With every beginning, there is an ending.
I begin 2019 with all the goodbyes, the endings and the beginnings of this past year. Not all beginnings were easy and most endings I find the letting go to be unnatural and with a heavy heart. Yet my heart is more full now than it was a year ago.
This was a year of beginning the letting go, the good bye to my mom. We knew she was diagnosed with ALS mid 2017, but it was in 2018 that it was clearly the end of her usual life and the end of the mom we will always remember. ALS took mom's voice first which was the perhaps the hardest goodbye to do. Some of the fondest memories I have of summers in my youth was of my mom playing her guitar and singing with neighbors gathered around joining in. I can still hear her voice carrying us long past the ending of summer days and into the beginning of summer nights. Her voice my ears have said goodbye to, yet my hearts will forever carry with it.
In January of 2018, mom lost her ability to eat. She said good bye to her love of food and began the work of sustaining herself through a feeding tube. For anyone who knew mom, she was an amazing cook. Food was the vehicle she used to care for those she loved. As each meal or holiday began, we all could see the love she poured into her presentation and craft of cooking. She leaves us with these memories of over stuffed bellies, pages of family recipes and the task to begin to share her amazing dishes with the same art and love she offered to us all. I begin to compare my own cooking with mom's, but her level of mastery will surely take time.
Mom's ALS helped her begin to live her life again. There were many years I heard mom say she could not do something as she had to consider the effect on my dad, who through the last 16 years has had his own health issues. This awful disease was the end of her saying no and the beginning the her truly living the last year of her life. I can remember countless times I saw on social media her posts of lunches with friends, her attending plays or concerts. It made me laugh that I found out this way because she was doing so much, I couldn't keep up. It filled my heart when mom began to live her life again.
I had been planning to go do a Pancha Karma (ayuvedic detox) in India in February 2018. I suggested and convinced my mom to join me. Understand the step mom took in deciding to go with me. She no longer could eat and we packed a full suit case of the formula for her feeding tube, she used her iphone to communicate through text, she could still walk but would need a wheelchair through airports as she fatigued easily and she had NEVER traveled outside of the country (aside from Canada) and had never before had a passport. So here we were, passports and visas in hand, flying half way across the world, to our destination in Coonoor India. What a way to begin this year that would end with goodbye!
This trip was mom's letting go of taking care of everyone else and finally beginning to get the self care she so deeply deserved. She too took part in the Ayurvedic care at the center, she stepped out of her comfort zone with the body treatments, began new friendships, sat around the fire and listened to the songs and music of others, the way I remembered my childhood summers. She began to let others care for her, she began to accept the nurturing she needed, and the love she was surrounded with could be seen in the tears in everyone's eyes as we headed back home. I look back and think, "perhaps this time was more for her, than for me." Whether I needed it more or she did, I will never know. The memories of the trip with mom will help me begin my years of remembering mom and memories of the trip we had half way around the world will help me as I let her go.
There were months that were good and times that were hard with mom's ALS. My mom and I had talked throughout the year and I candidly told her I hope she would pass when her health drastically changed. She told me she too wanted the same. She surprised us at how much life she could live and we let go of the fear of the disease. Beginning to accept the only outcome the disease offers gave us peace from the gripping to the aspect of mom we grew up with and the grasping for a cure. Thanksgiving came without the fantastic dishes mom usually cooked. The family gathered but mom stayed in her room. A few weeks prior, my parents moved in with my oldest sister and her family. Things were not good and my sister was by her side day and night. Thanksgiving weekend I attended my Uncle's funeral. I said a prayer to help my mom pass and on my way home from the funeral, my sister called. Doctors did not believe she would make it more than 4 hours.
Those 4 hours turned into days. It was clear mom was holding on to say goodbye. She was with us as grand kids from near and far and even a few close friends came to say their last goodbyes. She still hung on when my middle sister came in from NY. She held on through many flight issues until my brother got here from Nevada. And when she had seen everyone she needed to, she asked for her oxygen to be removed. We knew she was ready, she was able to communicate and make her own choices up until her last hour. In those last hours, she was quietly resting and seemed more at peace than she had been in months. In her last minutes, I curled up in bed next to her, while my oldest sister and brother held her hand. We spoke sweet words to her letting her know how much we loved her. We told her is was ok to go, her breath slowed, and we said goodbye.
With every ending, there is a beginning.
I begin The new year without my mother. I begin riding on our last goodbye. I begin with my mother in my heart, with the love I was given through the life and death of my mother. I begin 2019 with Love.