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the closest link to mom

by Judy
December 20, 2015

Pat, who was my mother’s Aide for the last six years of her life and who has become like a sister to me is also the closest link to my mom. Because of that, when I am with Pat or talk with her, I feel so strongly my mom’s presence as does she. We both carry her in our consciousness.

One aspect of my mother that was particularly delightful was her sense of humor. She found humor in so many situations and would laugh with such abandonment that whether it was very funny or not…and usually it was very funny…you could not help but laugh with her as well.

Mom got a kick out of Pat’s grandchildren who are now 4 and 8 years old. The little boy, Demarion, who has finally reached the age of four always sees himself as much older and says and does very funny things. Pat told me that she recently went to a school Christmas performance where eight year old Deandra was in a dance presentation. When her class started to dance on stage, little Demarion got up in the aisle and started dancing with all the right steps, turns and jumps as the children on the stage. When his mother tried to take him away, he said, “No, I need to be here. I am the leader. They can’t dance without me.”

I burst out laughing when Pat told me as did she and then we mentioned momma, how much she would have enjoyed hearing that story and would be laughing the hardest among us.

Now family – and in my case family are cousins – and friends who knew my mom in one way or another are also links to my mother, but there is a particular link that Pat carries because it’s directly connected to my mom in the twilight of her life when in many ways she had shed the outer protective layers of her personality. What remained was an acute sensitivity – she had trouble hearing any bad news which visibly pained her - and lying in bed for so many hours, there was so much surrender and softness. She was very vulnerable. Everything got expressed very simply, her care and love, but also at times her sadness and frustration which would invariably pass quickly.

In the first three years before my mom’s stroke, Pat and Mom became real friends. They would sit on the terrace for hours and Pat would tell stories; Mom would enjoy listening and also tell her tales. They would love to watch the ducks and occasional raccoons passing the stream below and admire the orchids blooming on the terrace. They shared a secret rapport, quietly developing over time. Was it always smooth and harmonious? Not always – these were two very strong characters – but yes, most of the time it was remarkably easy.

As time went by and Mom’s walking became less steady, she would proudly hold onto Pat’s arm in public and say how she was her rock. She felt secure with Pat laughingly speaking about Pat’s strong arm muscles. They went everywhere together – to restaurants, movies, food and clothes shopping. During that time I would come down for longer and longer periods, but never staying permanently.

And then Mom had a stroke and so much changed. She could no longer walk, her eyesight got much worse and she gradually got weaker and weaker. Pat and I went through a storm with Mom – through stays in the hospital, visits to doctors, hallucinations and all the ups and downs emotionally as my mother adjusted to all the internal and external changes post stroke. And always through it all, Pat stayed strong and steady and always there was lightness, joy and laughter. Pat and I shared the same room from then on and really a bonding strengthened. This went on for three years when life for me with Pat and Mom and many other caregivers and visitors became very much part of a very full life.

When Mom died, six months ago, Pat came with me to bury her up north and we stayed a few days with my cousins. We shared the warmth of being with family.

Now I am up north and Pat is in Florida and whenever I talk with her, Mom is always with us. Pat has become like a real sister and although she has a large family, children, grandchildren and many friends, I am also like a sister to her.

In the end what binds us together in the deepest way is love. It’s a love that includes our years together with momma, her spirit and all the happy (and sad) memories, and includes our awareness of loss and grief. It’s a love that now is a real friendship where we can laugh and commiserate together, learn from each other and where the overarching fabric is one of care, deep care.


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