The Mom Caught in the Middle

Life happens. So does death. And when they do, you know things will never be the same. It’s like a spring storm. The warm air mixes with the cool, the sky starts churning, and you find yourself in the basement seeking cover.

If you’ve missed The MOM Journey over the past few months, it’s because that’s where I’ve been, in the basement, seeking cover. Life was happening…but so was death…and I found myself caught in the middle of a category 5 emotional tornado.

The dark clouds started swirling in February. I received a call that my mom–previously diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer–was in the ER. A few weeks later hospice came in to provide “quality-of-life” care, and so did friends and family, so we could keep Mom in her home.

Blowing in from the other direction were all things good. My daughter Kelli was preparing to step into adulthood: college graduation, job interviews, the first day of a new career, moving into her own home. Her life was happening…and I was missing it.

When I wasn’t certain I could arrange care for my mom so I could celebrate as my daughter walked across the stage in her cap and gown, Kelli said, “It’s okay if you miss graduation. I know you need to be with Grandma.” When I didn’t get to see her new professional look on the first day of her career, she said it wasn’t a big deal and sent me pictures. And when I missed the painting party the weekend before she moved into her house, she said, “Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll save some projects for you.”

As Kelli talked to me like she was all grown up, I found myself talking to my own mother more and more like a child: “Mom, you’re tired. I think it’s time for a nap…Yes, we have to wash your hair today…It’s not time to take your medicine yet. Yes, I’m sure…Please use the walker; I’m afraid you’ll fall…It’s 2:00 AM; I’m right here, go back to sleep…”

This was a much different kind of “mom” journey.

I was used to measuring how much independence I could give to my daughters. But I’d never get used to measuring how much independence to take away from my mom, trying to find the balance between her safety and health and her dignity.

Watching Kelli embrace her new independence contrasted drastically with watching Mom grasp desperately for hers. Every day Mom rearranged the things around her…the tissue box, the mail, her laptop, the remote control, the phone, her wallet, her purse…constantly organizing so things would be easier to find…which often made them impossible to find.

And her lists…the never-ending lists. She’d sit with her pen poised over a blank page to write down who called, who visited, when she had taken her medicine, when the hospice nurse was coming, and a host of things she wanted to accomplish. An hour later the page may have a word or two, or it may be blank. She’d lay the notebook aside and say she’d try again later. Every day she attempted to make her list, and refused my help. I understood. She needed to feel in control when everything else was so out of her control.

And then one day organizing and list making weren’t important to her anymore.

Our storm grew more tumultuous before the clouds cleared and rays of light started to break through. Mom passed in June, and on some days, I still feel like I’m sorting through the debris. What a strange transition…the role reversal from daughter to caregiver, the realization that I’m the adult now, the oldest generation. Wow.

The last several months ushered in a new kind of mom journey. Two worlds collided around me as my daughter’s life was beginning and my mother’s life was ending. The best of emotions and the worst of emotions all mixed together.

But in the center of the storm–the eye where the winds are the calmest–I understood love in a new way. What an honor to see my daughter transition from child to adult, loving her mom selflessly when I needed it most. And what a privilege for me to be the adult, to love my own mom like a mom loves, as she journeyed closer to Jesus…the ultimate peace after the storm.

***

Many of us share a similar story, the transition from child to parenting our parents. While it’s one of the most difficult experiences in life, it is also an incredible blessing. Will you share how you were blessed by your experience? Let’s celebrate those moments and encourage others who may be in the caregiver role.

Thank you for not forgetting about The MOM Journey as I took a much needed break this summer. Posts will be back in your inbox each month. If you don’t receive The MOM Journey by email but would like to, simply enter your email in the side bar or below. Thank you for sharing our posts. When you hit that share button, more moms find us and join our journey. THANK YOU.

Blessings!

35 Comments

  1. Susan Mitchell says:

    Oh Karen, this so touched my heart. I have had you on my mind and I wish we could of been there for you. We miss seeing you guys so much.

    • Karen Sargent says:

      This means so much, Sue! I know you were thinking about us. One of the hidden blessings of going through something hard is all the love people surround you with. A big thank you and a bigger hug!

  2. Renee says:

    Mrs.Sargent,I am so sorry to hear about your mom. I’m praying for You!
    Xoxo!

  3. Bob Woods says:

    Karen, being the “oldest generation” comes as shocking realization to most of us! God give you comfort and His peace.

  4. Mickey Whited says:

    Wow,this hit so close to home. My husband just went through this with his father at the same time Tommy was moving out and making adult decisions. This needed a disclaimer “Only read with a box of tissues close by”. Hospice care is hard, but if you can endure it, it’s so rewarding, especially if your loved one is a Christian.

    • Karen Sargent says:

      Mickey, I truly don’t know what we would have done without hospice. I’m so sorry to hear your family has recently gone through such a big loss. I hesitated sharing this post, but I kept feeling drawn to write it…maybe because I know so many others can relate..and it is such a comfort when someone says, “I know exactly what you’re going through…” Thank you for that. (I hope things are going great for Tommy!)

  5. Esther says:

    Karen! I have to stop reading your posts during the day! I am sitting here softly crying in my office hoping no one walks by. My heart breaks for you. I was in a similar situation when my children were much younger. I understand trying to balance the feelings of being blessed you were able to be with your mom at the end, but guilty that you are ‘neglecting’ so many other areas of your life at the same time. I will keep you in my prayers. Love ya!

  6. Pat Wahler says:

    My mom passed in 2006. It was indeed a privilege to be at her side as she transitioned from this life to the next. Thinking of you, and keeping you lifted in prayer!

  7. Linda Forinash says:

    So sad you lost your Mother. SO HAPPY for that Kelli-girl!! Hugs to all of you. ❤️

  8. Amanda Wren says:

    Mrs Sargent,

    Wow this just really hit home with me I just lost my father in July, while Jesse was experiencing a wonderful summer and planning for his big trip to Denmark, and my sweet Katie was turning 16. Preferred Hospice was absolutely amazing!! Big hugs to you Mrs. Sargent, and yes you should put a warning label to have tissues handy!

    • Karen Sargent says:

      I’m so sorry about your dad, Amanda. I saw the posts on FB and felt the loss right along with you. Big hugs right back to you, sweet girl.

  9. Sandy Lopez says:

    I can so relate to your story. However, you put it way more eloquently than I ever could. We learned on October 30 last year that Dad had a mass on his pancreas and spots on his liver. On November 8th, I took a leave of absence from work to go be with him. He became weaker and weaker by the day. We didn’t actually get the cancer diagnosis until November 20….his 81st birthday, and he passed away less than 2 weeks later on December 3rd. It was so difficult to watch the man who had always been so strong, and who I thought was the greatest of the greats, become so weak and feeble. However, it was also so very precious to care for the person who loved me so and cared for me my entire life. I had a few short weeks to show him the love and care that he had always given me, and I am so very thankful for that time I had with him. I also got to talk to him about Jesus. It was such a heartbreaking, yet precious time that I will always cherish.
    During the same time, my husband was having knee surgery 500 miles away. I felt like I needed to be both places. He had to get a ride home from the hospital and get his daughter to care for him while I was away. I felt like a horrible wife. But he so very sweetly and unselfishly told me that it was all okay and I was right where I needed to be…..which of course made me cry more!
    I’m so sorry about your Mom. It hurts so bad to lose someone you love so much. Some days are overwhelming still. But thankfully, we have those good memories and God’s strength to get us through.
    Many prayers!
    Sandy Lopez

    • Karen Sargent says:

      Wow, Sandy. I felt every word you wrote. Thank you for sharing your story. Some of my most precious memories with my mom happened during those final days, and I’m sure the same is true for you. Hugs, sweet friend.

  10. Janet Grunst says:

    You expressed the cycle of life beautifully, Karen.
    Loss and living tied together by love.

  11. Karen, I’m glad you decided to write this touching post. It brings back reminders of nine years ago when my mother in Washington and my father-in-law in Colorado were both in hospice, while we lived in New Mexico, trying to balance all the issues, fortunately with the help of our siblings. As in your situation, our younger son was graduating from college and searching for a job. So many transitions happened during one month. God helped us through this time of grief and joy. Thank you for sharing your experience. Praying for your peace and comfort as you continue on this journey.

    • Karen Sargent says:

      Wow, Sherida. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been with parents in two states–much less so much loss happening at once! Hugs to you!

  12. April says:

    Karen,

    I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. Please tell Kelli congratulations and that I’m really proud of her.

  13. Sarah Miller says:

    So sorry about the loss of your mother. That is a pain I fear and hope does not come for many many years. Prayers for peace and comfort for you and your whole family. But a huge congratulations for raising an amazing daughter who could handle all of her huge life changes without you directly beside her. You know you did something right! Now you can enjoy her new life right along side her. Many blessings to you and yours! Glad your back love you!!!

  14. Kelly Pfannenstiel says:

    Karen – My heart goes out to you for all you have experienced and missed experiencing this year. You were exactly where you needed to be but I know it was hard. What a joy to watch Kelli transition to adulthood and see her strength and independence that you and Rusty helped her obtain. Still hoping we can catch up over coffee whenever you get to the KC area. Until then a big virtual hug for you!

  15. Michele says:

    Life is a strange ride. Some straight stretches, lots of curves, many ups and downs, and the proverbial rest areas. Each has it’s own positives and negatives. Embrace each and lean on God for interpretation!

  16. Belinda Collins says:

    You made me cry again. There are times in my life that I have looked to you for advice and you always gave me the best you had. Thank you for that.

  17. Deb Haggerty says:

    I too saw my mom through her last days. Some very funny and some very poignant times.

  18. Shelly says:

    Karen,that was so beautiful . I read this through tears !
    I had a similar experience with my mom . I was her caregiver for several years . I understand what you went through. Making that role change was one of the hardest things I ever had to do .It was so hard watching her through the years that I cared for her losing her independence little bit at a time.
    Then in 2011 my mom was put on hospice care. That absolutely broke my heart ! When reality finally set in. I thought to myself, this is really happening,my mom is dying.
    One day one of my mom‘s hospice nurses told me my mom said she was worried about me. The hospice nurse told me that I needed to let my mom know it was OK to die . I told the hospice nurse that I could not do that it’s not OK for her to die .I’m not ready to lose my mom. I know I was selfish. I never did tell my mom it was OK to die . I did tell her I was going to be OK and I loved her so very much . I don’t regret not telling her it was OK to die . When I told my mom that I would be OK ! I know in my heart the relationship we had that was enough for my mom to know that it was ok to die.

    I am so very sorry for your loss Karen .
    Big hugs sweet lady!

    • Karen Sargent says:

      Thank you for sharing this, Shelly. I felt every word. You know what? What your mom needed to know most was that YOU would be okay…and you told her that. 🙂 Hugs right back to you!

  19. Linda O'Connell says:

    Karen, your story evoked so many emotions. I love your writing style, your unfolding. You breathed beauty into sadness. You touched my heart!

    • Karen Sargent says:

      Aw, Linda. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your response so eloquently. I love how words can connect us through our experiences.

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