A picture hangs on my fridge of my Mom and another lady; the mother of one of my parishioners. This picture was given to me by this gentlemen to remind me of the joy of my Mom. However, I’ll admit most days when the picture catches my eyes, I find myself sad; grieving for the mom I now no longer have. Over the last several years, my mom’s health has deteriorated.
About a week and a half ago, my sister came to visit me and we made a trip to see mom. Neither of us had seen mom for several months. We actually still had her Christmas presents to deliver her. Upon walking into the nursing home, my sister and I had to track down a nurse to let us into the area where Mom now resides. The area is a locked unit for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients.
Once inside, we knocked on Mom’s door and entered. Mom was laying on her bed. She looked up at us and smiled; a smile that looks much different than the smile of a few years ago. It no longer holds the same joy and exuberance it once did. My sister handed Mom her Christmas presents. And within moments, a nurse was handing my sister and I our presents too. The presents Mom gave us were very simple: a gift card for Applebees and flavored chocolates (mine were orange filled chocolates). They were simple, but we both know that they were given with much love.
After opening our presents, we got ready to leave the building. Mom put on her coat and we walked to my sister’s car. We drove around for about an hour while Mom questioned the both of us; asking us basic questions about life. Our drive led us to the camp I worked at for many summers, then back through town, to the shores of Lake Sakakawea and Lake Audabon and then back into town.
Once in town, we stopped at Mom’s favorite stores. My hands became accustomed to grabbing her walker and placing it in front of her. I spent that afternoon folding and unfolding Mom’s walker. As I unfolded her walker, I found myself reflecting on how our roles have changed. Mom is no longer taking care of her children, but we are taking care of her.
We stopped and got ice cream at Dairy Queen before dropping Mom back off at the nursing home. As we left the nursing home, snow lightly began to fall from the sky. My sister and I looked at each other and drove home mostly in silence. Our loss of words only magnified the loss we both continue to feel.
The time my sister and I spend with Mom is indeed precious, yet there is so much of me that grieves what we have lost. I grieve that Mom more than likely will never get to go wedding dress shopping with me someday if I ever find my Mr. Right. I grieve that Mom doesn’t call weekly like she used to do regularly. There were days in the beginning, I would wait for my phone to ring at that 2:45 pm mark on Sunday afternoons. But now I no longer wait for those phone calls. I grieve the Mom that used to sit with me when I was sick and the Mom who rejoiced with me in all my joys.
But I am also thankful that I can still share these moments with Mom, because I have several friends who would give anything to spend time with their moms again. Losing those we love is never easy. In fact, it is harder than one can imagine. Yet it is a part of life. On Ash Wednesday, we are reminded of our own mortality “You are dust and to dust you shall return.”
So as we journey to the cross, may we cling to the promise of the Resurrection and that light not darkness and life not death ultimately have the final word. And in this promise, may we find hope; a hope that rings eternal.