As I thought about time with mom running out, I considered what I would do if I really did know mom was close to passing. It was hard to keep a clear mind. The fear kept creeping in. I tried to take deep breaths and focus on the deep love I shared with mom. As I did that, one idea that surfaced was that I would want a piece of her in my house, something more than a picture. Mom had become quite a talented water color painter since she had retired twenty years earlier. I decided that I wanted mom to paint each of us a painting, of somewhere we had been together. One for me and one for each of my children. Mom was thrilled with the request and started the paintings, even in the midst of her deteriorating health state.
In mid-February, I was scheduled to go on a business trip when I learned mom’s blood pressure had been extremely high over the past few days and was not going down. San Diego was my planned destination and sounded delightful at this time of year, a place to enjoy some warmth and feel calmed by the ocean. I was having a hard time focusing on finishing my trip plans. My mind kept drifting back to mom. I knew I wanted to go see her instead. So I cancelled my work trip and went to see her. Mom was surprised and somewhat uncomfortable with my decision. When I asked her about it, she said that it was hard for her to receive the gift of my visit, knowing that I had prioritized her over work. And how glad I was to do that at the time. The little voice inside me was gaining strength, telling me mom’s time was coming to an end. Most everything was seemingly less important that enjoying time with mom at this point.
I asked more questions about the blood pressure and learned that her high and erratic blood pressure was linked to her kidneys. Her doctor recommended for mom to see a renal specialist. All of a sudden, the words of a friend resurfaced in my memory. He had told me the renal system was usually the first to go, and may lead to hospitalization. My heart grew heavy as I processed this and asked more questions of mom’s doctor. Her cancer markers were 6.1, out of a range of 0-3. And had just been 1.5 three months earlier. Cancer markers were a way that her doctor used to track the progression of the cancer, and a 6.1 represented a strong acceleration of the disease. The news cut me to my core. Mom’s doctor also shared that her lung tumor had tripled in size in the past few months. I felt paralyzed and was walking around as if in a daze, didn’t even feel strong enough to go for a walk. How far I had come to open my heart to being so present in the moment and feeling deep love. And now I was feeling the raw pain as the details unfolded, one by one.
I went home and was having a hard time focusing, could barely carry out basic tasks and was forgetting things. Needing support, I went to my therapist seeking tools to help me cope. It was healing to be able to talk so openly about mom’s situation, my feelings, fall apart in the process, and feel safe at the same time. In the visit, I learned something else about myself. That while I had learned and was continuing to practice how to feel love so deeply in my heart, it was this same depth that I was feeling the pain. Ouch. I chose to focus on the gift of feeling the deep love so I could get through my days, one at a time. In the midst of feeling like my mom was slipping away, I was also facing another court appearance related to my ex-husband. Not a pleasant experience but evidently required by the courts to adjust our agreements due to the move to Nashville. I was not feeling strong enough to endure the stress of the court room. I grew angry that I was having to face such big things at the same time again. It was not fair for sure, but here in my life for a reason. And I remembered that I was not alone. I had great friends and family to support me, but I also had my faith. I let go and realized that I must be strong enough, as God only gives us what we can handle.