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.