Reality can be Heartbreaking

I left for New Orleans on Friday, November 11, before I posted my last blog.  A lot has happened since then and I feel in some ways that my life has been turned upside down. And yet, as I look at all that has transpired over the past two weeks, perhaps what I thought was right side up was really upside down, and what looks like upside down is really right side up. I’m just being quiet now and letting the dust settle so I can have clarity.

I picked my mother up in La. and drove her back here to stay for a while with me and Paul. It was clear to me from the time I arrived at her house that she was not the same. She was distraught, miserable, unhappy, and out of sorts. We spent a bit of time in conversation as I attempted to help her come to terms with what was bothering her.  She was very angry with herself and hurt about a situation that she had helped to create. In her inability to say no and her need to take care of others, she painted herself into a corner that she realized she had no way of getting out of. Over and over she said to me how disgusted she was with herself over her actions, and how hurt she felt.

My mother, who is ninety, has some debilitating physical problems and she has dementia.  I’ve watched her struggle with life, and due to her inability to cope, she flies off the handle over anything and over nothing.  Misplacing her eyeglasses is a major disaster and she  constantly curses the dark because she can’t see the light.  Her eyesight is failing, she is very hard of hearing, she has a problem comprehending life and says over and over how glad she is that she’s on her way out. 

It breaks my heart to see and face the reality of where she is in life.  I’ve realized that I was trying so hard to be or say something, or anything, that would snap her back into being the vibrant mother I knew and loved. I wanted her to embrace her life process and rejoice that she’s ninety and still alive. But I’ve had to surrender to life and face the fact that I cannot create gratitude within her, and that she will never again be who she was. Admitting that opened a place in my heart, and I was finally able to cry for the loss of my mother who had been my friend and playmate, who loved to laugh and dance and sing a Jolson tune or two. I’ve sobbed for the loss of the woman I used to laugh with till our sides split and we peed our pants in joyful mirth. I’ve felt anguish over realizing that the person she used to be was in the process of leaving.  I’m lonely for her and my heart hurts for the person who has taken her place; the aged woman who walks with a slight stoop, can’t hear, says mean things and in her misery and darkness cries out loud for god to take her. 

Pema Chodron says, “Impermanence is a principle of harmony. When we don’t struggle against it, we are in harmony with reality.” Because I believe this, I am giving up my struggle and letting myself experience how small and helpless I feel. For the past two weeks, as I’ve sat across the table from my mother and watched her, I get it that this is a time of learning and growing for both of us. I’m ready to come to terms with impermanence, and to surrender to the process of letting my beloved mother go. 

I’ve finally come to grips with the fact that my mother needs to be looked after and protected. She no longer can stand alone and live alone. My brother has seen this for a while and has told me that we needed to intervene and take steps to insure the safety of our mother. Not wanting to see what was happening to her, I found it easier to be in denial and insist that she was okay. I now see what he has seen and know it’s time to step in. It’s not been easy for us because we’ve struggled with guilt, but for the safety of our mother we decidedto rent a nice apartment for her in a retirement community in Arkansas. She will be close to my brother and he can look in on her every day. She’ll have a community surrounding her and she won’t be alone to sit in her dark house day after day when she’s not feeling well. I wanted to keep her here, but part of the surrendering process is to realize that my brother’s life is more stable than mine at the moment.

As I take this giant step in my life , accepting where my mother is in her life, I’m reminded of one of my favorite Rumi poems,  “The Guest House”:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all.
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.


About brendamarroy

blogger, and author
This entry was posted in Consciousness, Family, Making choices, Reflections and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Reality can be Heartbreaking

  1. Hermionejh says:

    I think this is one of the most difficult parts of life, facing effects of aging on our parents (and maybe especially mother – and more so if they were strong people for us in their prime). I have a lot of empathy and compassion for you, always, but during this time. One of my uncles, who was 92, recently passed away and lived with Parkinson’s for twenty-five years. He was inspirational in the life he maintained regardless, but it was difficult to see such a robust man slowly disabled.
    I hope you get all the support you need. ❤

  2. Nina Badzin says:

    Oh, this is so difficult, but there’s no question that you’re doing the right thing. You wrote about it with perfect honesty and insight. Thanks for sharing . . . . so hard.

  3. gingerclub says:

    Dear Brenda,

    Most people would put their mom in a nursery home, keep her shut away from your emotions and eyes. I know what you go through since I see the same coming with my mom and I actually saw it with my granny. It was not pleasant, and things had to adjust, but having loved the person for so long and knowing, that this person had cared for me for so long there was no problem – almost!! The problems arise with emotions, with the state of non-acceptance of what was. As they transition, we have to do the same. This is so toguh and hard. I wish you a lot of courage! Love is everything”


  4. Betsy says:

    What a lovely tribute to your mother, Brenda. You’ve painted the picture of losing a valuable part of your life, just when you need her so much. Her lashing out is more likely fear at what she’s not capable of understanding. Her reality is altered, as is her physical existence. We went through this with my dear mother-in-law. She kept her sense of humor (we were thankful for that) and her general health, but her short term memory failed us and her. My husband and I visited her every day. She had no idea how long we were there, so after half an hour, we could depart. Her assisted living center was a godsend in her final months.

    I think Nancy Reagan said it best. She called dementia the long goodbye. At least you have the now if not the future. Let the nows guide you. You’ll have your memories, good an dbad. Be strong and let Spirit show you the way.

    • brendamarroy says:

      Thank you Betsy. It’s been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. I never dreamed this day would come because I guess I thought my mother would stay young forever. God bless her because she’s an awesome lady. Your support means a lot to me.

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