Touching the Heart of Love

Last November my Dad took my Mom to the hospital for what seemed to be a minor problem that resulted in a downward spiral for both my parents. Mom was in and out of the hospital, finally going to rehab because she was so very weak. She never regained her strength and ended up in full nursing care on plenty of pain meds to keep her comfortable. Dad would not and could not reconcile being away from her – mind you, she was only a couple of halls away – he could not stop grieving the loss of living together. He wept constantly; turned belligerent and unyielding; was confused and unable to think clearly.

My parents had always been able to take care of each other, rarely reaching out for help. Proudly self-sufficient, they had each other and that was all they needed. Now, that solidarity had faltered. They needed help. They needed my help.

Driving home from one of the early hospital episodes, in full recognition of the situation, the magnitude of what was being asked bore down on me. I screamed – out loud, in the car, “I can’t do this! I don’t know how to do this! I’m not capable of what they need! I don’t want to do this! I have never been responsible for anyone else in my life!” I was scared.

Thankfully my inner-teacher was on hand! Firmly and without hesitation, she assured me that I was fully capable of this responsibility. She reminded me that I am hard-wired for service, have cultivated an open-hearted, compassionate presence and a high-functioning and well-organized mind. I roared – out loud, in the car, “Oh yes I can! I will do everything in my power and within my capacity to love and serve my parents through this! I can totally do this!” I felt the power of these words reverberate through my entire being. That resolve never wavered – which does not mean it was always easy, but it was always clear.

The gifts from this time with my parents are abundant.

Mom died in February. Toward the end of her life, her nursing care facility sent her to the ER, thinking she was having a heart attack.  When I walked into her room, my Mom’s face lit up with such joy! I reeled from the force of her love radiating toward me. I fully met that love and radiated it back to her. We lingered there, in that warm and loving gaze, for a long moment. For the first time since my pre-teen years I felt my mother’s love for me and my love for her – not just a vague sense or concept, but a full-on, bodily felt realization of that love.

I had six months with my Dad after Mom died. I wasn’t sure he was going to survive without her. His grief was overwhelming and pervasive. He wept and wept – I had to keep tissues with me at all times because he just could not stop crying. Slowly the tears lessened, his mind cleared and he was trying to find his way in a world that was void of his beloved wife of 65 years. The belligerent and stubborn demeanor, that had been so prevalent in the last years, faded into the background and what emerged was a kind, funny, appreciative and agreeable old man.

We spent time together every week. It began with a trip to the grocery store – he had such a sweet tooth, he always had to have his ice-cream, cookies and sugary cereals. I drove him to the high country – he so loved Colorado, especially the mountains, and would say again and again, “Oh my goodness, look at that!” He enjoyed going for walks – they became essential to both his physical and mental well-being. When we had lunch together, every time the meal would arrive he would exclaim that he could not possibly eat all that, yet he always finished every last bite. And there were the endless doctor appointments – we managed to have one month free of doctor visits and rejoiced by writing DOCTOR FREE across the month of June.

Our time together was comfortable and we were at ease with each other. He trusted me with his affairs, for although his mind had cleared, there was still a lot of confusion. He would exclaim with some disappointment, “I’m just not the man I used to be.” And, he wasn’t. Whenever he would get upset with his forgetful fog brain, I would reassure him, “It’s ok, Dad. We’ve downloaded your memory and reminders to me. I’ve got your back.” That would make him laugh and  his mood would lighten.

What a blessed six months! My Dad and I re-kindled a meaningful and sweet relationship, experienced a long forgotten rapport, took pleasure in each other’s company, laughed at the irony of life and simply loved each other. Dad died in August.

I am grateful that my moment of self-doubt and reluctance was brief. No doubt, these times pushed on me, asked a lot of me, forced me beyond my comfort zone – and brought me into the fullness of my capacity. By being really present and bringing all that I am to bear on this very critical time – I reaped the grand prize of touching the heart of my parents love for me and my love for them. Such grace. Such gratitude. Such divine completion. So glad I showed up!

Written by

Carol

Owner at Rhythm of LIfe Studio

17 Comments to “Touching the Heart of Love”

  1. Beautiful tribute to both your parents, as I grab my box of kleenex.

  2. Terry Sanchez says:

    Your Dad and mine shared the same sweet tooth! I visited Dad in his nursing home and presented him with a Peppermint Patty. HIs eyes lit up and he savored every bite.

    Quite by chance, I was there with Dad during the last few days of his life.

    What a wonderful account of your last few months with your parents, Carol! They raised an amazing and very gracious and graceful daughter. You are a tribute to both of them.

  3. Cristina Kessler says:

    Carol, I cried and cried. I am so sorry you have gone through the passing of both parents in 6 months. I am going through this right now with my mom and your words are so comforting to me. I visit her every day and feel that profound love you feel for your parents. Your parents are together for eternity now and watching over you every moment of every day!

  4. Carol Carol says:

    Christina – I’m glad my writing brought comfort to you. My heart is with you as you move through this with your Mom.

  5. Kathy says:

    oh my goodness. Thank you for sharing so beautifully the gifts of those final months with your parents. I had a similar situation with my mom as she was passing and so many moments of pure joy and love that may not have been rekindled had the final days not be drawing nearer. I think a lot of people lose site of those opportunities to embrace those times, so focused on the fear of the loss they will incur when death comes. It looks like you so gracefully stepped up and gained so many more gifts to outweigh the loss, and the memories of those are ever-lasting. Well done, my friend. And again, thank you for sharing through your writing talents a moment of pure love, and joy and connectedness. Tears are flowing for your awareness and the reminder of my special memories. You are a gift!

  6. Nik Nikkel says:

    Carol,

    This is a very powerful piece of writing. It takes great courage, love, and skill to convey the story and the emotions so clearly.

    Thank you for writing and sharing this.

    Be well, do some good, have fun,

    Nik

  7. Jan Murray (Sweitzer) says:

    carol,
    What an intense, yet rewarding year you have had.
    My parents were both in and out of the hospital since I was in high school.
    My sister and I spent many a night in ICU and waiting rooms.
    I remember going with my Mother after her hair was all but gone from chemo, to decide on a wig….trying on long bright pink ones, and huge clown Afros to make her laugh through the process. Visiting our Father in rehab after he fell in the bathroom, and became an incomplete quadriplegic.
    I was not there when either of my parents died, you are lucky to have been able to reconnect and rejoice in really knowing one another again.
    I applaud your courage to dive in and be present.

  8. Carol Carol says:

    Yes, hard and rewarding. Thanks for being in touch and sharing your experiences.

  9. Shari Gordon says:

    Carol,

    Your sharing is so raw, so beautiful!
    xo
    shari

  10. Carol Carol says:

    Thanks Shari. XO back at ya!

  11. Cristina Kessler says:

    Thank you Carol. I am so sad. Not easy getting old.

  12. Debra Alford says:

    Thank you for this beautiful, heartfelt message.

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