No words can adequately describe the feeling of losing a parent, but for me, losing my dad has been a double whammy – for my father not only provided me with the love and nurturing that so many of us take for granted, he also was a close and cherished friend.
Losing a loved one is never easy, and the sudden and unexpected manner in which my father passed left me feeling empty and alone. My world was fast becoming an assortment of stark grays and blacks.
Slowly but surely, though, the world is beginning to regain its color. Because of the special relationship that I am blessed and grateful to share with my mother, I’ve been able to reconcile my father’s death and find the peace I know he would have wanted me and my mother to enjoy. And I have found it through the strength and love of my mother. For the first two months of my father’s illness, it was just my mother and I beside him. So we have many fond (and not so fond) memories from those hospital visits and my many trips to Pt. Charlotte. We have the joy of how we prepared and planned my dad’s 89th birthday party – in the hospital. Oh, how we laughed and had fun watching my dad eat the meals we brought to him that day and in seeing the smile upon his face as he opened our gifts. There were the not-so-good days we shared, too. Watching my father get very ill from a reaction he had to morphine they had given him. I wanted so much to trade places with him that day because I knew he had gone through so much already. It pained me to see the look of pain on my mother’s face as she watched my dad vomiting and heaving. We stayed beside him, my mom wiping his forehead with a cold cloth and I cleaning off his chin and hospital gown. We were also the only two beside him when he took his last breath. My mom and I will forever share this bond – a bond of REAL family and friend UNITY.
My mother has truly been a source of strength, comfort and stability for me. She has been a constant guide in my life. I often wonder how she can be so wise and so patient all at once. I can only imagine the love I feel radiating from her must be the same kind of love Jesus had for his disciples. My mother believes in the power of prayer, and her life is an example of what faith, action and prayer can do. I am grateful to the Creator for blessing me with her, and my heart becomes heavy at the thought of ever losing her.
As I think about her now, as I am compelled to do nearly all the time, I am grateful that she is still with me to transcend her role as a mother, and to become the wise and comforting friend that I need so often. I’m also comforted by the fact that I grew in wisdom enough during her lifetime that I could also be a friend to her now.
Many people have asked Jerry and I how we manage to keep ourselves together in the midst of the constant caretaking we do with my mom now living with us. It has not been easy on any of us and I thank God for Jerry and his endless patience, support, and love through the past fifteen months. He is the one who runs my mom to her doctor appointments, gets things straightened out for us with the VA, and runs my mother to her YMCA Silver Sneaker classes. I would not be able to work fulltime if he wasn’t there to take on the daily responsibility of caring for my mother. It may not sound like much, but believe it is, especially when you consider the fact that he is not physically all that well himself. He suffers from heart disease and COPD yet never complains. “We are all in this together,” he says when he sees me nearing the end of my rope.
We are in this together and have been since the evening my dad died. We have grown together as a family and never tire of the stories and humor my mom shares with us. Hand-in-hand, we walk down memory lane and go with her on the twists and turns that lead back to the here and now.
I am just finishing up tying down our fourth reservation for Fisherman’s Village in Punta Gorda (they have a two bedroom villa that I think they keep just for us). So we can…together, as always, and with love, visit my dad’s graveside and bring him whatever trinkets my mother picks out for this visit.
Having my mother with us and caring for has never been seen by us as some sort of burden – it has been a blessing in great disguise. A spiritual lesson in the power of God’s ever-present love in our lives.
For help and support with caregiving the National Family Caregivers Asscoiation is Heaven sent.