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could I have done more?

by Judy
April 24, 2013 

At one point in my last blog post I wrote about contemplating whether I had left any stone unturned, words unsaid with my mom after taking leave of her for six days with the sense one never knows what the future brings. One woman whose father had recently died responded, “No matter how aware you are of the fact it 'could' happen, it is still a shock and you still feel like you didn't do all that you wanted to do with that person.”

Her response struck me. I reflected on the truth of what she said that no matter how aware we are that death could happen at any time, it still is a shock. Yes, in a split second, the life force is gone and it’s so absolutely final, irreversible. And then I thought about how you can never feel like you did enough. That made sense to me too. Thinking of a time when my mom would no longer be alive, I could imagine feeling that I could have done more. And then I thought perhaps that is just the way it will always be. But the point is “Did I do the most important things?” For example, did I let my mom know how much she means to me, how much she gave me and how much I love her? And did I do my best to make her life more bearable, more comfortable, and even more enjoyable? The answer would be definitely yes. 

There is another side of the story as well. Certain things that I might want for my mother - want to see her more awake, sleeping less, more engaged, is not necessarily what she wants. She is getting ready for a different kind of transition and her wants and needs are different from mine. There is a kind of acceptance being asked of me; a letting go of my agenda as reality keeps revealing itself. And that picture is ever changing as mom changes, I change and more is apprehended about what adjustments need to be made. For example, after I had been up north for a few days, I felt this deep exhaustion inside and realized I was under more stress than I had imagined. With no walls in my mom’s apartment to separate me, I hear everything. I hear when my mom screams from being touched too strongly or when she is sitting in her wheelchair and starts to cry because her head hurts from holding it up…she has gotten weak…and wants to get back into bed. No matter what I’m doing, she is in my awareness. So it all takes its toll. Clearly I needed to take better care of myself and made certain changes to give myself more space. One has to have such a big heart for oneself and the whole situation. 

Delving into this question of whether I could give more brings up a real reckoning with life on a philosophical level. How much can I really give to another human being? Can I really make another happy? Do I have that kind of power? I don’t mean to diminish in any way what one can give. Particularly with someone at my mother’s stage of life, one can give a lot to ease and relieve her daily life conditions, but still…there are things we can’t change. My mother has real physical limitations that at times affect her emotionally and there is nothing I can do about it. She is also getting ready for the last phase of her journey on earth and that has to be fully respected. Just last night my mom began to speak about death. She said in a very matter of fact way she would not be around for much longer, mentioned things she’d like me to do and what she wanted to give away and even said out of the blue that she wanted to be next to her sister, Alice, who died awhile ago. Even though this would be impossible since her sister was cremated, it was very touching and I responded.

So as much as I can give to her, some things I can’t change. At the same time because of who she is, how she has lived, her basic resilience, heart and endearing sense of humor, she is still able to live with dignity, care and give to others and for that I am deeply grateful.



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