One Year After Mom's Death and I'm Glad that I Took on the Caregiving Role
As I sit here trying to write this sharepost to mark the one-year anniversary of Mom's death, I'm listening to the pitter-patter of afternoon raindrops on my patio. I'd like to believe that Mother Nature also is saddened by this anniversary and these natural tears from heaven are being shed to match the ones that slowly are making their way down my cheeks.
Yes, it's been quite a rollercoaster ride since that 2:30 a.m. phone call on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2007 to inform me of Mom's passing. The 365 days since then have been spent stopping, thinking, reflecting, and mourning. At times, the year's cast has taken on a tinge of depressing grey; other times, rainbows have surprised me at sudden turns in the road, bringing a smile because I think that they're actualy messages from Mom. And through this time, the lessons of caregiving and of life that were part of the actions that I took over that two-year period keep emerging.
About two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit with one of my closest friends, Inez, who lives in New Mexico. As we hugged in greeting, she said, "It's been way too long since we've seen each other." Yes, it had. In the five years since that last visit, both Inez and I had been thrown into the spinning wheel of caregiving due to family members who were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. In Inez's case, her stepfather had slowly lost his mental capacity after a five-year battle (or longer, because with Alzheimer's it's hard to pinpoint the beginning of the end). Finally in summer 2007, Inez's mother realized she could no longer handle the caregiving chores alone and agreed to move to be closer to Inez and her family in October 2007. Her stepfather died in December, but at home iwth Inez and her mother holding his hand.
In one of our conversations during my visit, I asked Inez whether taking on the caregiving role had been worth it. "Yes, it was," Inez said. "My parents have given so much to me throughout my life and my mother really needed my help. He raised me and was always there for me. He was my dad."
I totally understand the need to be there. Both Inez and I put high-powered professional careers on hold to do so, and we both learned to juggle our schedules in order to be available to our loved ones.
In return, I found the best gift that I gave my mother (taking care of her) also turned out to be one of the best gifts I gave myself. Inez agrees; caregiving showed her she could put what matters first, even under trying circumstances. This was one time when she is clear that she didn't drop the ball.
As my friends will tell you, I have higher expectations of myself than I have of others. As I made calls a year ago to tell friends the news about Mom's death, several friends commended me for my efforts during the two years of caregiving. And instead of nit-picking my performance, I honestly could say, "Thank you, I do know that I did a great job. Frankly, I would give myself an A+ for the past two years. I got all the big things right in taking care of Mom. And I'm so glad I did it."
A year later and I still feel the same way.