As a nurse, a mother caring for a chronically ill child or a family/friend observing the end of life, I can tell you there are so many things that people can do to offer support, be a voice and care for those going through a life-altering event.
Recently I experienced watching a family member go through the last months of her life and saw how vitally important it was for her to check off the things on her bucket list. Her family and friends surrounded her with love and support to make sure as many of those opportunities happened. Some of those things were easy and some not so easy. But for me what was most important was that there was effort. The effort to help her experience some of the things she’d wanted to do in her last days. I know this made her crossing over far less scary for her and the days she had left lived to the fullest that they could have been.
Like with any other situation in life where it be joyful or sad – where love ends or life begins; when life get exhausting; graduations or weddings; the support and validation of one’s life or situation can be all the difference to the person experiencing it. The simple task of just “being present” is all that many of us need to feel that someone took the time to stop their own busy life to spend it with doing something that is meaningful for someone else.
Taking this time to help someone going through a tough time opens the opportunity to also speak up when something doesn’t look right. You know the old adage “if it doesn’t feel right – it’s probably not”. I know many of you can think of a time when you experienced something or observed something and thought – “that just doesn’t seem right to me” – trust your gut on this one! Sometimes its the environment; or the caregiver situation or sometimes it’s just simple needs of food and home care. There are many who suffer daily caring for their chronically ill or dying friend/family members. As human beings we are put on this earth to serve we should be compelled to help. To extend a hand. To be that bridge between exhaustion and rest.
I remember the many meals, gifts, visitations and love extended to me after my daughter’s passing and how I felt so overwhelmed by the generosity of those, especially those I did not know well. People rescued me and I’m fairly certain they did not even know it. I felt loved and it lifted me up and I’m fairly certain they did not even know it. There is no greater gift than to simply pull up a chair and sit next to someone suffering and just be present. You won’t have the answers. You can’t fix what is broken. God gave us this inherent ability to love. Our hearts were built to expand with love and compassion. That is truly what anyone who is hurting needs – to feel that love and compassion.
Until next time,
I was thinking the other day how unconditional a mother’s love is. I’ve had the great blessing of knowing it from both sides. I had the most amazing mother who worked more jobs than I could ever imagine to make sure we had a roof over our heads, food on the table and clothes on our backs. We were poor but we had love. As my mother passed away from breast cancer, my daughter was growing inside of me. I began to love in a way I had not done before. To myself I thought this must be how it felt for my mom to love me.
When Brittany was born, I was in the midst of grieving the recent loss of my mom and all that meant to a new mother. I grieved that she did not live long enough to see Brittany in person. The most she ever saw was the ultrasound photos and rubbing my belly when I was able to get home from Dallas to see her. I grieved for all the times I would need her to ask questions about things I wasn’t sure of. I grieved over and over every time I needed a hug from my mom. Even today I miss that unconditional love expressed in so many ways.
As Brittany became sick, I truly needed my mom because I did not know what to do. Everything I did or every decision I made about her healthcare was made from a nurse perspective and as time grew it evolved to a mother’s perspective. I grieved over who I knew my daughter could not become – a mother. I truly never believed that one day she would die from her illness because not many do; however I knew she would be unable to have children given the medications she had to take every day to keep her illness under control. I wanted so much for my daughter to understand what it meant to be a mother and to experience that unconditional love from a daughter’s perspective and a mother’s perspective.
A grief closet….
My daughter died just shy of her 18th birthday from a fatal grand mal seizure. In 12 hours her life was over and so was mine. At least the life I knew for the past 18 years was over. While I have come to understand that the unconditional love my mom had for me and that I had for Brittany is not gone from my heart – it is gone from my life. The hugs only a mom or child can give are what makes me cry quietly in my grief closet while I’m alone. In this place of my life I am so alone. And where I quietly fight my battle of grief. I believe this will always be my quiet battle to fight for my remaining days.
Since her death I have worked hard to rebuild my life, while different, it is a rebuilding process. I have found love again. I am loved by so many friends and family. I am blessed to have some close friends who have helped heal that place in my heart that for so long bled sorrow. And yes, sometimes it still does bleed; but I am comforted by the strength of my faith and the love of my family and friends. My new “framily” has given me the strength to keep pursing love and joy. Each day, with just the smallest of things like text messages or hand written cards – a breath of life is given to me.
But make no mistake I am still quietly over here in the corner of my grief closet missing my girl and my mom more than I could ever put words to. I say to my mom and Brittany – “with each passing year, I feel the distance between you and me grow more and more”. And that creates a whole different type of grief I have to learn about and manage. With all the love that surrounds me, I am confident I can continue to mold that into something that can help others.
Until next time,