I wanted things to stay as they were—
to laugh with my mother, walk with my
mother, entrust the family finances to her
without hesitation. I clung to these things. I
wanted to hang on to the mother who raised
me: the hiker, the professional civil engineer,
the lady who taught me about faith and laughter,
the painter, the flute player, the skier, the financial whiz,
the dog lover. If I had my way, Mom would be condemned
to a life that never changed, that couldn’t expand. She would
never be free to make her transition, because I would need
her, but the Universe knew better. Necessity forced me to let
go as her disease marched unstoppably onward. When I lost
each of these parts of her to dementia, I asked, “Why?”
A wise friend told me, “It’s like letting go of the side of
the pool when you are learning to swim. Some people do it
all at once, but others do it slowly, a finger at a time.”
Being There in the Best Way
This explanation helped, but who needed to let go?
Her? Me? Or, most likely, both of us? I cannot see
inside her mind. Is she relieved to let go? Is she fighting
against the loss of her faculties? I don’t know. I do know,
however, that I need to release old feelings and wishful
thinking. Letting go of these thoughts and emotions has
been tremendously difficult.
I did welcome one change. The decision to move Mom to
a skilled nursing facility came easily. Intuitively, one would
think this would be the most difficult choice of all. It wasn’t
because I probably made the decision for the right reason.
After Mom’s stay in the rehabilitation center following
a fall, I had planned on caring for her at home. She
didn’t remember her house. She wanted to go home to
her “daddy.” On the last day of rehab I was pushing her
wheelchair around the facility’s walking path in the sun
and feeling a peaceful, calm union with her. I realized this
would be the last time we would share this feeling of well-being and harmony. If I returned to being her full-time
caregiver, I would begin handling the constant demands
of her daily care. I would be too busy feeding, changing,
and getting up at night with her for either of us to be
at peace, or to truly enjoy each other. The grumpiness
brought on by lack of sleep would return. I wouldn’t have
time to relax with her, to laugh or savor being together.
I’d just feel responsibility and dread. That wasn’t, and
isn’t, right. She needs love. Our family is small. I have
no siblings, and my dad has transitioned. Mom’s mental
health is in my hands. Others can provide help with her
physical needs. My job is to give her the best quality of
life possible, to be there for her.
After considering the possibility
and expense of private care, I made
the decision for us both to put her
in a skilled nursing facility in a quest
for peace. Instead of all the mundane
head-based reasons I would usually
have given myself, my heart instantly knew
that this was the right decision. Normally, I am
easily confused about whether I am acting from my head
or from divine guidance. So how did I know the One led
me? There was a feeling of calm and serenity, of relief, that
came with the decision.
Release, Rinse, Repeat
I can foresee many other things to release. For now, we
enjoy going outside together on my daily visits—Mom in
the wheelchair, me pushing her. In the park next to the
nursing home we soak in the sunshine, the clouds, the
dogs, the kids, but the day may come when she doesn’t
want to go out or is bedbound. Today, she recognizes
me, my daughter, my daughter’s husband, and selected
friends, although she often doesn’t remember our names.
But maybe someday she won’t know us at all. Soon I will
need to let go of her possessions, some of which have been
with her since before I was born and are part of me too.
Eventually the ultimate release will come, when she makes
Will I be able to let go of these things? I hope so. My
track record is not good. However, I have made plans and
have tried to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for
both the final loss of my mother and the relief of knowing
she is at peace and I am released from the responsibility
of her care. I’ve come this far, walking through fear,
trusting Presence. As the changes are increasingly fast
and sad, more and more I seek Spirit in a quest for love
and tranquility for me and Mom. I try to communicate
my blessing and let her know that she is loved. Even when
she changes form, relinquishes her worn-out brain and
body, and moves on to better things, I will always love
and be grateful for her.
I don’t have letting go perfected. For now, I continue
to find my way, day by day, change by change. I try to
remember to “listen” with all my senses and trust the still,
small voice inside for guidance. I remind myself that release
is necessary and can be positive. This lesson has been my
greatest challenge and my greatest blessing.
Change happens, even if I resist it. Often my thoughts
and emotions make release difficult. So I kick and scream
and let go unwillingly, relearning again and again that the
One has my good, and my mother’s good, in mind.
if I resist it.