My son said it best a few months ago I suppose.
Mama, you put yourself in a box, and you won’t even let us in.
As painful as the reality of his comment was then, the fact that I’ve lived this way for most of my life is what stung the most. It’s not something I’m proud of, especially after all I faced this weekend. So I guess this post is my attempt at prying the lid off that box.
It had been over three years since I’d had the courage to dot the doors of Grace Rehabilitation Center in Cordova. Yes, a trip to the facility would take a little over 2 hours, but that and all the other the excuses I’d led myself to believe were moot once I entered her room. I’d heard the moaning before I turned the corner. And with each exasperated utterance, I felt her pain.
I questioned aloud as I knelt beside her bed,
I wonder if her pain is physical or emotional?
Had my daughter not answered my question I would never have realized the words escaped my mouth, let alone my mind. That afternoon, a nightmare would have been the preferred venue for what I’d encountered. At least then, I could wake up and exchange the experience for a more picture perfect view of my mother. Yet, her frailty was real. As were her dried tears and my fresh ones.
Some reading this might be aware of the strained relationship my mother and I cultured for years before we arrived at this point, but as streams fought pass my once rigid lashes, all the harsh words and deeds from years past no longer mattered. She’d been forgiven and when she grasped my hand and smiled as I kissed her cheek and caressed her head, I realized that I too had been forgiven. But, I left that night with regrets.
I replayed my prior visits in my mind on the drive back to Little Rock. I hated seeing her like that. When dementia was mentioned and the words, “no cure” were attached in succession the first time I’d seen her there, though I went into prayer mode, flight mode was also on my agenda. I refused to see her like that again. Before, I managed a slight smile when she recognized me and stumbled through the words, “My baby” as I entered with my daughter in tow the second time. The doctors mentioned that she would not be able to do that then. My prayer was working.
But Look at her now!
The state she was in Sunday brought the guilt of my absence on me like an avalanche. I couldn’t breathe and felt like I didn’t deserve even that simple luxury because that too had been taken for granted as my eyes drifted from my mother and landed on some pulmonary contraption I could not id.
I was in denial for years and honestly had already assumed that the moment I’d entered the facility I too would have been crucified for not showing up sooner and more often. I was right.
Only, I had been the one wielding the hammer and positioning the nails. I had been the one guilty and the one administering the sentence.
- I alone condemned myself.
- I believed that my brother and my cousins thought worse of me because I’d neglected the one who gave birth to me.
- I believed that my children wouldn’t accept my distance as a suitable means of maintaining my own sanity.
- I believed that I deserved to be where my mother was.
- I believed that I hadn’t been the daughter I could have been.
- I believed that I’d made too many mistakes.
- I believed that I didn’t deserve forgiveness.
Yes, people, I believed all of these and any number of other negative insinuations that could be drawn from the circumstances, but when I woke up the next day, God reminded me that it really didn’t matter.
…Not what I believed about myself, about my mother, about what others thought….What mattered is my now…that I was able to see her smile…that she acknowledged my presence. That God had forgiven us both. I was reminded that Christ Resurrection was about so much more than I’d thought. That just as my heart hurt with my mother as she lay there helpless and crying out, Christ looked at me with that same attention to detail and unconditional love. That just as I longed to change places with her so that she would not have to suffer despite what she’d done or not done, Christ had actually done that for me.
So yes, I’m late in the game and I can’t do a thing about the things that have occurred in my past between my mother, my brother, and even friends that I’ve banned from my box. I can, however, decide to change the things in my future. If nothing else, this weekend’s trip has taught me that it’s never too late to resurrect the relationships that matter.