Holidays and Heavy Hearts
My heart has been so heavy lately, heavy for the losses that friends are experiencing, heavy with concern for my mom. I have a strong sense that this will be my last Christmas with Mom. Since her big fall a few weeks ago, she has begun a noticeable downward spiral, and I feel helpless to do anything but show her that I love her and try to make her smile.
The holidays are such an emotionally challenging time anyway, feelings long stuffed away come bubbling to the surface, emotions run high. Sadness from past losses visit out of nowhere at the sight of a special Christmas ornament, the playing of a certain carol. My chest feels tight, tears close to the surface.
We had a rough night thanks to a big storm that came through, so neither Dan nor I slept well. When I got up I found that I had a voicemail from my sister in Maine, concerned because she wasn’t able to reach Mom this morning. My heart lurched…will today be the day? The day that I go to check on her and she will be gone? At ninety-two and with the ill effects of that last fall that put her in the hospital and her fall yesterday in the bathroom, this is a real fear.
We got in the car and began to head towards Mom’s. I tried calling once more and got her, but she sounded disoriented, and I had a difficult time understanding her. My first thought was that she may have had a stroke, but finally she began making sense. She was very groggy from sleeping, more so than I’ve ever heard her. I felt deeply sad…I am not ready to see her decline, to lose her. Though I know it is the cycle of life, it is inevitable, I never will be ready.
When we got to her apartment, she was moving very slowly. She had woken up some, but still wasn’t right. No matter what the CT Scans or blood work show, I know my mother, and she is not herself. My sister talks to her every day, and she notices the signs, too. Linda has worked for years with seniors at the end of their lives, she sees what she is not ready to see either- we won’t have Mom with us for too much longer.
For all of her cuteness, Mom can be difficult…what she calls being “scrubby”. She and my brother have a difficult relationship, one that I can’t quite understand and don’t want to get in the middle of. My sister Linda loves Mom deeply, and she is the tougher one of us, able to say the difficult things to Mom that I am somehow just not able to. I wish my oldest brother was still with us. He was gentle, but had a way of getting Mom’s ire up, making her fight to get well in the past. I am thankful that my sister and I have each other to lean on, to vent to, both knowing that no matter how “scrubby” Mom can be, we love her so very much.
It is time for me to begin mentally steeling myself for what is to come. I don’t have any regrets. I have been far from perfect, but I have done my best to be a loving daughter, to help her whenever I could, to be there for her. I am thankful that she moved back to Birmingham after eight months with my brother and his family, glad that she will be here with me until the end. I can never repay Mom for all that she has done for me, all of the love and support she has given, but I can be here for her, love her with all my heart.
We will make this Christmas, her very favorite holiday, a special one for her, and will hope for many more. It will be one filled with laughter, reminiscing, and singing silly Christmas songs together. She will enjoy being with her “grand dogs”, drinking some eggnog, being queen of the Christmas table.
And I will continue to write my heart out with stories about her, keeping her close to me….my love letters to my mother.