Sunday, May 11, 2008

Love is Patient

In the aftermath of my Mom's passing, I've heard a number of stories about people losing loved ones. The saddest of these stories are the ones where people walk through the rest of their life with deep regret over some matter that can no longer be mended. I'm so relieved that I'm not plagued with any real deep regret.

When my Mom was diagnosed with cancer back in late October of '06, Mom decided that she wanted to try to pursue a homeopathic treatment. My sister, Katie, and I gave her a hard time about not even wanting to go see an Oncologist to pursue a more mainstream treatment. A few weeks later (the week of Thanksgiving), once the cancer began to cause extreme skin discoloration, Mom got scared enough to go visit the Oncologist. I remember that it was my sister Katie who finally talked her into going. And I drove all the way over to Mobile, AL to meet her at the clinic to escort her on the 2-hour drive back to her home.

When I showed up, she had already started to receive her first dose of chemotherapy intravenously. I remember that she was sitting there receiving the treatment, snacking on some Nutter Butters, and watching an instructional video about what was about to happen to her body. That first week with chemo I believe was about one of the roughest for her. She was painfully nauseous, weak, and generally sick-feeling. And I was there for all of it that first week. Mom would receive chemo treatments every two weeks. I wasn't able to be there every two weeks -- Katie & Mom's sister were able to be there to help her when I wasn't -- but I was there for her as much as it was possible for me to be there.

When Mom had her mastectomy, Katie was there with her. But when Katie had to be relieved, I showed up and was there for Mom. And when an infection developed from Mom's surgery & she had to be driven to the hospital 2 hours away in the middle of the night, I was there. While she was in the hospital for the next three and a half days, I stayed there with Mom for all of it.

When the cancer spread to Mom's brain, and she needed to be driven to radiation treatments every weekday, Katie & I moved her down to Florida & we were there for her. And when Mom had her seizure, began to die, and finally passed, we were there for her every step of the way then, too.

I don't have any regret about Mom in that sense. I gave & provided for her almost everything I could offer. Almost.

If there is one thing I regret, it was that I wasn't more patient with Mom. In her last year, Mom lost a lot of her considerable brain power. She would ask the same questions over & over, forgetting the answer I had already shared with her. After a while, this grated on my nerves. And when these moments continued to happen, my frustration could be clearly sensed through the tone of my voice. Mom even had to tell me one time, "You hurt my feelings. I can't help it." Naturally, I apologized. And I got better about it. But my impatience would still show through from time to time.

Anyway, if there is one thing I could share with my friends on Mother's Day, many of you with mothers who soon will be moving into the sunset of their lives, it would be for each of you to learn to love those around you more patiently. I found this letter particularly convicting. It was read by Dr. James Dobson on his radio show, Focus on the Family, some time ago:

To all my children:

A few years ago, I saw a tee-shirt with the words "Live Long Enough to Be a Burden to Your Children." Back then, I thought it was funny, Today, I don't think it's funny at all, because I am afraid I'm doing just that. None of us want to be a burden to our family, but the older we get, the more we realize that age comes not only to the aging person, but to the family, as well. Both must accept old age and make the necessary adjustments.

Sometimes I wonder how the children of Methuselah felt about their father who lived to be 969 years old. Imagine, at more than 900 years old, did he have all of his faculties at that age? Or was he blind, deaf, and maybe so feeble that he couldn't walk? Did his children worry about whether he was eating right, getting enough exercise and dressing warmly enough? How did he accept his advancing years? These questions came to mind because, as a parent, I hate having to rely on my children to do things for me that I could do for myself a few years ago.

You children are always so kind and generous about looking after me, but I want to be doing for myself. I long to drive my car again. I want to go alone to the grocery store to shop, and I want to drive myself there. I want...but you get the idea. What I really want is to be 70 again. The truth of it is, that our roles are reversed, and now I am your child needing you in a special way. I suppose my upcoming birthday started my thoughts along these lines. You never forget my birthday, or any other special day, without a gift. I realize the problems you must have in choosing a gift, because I have what I need in material possessions. This is a good time to tell you that what I truly want are things I can never get enough of, yet they are free. I want the intangibles. I want just a little more of your time, and that's selfish of me, I know, because you have your own children, and grandchildren, who want your time, and also you need time for yourselves. But all I want is just a few unhurried minutes. I would like for you to come and sit with me, and for you to be relaxed. It makes me so nervous when you sit on the edge of your chair and keep looking at your watch. We can talk, or we can be silent. I would just like for us to be together.

You children who live out of town are thoughtful to call me on the phone, but I would like it if you could just write once or twice a month. Then I could look forward to reading and rereading your letters. I don't always hear every word you say on the phone, and a letter or two would help me greatly.

I need your patience when I don't hear what you say the first time, so please don't be annoyed. I know how tiresome it is to always be repeating , but sometimes I must ask you to repeat. Now, you don't need to yell at me, just speak slowly. I need your patience when I think too much about the past. I need your patience with my slowness and my set ways. I want you to be tolerant with what the years have done to me physically.

Please be understanding about my personal care habits. I really can't see when my dress is dirty or the floor needs cleaning. I spill things. I lose things. I get unduly excited when I try to figure out my bank statements. I can't remember what time to take my medication, or if I took it already. I take too many naps, I know, because you have said, "Quit spending all of your time sleeping." Well, sometimes when I sleep in the daytime, it was because I was awake half the night. At other times, sleep helps to pass the day. When I have nothing but time on my hands, a 15-minute nap seems like an hour.

Well, there you have it: time, patience, and understanding. These are the priceless gifts that I want. Over and over again, I take my bible, (thank God that I can still read), and I read what Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11: "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." But oh, how trying!

I know what it is to be in need, and what it is to have more than enough. I remember how your father and I struggled through the depression, and then how wonderful it was when we finally had a good nest egg, and had saved something for old age. I am thankful I can still care for myself financially (that is, unless I live to be 969!)

Finally, in his letter, Paul wrote, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me." I know I can, too! Maybe I can't do all I want to, the way I used to, but how comforting it is to know His eye is on the sparrow and I know He cares for me. I guess being 80 isn't so bad after all! God has blessed me so much.


No comments: