I find myself in the bittersweet, full-circle moment of transitioning my mother to assisted living. She moved this week.
I’ve heard stories from friends, even younger than me, who have already faced this with a loved one. I’ve learned some of the ropes from them — but it’s different when the ropes are your own.
It wasn’t always easy for them. It isn’t always easy for me.
It’s difficult to let go. You hope you are making the best decision and that they will receive the care they deserve. You hope they will make new friends and have fun during these precious years.
Tending to an aging parent or loved one, no matter how little or much you are involved, is tough work. It's a balancing act. There are struggles about independence and giving up control — on both parts. They may need frequent reassurance — or maybe none at all. They may need more or less handholding about financial matters and living decisions. There are accidents of one kind or another to be cleaned up, and then you have to tend to your own life.
Sometimes you catch your reflection in their eye, and the unconditional love you see makes it worth every minute. It must be the look they saw when we needed many of the same things from them as children that they need from us now.
I think of my parents raising me when they were just kids themselves. They did the best they could with where they were at that point in their lives, financially and emotionally. I know they always had my best interest at heart, even though it might not have seemed like it at the time.
I have my mother’s best interest at heart now, even though she sometimes sees it as losing control of life the way she once knew it. Decisions have to be made. Moves have to take place. Changes are not always easy. COVID makes everything even more of a wildcard for all concerned.
I never had children of my own, so I’m not sure what kind of parent I would have been. My guess is that I'm much better equipped now.
I believe each one of us has our own personal ministries. Mine right now includes showing up for my mother in whatever way I can so that she feels safe, loved and respected.
I need to stay connected to prayer and community to help her — and to help others. I need to practice self-care, which includes proper nutrition, rest, exercise and creating balance and boundaries, in order to show up in a way that feels right to me.
I didn’t always do that. Ego and fear so often got in the way. They still can.
I’ve worked, though, to come from a more authentic and loving place as often as possible — and to not punish myself quite as much when I don’t. I have rewired my brain and my heart so that I am more kind, loving and patient with her, others and also me. Sometimes the wiring still shortcircuits.
I am more discerning. I take things less personally. I know nothing is ever perfect but that enough love and gratitude can make it so.
I wish our country provided better for our elders. That would be perfect. I wish good care wasn’t so expensive and, in many cases, impossible.
If we spent half as much time and energy worried about end of life as we do life in the womb, we would be a stronger and more compassionate nation. For now, though, we all do what we can.
I am happy to do whatever I can for my mother at this stage in her life — and to trust spirit to take care of the rest. During the caregiving process, which includes helping her to make this move now, I have had to continually remind myself of three things I learned during seminary and my journey with cancer:
Everything works out in the end when you have faith. It may not look the way you thought it would — but it gets you to the same place.
Miracles are not only possible but everywhere around us.
Feel and express love and gratitude whenever possible in whatever way spirit moves you — it will make your inner and outer universes much better places.
My blessing this week is for anyone who is caring or responsible for an elderly parent or loved one. Treat them the way you would want to be treated. Don’t be too hard on yourself or others when you don't. Put your own oxygen mask first so you can be your best self. And never stop being grateful for every messy, beautiful moment you have.