During the last three weeks, my brother and I, my step sisters, and my nephews and nieces rallied together to take care of my mother, as she struggled for life. Last week, I came home after two weeks in Florida, first by her bedside in the ICU, then in the hospital, and finally in a rehabilitation facility.
During the first ten days, my brother and I worked as a team to insure that she received the care that she wanted and was able to refuse the care she didn’t want. We spent many hours together, talking, crying, laughing and telling stories. We got to know each other better and became closer as a result.
We told our children and our step-nieces and nephews to come and visit now—both to see her before she passed away and to help take care of her. The response was overwhelming. They set up a calendar and they came from California, New York, and North Carolina. My niece, who is 7 months pregnant, is flying from Chicago to spend 4 days with my mother at the end of this week.
My brother flew home after 10 days and one of my mother’s grandchildren from California came to help while my mother was in the rehabilitation facility. She encouraged my mom in physical therapy, counting her reps. She inspired her to eat more, even when my mother tired out after several bites. We spent many hours together over 5 days helping my mother and getting to know each other better. I discovered that she was a remarkable young woman (a 23 year old who is a Ph.D. student in pure mathematics at UCLA). I watched her massaging oil into my mother’s cracked feet with the most tender loving care. I marveled at her devotion to her grandmother.
My youngest daughter, Naomi, was scheduled to spend the next two weeks with my mother after I left. She was joined by her cousin from North Carolina and then will be joined by her aunt. My brother will return and then I will fly back for a week. We don’t want her to be without a family member until she is stronger. She is fragile. We want her to have more quality life, but we are also ready for her to come to the natural end of her days.
My daughter, a newly minted family nurse practitioner, is helping her make the transition home, meeting with her doctors, hospice nurses, and arranging for her to have physical therapy at home. My mother was desperate to take a shower at the rehab facility, but was too weak to manage. My daughter was ready to get into the shower with her, and help her experience the simple pleasure that we all take for granted. During her watch, these last few days since I have been home, she has taken her grandmother to the ER in the middle of the night, was up with her all night, changed her bandages, and emptied her bedpan. I am a proud father, as she rolls up her sleeves, caring for her grandmother.
When I left last week, my mother held my head in her hands, with tears streaming from her eyes. She told me how fortunate she felt that I was by her side. The nurse’s aide, watching, noted how lucky my mother was to have such a loving, involved family.
But I am the privileged one. Over the last weeks, I spent many hours with my mother, by her bedside, telling stories, joking, reassuring her. There were many moments that I thought to myself, there was nowhere else I would rather be. Those hours were precious. I know that there will be a time when I will never see her again. I will remember those moments, and many others, and I will savor them.
No one ever put on their grave stone—“I wish I spent more time at the office”. It is our time with loved ones that we value.
Don’t ever forget it.
It is our love and devotion for each other that sustains us, brings us back to ourselves, and reminds us what is truly meaningful in our lives. It is our deeds of loving-kindness that connect us with each other and ourselves.
Share your stories of love and devotion in your life.