Dementia steals someone slowly, yet profoundly. So, I have been letting go of my mom for years now and when you’ve watched someone succumb to the disease, the end to their suffering can be a relief.
It was hard being my mother’s daughter. She used to speak so loudly in the dressing room…”It’s too tight in the crotch.” Yep, that lady you heard clear as a bell was my mom. Or her unsolicited review while filing out of a musical at the Kennedy Center, “Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.” You knew where she stood.
Her mothering—not so much. Her grand mothering, magnificent. She doted on her grandchildren with a softer touch than I knew—it was her do-over and it gave me pleasure to watch. She softened and my girls nestled into her. I was glad she had a second chance to get it better—she lapped it up and it was probably her best life role.
My last visit with mom was truly good. Her green eyes were unusually bright and her skin look more luminous and relaxed than I had seen in years. I told her so and she glowed a bit more. Her speech was fairly unintelligible and I felt her huge frustration. So we sang together…and the last song we sang was Jingle Bells.
When a wave of sadness settled on her face, my daughter suggested I do a guided meditation with her. As I talked her through relaxation, her face did ease up and then the panic returned quickly. I whispered to her to try to be in the moment…and her speech clear as a bell said, “It won’t last.” Her last profound words to me…
No it won’t. This moment slips away. People slip away. Moods come and go. And perhaps my mother knew she was slipping that day. Nonetheless, I want to pause on that moment. I learned some hard lessons from my mother and losing a parent when the relationship was complicated seems even trickier. But I remind myself that all relationships are. We stand to learn so much from every single one, if we can keep our minds and hearts open and be present.
It was painful for me to be present often when I was a kid. And in moments of anguish—seeing someone suffer—being present can be all the more challenging. But without that awareness of who we are in the moment—who we are with—what we are with: in feelings, sensation, beauty, challenge—we sell ourselves short. We don’t fully live.
The skies opened with intense rain on Sunday when we laid my mom to rest. We placed her favorite orchids over her casket as she returned to the earth. My niece led a beautiful graveside service and then it was done. And the rain stopped.
As noisy as my mom was in the dressing rooms and Opera Hall lobbies, she led a pretty subdued life. It was her choice. I have learned much about living from her—much of it about making choices and living a bit more IN the world—a bit more out there.
I feel nostalgic today, but solid. Alone, but a part of everything.
I do know the last thing she said to me…”It won’t last.” I will count on that. I will take it all in, until the next thing and the next. I will try to taste a little more. Inhale more deeply. Listen better. Hug tighter. Laugh louder. Judge less. I will try to be my best “be-er”…
So I dedicate this moment to family, loving fully, appreciating what is…Namaste’