Yesterday seems impossibly distant today, and yet somehow palpably present: The awarenesses that arose, the emotions that swirled and altered in 24 hours, and the deepening of faith that was wrought …
The conversation that initiated all of these stirrings began—as most shocks do—without any inkling of what would come. Every morning (except for Silent Sunday), I call my mother between 7:30 and 8; we have been doing this for so many years that I can’t recall the exact age each of us were when the routine began. Our talks have ranged from quick logistical confirmations, to a relaying of tales from the day before, to analysis of current news, to heady, lengthy discussions about spirituality, aging, Life, and death.
As Mom has moved through her 80s, natural ramifications of an aging mind and body have occurred. Her physicality is one to be admired, if not outrightly envied. Her mind has been the primary source of any frustration—for her and for her children—over the course of the past couple of years: however, the brain “glitches” have been more of a nuisance than anything else.
What yesterday showed me without a doubt was the degree to which that has changed. My mother calls it a “new phase;” I am familiar with that phrasing, as it has been her description of each change that has manifested in the last few years. But heretofore, the observed shifts have surfaced gradually, so that she and her family have had time to adjust and accept. Yesterday’s conversation capped a swift few months of aggressive change, and I suddenly recognized that things were happening with my mom at an increasingly rapid clip.
The circumstances of yesterday were mundane enough: I have learned that it is the most everyday situation—the one that most of us would take for granted as simple or predictable—that highlights a “new phase” when it suddenly seems complex or foreign. A search for an errant envelope that I had addressed for my mom to mail when she finished signing its contents led us into a labyrinth of lost or forgotten papers and bills, and unplayed phone messages. Her frantic raging quickly turned to frightened teariness.
When she simmered down, she said, “This must be horrible for you…” I assured her that it was not; I did say, however, that I wanted to understand the confusion from her point of view. I asked (hoping desperately that I would hear her affirmation): “You do know how to make a phone call, right?” Yes, she did. “So why do you think you didn’t?” My mind, she said. “Your mind? How so?”
“My mind tells me not to…”
In that moment, my heart broke. Well, maybe “broke” is not quite right: The Mom part of my heart sank, moving inward and downward as if searching for a safe place to rest—as if it knew that it would need to quiet and still in preparation for the next “phase.”
We concluded that I would make the necessary calls, and that that would be the case for most of Mom’s “business” from that point on. We managed to end our conversation with a shared and respectful compassion for the other’s forced entry into this “new phase.”
I moved into the day cloaked in an odd juxtaposition of awarenesses: 1) All of this is somewhat “normal”: Life changes innumerable times, and the continually shifting dynamics that occur with an elderly parent are one of those changes. But relationships morph and evolve throughout Life: I think that old age and its manifestations can feel more harrowing, because they throw us under the spotlight on death. But death, too, is part of the normal path through this lifetime.
And 2) I felt a newly keen sense of my own fast-moving evolution as I witness my mother’s march toward the end of her earthly incarnation. Yes, I have tinges and even hours when a vague fear tries to niggle its way in. But for the most part, I feel an enriched, profound faith emanating powerfully from my soul, flowing assuredly into the regions of my being that need support and steadiness.
And so it goes…