Letting go is definitely hard to do. And yet we get constant reminders that we have no control in the world, despite how desperately we might try.
My mother is dying. There’s nothing I can do about it. There’s no way to change the outcome. On August 22nd, she will turn 86 and she told me she has no interest in acknowledging that day. Regardless, I plan to be with her, perhaps more for my own sake than for hers. Her poor body is failing. Her bones are brittle, her muscles weak, her memory spotty, her hearing and eyesight failing. Without strong medication she would be in constant pain. Her blood pressure is extremely low. She can’t bathe herself, can’t get to the bathroom alone, and chances are that she will likely never leave her bedroom again. My biggest prayer and wish is that she makes her transition peacefully in her sleep. But, again, I am well aware that this prayer might not be answered.
The worst part of all of this? I live 1500 miles away. Although I’ve made frequent trips in the last several months, I don’t have the option of pushing the pause button and restarting my life once she is gone and I’ve had time to grieve. From here, I cannot make her favorite meals. I cannot help her get out of bed. And I can’t sit and listen to her breath as steals a few much needed z’s. I can’t help her with her medications. I can’t help her get dressed. I can’t get up in the middle of the night to make sure she’s still with us. I have absolutely no control over the situation. I have had to learn to let go.
As a psychologist, I’m a professional caregiver. I love what I do, and for the most part, I think I do it well. But this process of watching my mother’s health fail from afar has taught me some of the most important lessons of my life. They are lessons of surrender.
I’ve always been a hard-working and determined person who doesn’t easily accept that some things cannot be completed or controlled. My motto is pretty much, “if there’s a will, there’s a way”. People know that when I set my mind to something, it usually gets done with good results.
But this is different. I literally have no control. I am not the person making medical or financial decisions for her. I am not the one talking to her medical staff. I am not the one making her meals or delivering her medications. From here, I can literally do nothing.
In reality, we are all on our way to death. And, in reality, we have to let go of something every day. When you lose a parent and/or other family member early in life, you become acutely conscious of loss. In my case, because my parents were older when they married and had children, death was introduced to us early with grandparents passing in grade school years, aunts and uncles making their transitions in our teens, and a father passing when I was 21. This makes me good at death. And good at knowing that the process of grief takes all shapes and forms depending on the circumstances and the relationships you hold with those who go to greener pastures.
What has been most interesting in watching my mother’s health fail has been the fact that I have observed the process in somewhat of a 3-D way. As a student of consciousness, my awareness is constantly looking for what I’m supposed to learn—the dynamics, the process itself, my own reactions and emotions, as well as those of others. The gift of consciousness is that it not only brings depth to any situation, it also brings peace.
I’m well aware that my mother is preparing for her next phase of existence. Because I believe in reincarnation, I believe she is learning and experiencing whatever she is supposed to before she launches into her next life. But I’m also well aware that each of us who is involved in her care—both near and far—are supposed to be learning something from this process as well. The more “awake” we all are in this process, the more our lives will be enriched for our evolution.
My mother was in the hospital over Mother’s Day this year, dealing with a horrible intestinal infection. I arrived late the day before and arrived in her room early to spend as much time with her as I could. I pretty much served as her personal nursing assistant all day, getting her to and from the bathroom, and yes, wiping her tush for the first time, ironically on this celebrated day. Tables had turned, and the irony of having cleaned my mother after a trip to the toilet also served as a blessing of sorts. I got to give back to my mother what she had given me—a gentle nurturance to someone who was somewhat helpless and dependent on others for their care. It was the perfect day to return the favor.
Letting go and allowing things to unfold as they may is a skill I’m still trying to master. Like any grieving process, I’m sure I will have my dark days. But I also know that I am learning everything I can along the way, which will undoubtedly ease my pain. Consciousness brings a level of peace that nothing else has. And I’m learning that consciousness, itself, is very much about surrender. And it is very much about love.