mom called a “busybody” look. Like in any small town, it was public knowledge who was living or dying and since my dad was a private man and I was the newcomer, all the sharing was too much. The saving grace was my yoga practice which helped quiet my own busy mind and by the third day, my mortality issues had faded enough for me to understand everyone’s concern and love. On the fourth day, my father quit caring and quit eating and support showed up as “on call” doctor visits and eventually, hospice.
My mom moved a bit slower now, and I recognized that in her wide open eyes of overwhelm; she had stumbled into a deep place. Her fear was palpable, as well as her primal need for safety. I became unusually protective for this woman I had always kept at arms-length. As we went about the next two days, side by side, I watched her simply nod at the residents and her complaints transformed into small requests. She was changing. Gentleness and understanding showed up everywhere we went…I was changing too.
On the afternoon of our sixth day together, my father passed quietly. I arrived in his room seconds before mom and as soon as she entered, her tiny arthritic hand reached for me. I held her like I had never hugged her before, and we wept together after his last breath. It was an intimate moment. For me, it was the second time I’d witnessed a love passing. But now I was with my mom and somehow, my distance became a close friend to a woman who was a widow, just like me. I fell in love with my mom.
My father’s death was expected. But the blessing of having a mom I fell in love with was a gift. A month has now passed, and she is spending “the first” holidays with my sister. My whole family is there to support her and give her the long overdue love and attention she so richly deserves. I could not be there in person, but my heart traveled. I am grateful she can feel safe in knowing that now she is not only my friend, but my biggest love.
I love you, mom.