The switch over from parent to child that so often takes place at the end of life has lessons in the process, just as does every other important event in our lives.
Usually there are lessons for both people in what transpires in a significant relationship but this swapping roles situation may be the exception.
When days are spent in coping with basic survival and minds deal only with the present moment, the ability to make philosophical advances may be over. Here's what we don't lose until we no longer realize we are a parent. We don't lose the love and concern for our children. At least that is my experience with my Mum.
Regardless of her state of mind, sometimes fairly sharp, other times quite confused, my mother's concern for me never changes. Even when she's eagerly anticipating my visit to her in New England, she'll caution me not to come if I'm feeling tired. She'd rather forfeit our visit than have it take any toll on me. It touches me deeply to realize the depth of her caring in the face of wishing she could see me every day.
The lessons I am learning are simple but profoundly important. This first, that her love for me is greater than her love for herself in her final chapter, is very reassuring. It calls to mind what my sister once said to me. 'We each have three people who will always love us, Mum, our husbands and each other.' It comforted me than to hear it. It comforts me now.
A recent lesson I've taken from becoming a parent
for my mother is to give her time she can count on.
I call her every day and I let her end the conversation.
I want her to know that she has the time she needs to say what she wants to say. Sometimes it is simple things repeated several times, but occasionally is a good long conversation that we both enjoy. She is exuberant in her joy of that and thanks me for it.
The joy has replaced my feeling that I 'have to' call Mum. It has become an honor.
I'll send Mum a beautiful card and flowers for Mother's Day and I'll call her as I do every other day. The difference is that this year I'm aware of the fact that the day will come when I can't call her anymore. Tears even water that thought when I have it now.
Those who assume their mothers will always be at the end of a phone or a short drive away may do themselves a favor and include some of themselves in what they give their mothers this year. I lucked out and had the obligation turn into an honor in time. Let us speak love, show love, give love while we still can.
Jean Loxley-Barnard has been a writer all her life and studied both sociology and psychology at George Washington University where she earned a B.A. Her company, The Shopper, Inc., encompasses all the Loxley-Barnard family publications - The Shopper Magazines and Doctor to Doctor Magazine. She has been in the advertising, consulting and publishing business for 39 years.
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