10/24/2011

Forgiveness for a Mother




The past few weeks have been a blur for me in many ways. The days have seemed to fly by full of new drama and trauma playing out with each and every phone call. The plot seems to constantly
change as my emotions go through a roller coaster ride that is full of more lows than highs. I manage to take one day at a time and realize again, nothing lasts forever. Not even after spending a life time without someone and finally, at age 50 finding them.

My mom and I reconnected almost two years ago. We had not seen each other in over 35 years. I had the chance to hear some I love you’s from a mother I never really knew. I am grateful because two weeks ago, she had a stroke. Life has changed permanently, for her and consequently for me. Now my days have been filled with phone calls with doctors, nurses and family relatives. There are always more questions than answers too.

By the time my sister and I got up to see her in Michigan, she had fallen in to a deep sleep and could not be roused. We were told she might never wake up and they were going to put in a feeding tube through her nose. The doctor suggested we go in first and have a few quiet moments to visit with her prior to the insertion. We went in, my older sister and I, before calling our brothers and other family members with an update. As we chatted over her head, we noticed her begin to twitch and squirm in her sleep. My sister left the room to go down the hall way. Not sure what to do, I laid my face up against her cheek and whispered “I love you Mom.” She began to cough and opened up her eyes. I leaned over in shock and asked her what she wanted. She stared at me and said “Water.” I ran into the hallway screaming for the nurses, I knew it was a miracle, she was not supposed to wake up! My sister and I’s hearts were elated.

Just as quickly, it was replaced with a melancholy feeling. We realized that this was part of our mom before us but also a shadow of who she was. She, Margie, was only half there, half of the time. The other half of the time, she was delusional. Her mind saw things the rest of us did not see, she recalled things that were not real, she created lies that she believed and had the attention span of a small child. I looked at her and wondered where my mother went. She was volatile, self centered, had the worst listening skills imaginable and no one in the room had the floor but her. Her attention span was that of a small child. Reasoning with her was not possible, if you needed to negotiate because she seemed to lack anything that required higher level brain processing. She would try to pop up and out of chairs with a left leg that was completely numb from her stroke with no feeling or ability to sustain her weight.

As we visited with her for several days, we found long visits exhausting. My sister and I took turns breaking down in to tears where there were no words we could say to comfort each other. There were times we would enter the room and she would not recognize us immediately. There were days when she demanded to go home or for us to call an ambulance and take her to the hospital. Thus, we would have to remind her she was already there. If her doctor did not come to her room, she wanted to be taken to the emergency room immediately and be seen there. Her demands were constant and unreasonable. We saw the look on the nurses’ faces that were assigned our mother and detected no one had her on their assignment two days in a row. We were sure that was by design. Whoever was assigned our mom on their shift, we felt a little sorry for because we knew she was a handful. She pretended she was in pain to get pain medicine, she said she was sick when she wanted attention, she tried to stand on her feet so much on aided that frequently she was put on waist restraints. It was the like the worst child in the kindergarten class. Wow, this was not the mom I had seen the last two years! It is like the stroke took away my mother and all that was left is some of the worst traits and exaggerated them.

We tried to explain to our mom she had a stroke, her brain was playing tricks on her. To see that childlike look in her eyes when she asked “You mean it is not real?” was heart wrenching but needed. Many times, it didn’t matter what we said, she was not coming out of the make believe land she was in. She remained delusional. Her left side is numb and so she cannot walk unassisted either. She can only eat thickened liquids due to some aspirations. Her life is not what it was and will never be.

This is not what we expected for a woman so full of energy. She has led a life full of bad choices; there is no doubt about it. But I still hoped her life would end well. Never in a million years did I envision her being in a nursing home at half mast. She doesn’t even know that is where she is going because no one wants to deal with the fit she will throw. All she knows is she is going to rehab. It feels as if we are lying to her by keeping her in the dark but we have no other options. She is not capable any longer of dealing with reality. The amount of tears and heart ache I feel inside is really nothing that can be expressed in words. I am grateful for the endearments she has expressed the last few years we reconnected. And I try to hold fast to those on the down days when the sorrow fills my heart. I missed out on a mother most of my life, my biological mother, found her and now I sit here and lost her again.

I recall sitting bedside and seeing my mom staring at my sister and me during one of her lucid moments. She then began to cry. As we watched her, she said, as she has stated so many times before to us, “I am so sorry that I let you down as a mother and was not there for you to a part of your lives.” I wonder why, even though we have told her countless times before, she does not realize we forgave her a long time ago. Perhaps it is because, even when she is in her sane state, she still has not been able to forgive herself. Forgiveness begins in the soul and comes from the love of God and of His will.

My mom believes in God. My mom, even in this state, must succumb to His will, that of forgiveness, forgiveness of her own sins. Until she does that, she will always feel tormented inside. That is a painful thing to see, as a daughter. Her time is going to be limited. Her moments of sanity are as well. I pray God teaches my mother to learn to live His word in those lucid moments before she passes. If not, may she find that eternal peace she has been so desperately looking for on earth one day. If not on earth, my you find in heaven Mom. All of us are forgiven our sins. All we have to do is ask.

As I turned to say good bye,
All I could do is cry.
One of my biggest fears
Is that the next time I visit, you won’t be here.
Please stay a few more years,
I don’t mind shedding a few more tears,
I want to cradle you like you once cradled me,
I want you to know that I love the life you gave to me.
Mom, I will always love you.
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