I’ve been MIA due to a family issue. My 95-year-old Mom is now receiving hospice care and I was able to spend 10 meaningful days with her in Southern California. We were able to say the things we need to say to those we love to one another. Though she has been in the throes of dementia for a number of years, God gifted us with moments of very lucid sharing.
After ten days, I needed to return home, but left with a sense of peace that, whatever happens next, it will be as God wills. The day after I left, Mom decided it was not quite time to die and asked for a Big Mac and French Fries! Now she seems to be back to where she was before I flew down to be with her.
When I worked as a hospice nurse, I often had time to help family members say those precious things that help both the person moving on and the one left behind to deal with the reality of life. I’d like to share them with you.
- I forgive you.
- Please forgive me.
- Thank you for being a part of my life.
- It’s okay to go.
- I love you.
Of course, it’s always good and wise to say those words (and mean them) long before death is at the door, but it is a great comfort to do so when a loved one is actively dying, if possible. In reality, this opportunity is not always offered to us. People die suddenly. People refuse to allow another person back into their lives after a lifetime of animosity. Sometimes, a person cannot feel what they are saying if there has been a history of abuse or ill-feelings, but that doesn’t mean we can’t WILL to forgive or love.
What if you don’t have the chance to say those words? One healing way I’ve seen put into action is to write a letter to the deceased loved one. Go ahead, and put it all out there. Be specific about that forgiveness thing, looking at both side of the equation.
I’ll end with a short anecdote. The religious order I was a part of cared for the elderly and when a patient was dying, we watched and prayed with them 24/7, sharing 3 hour shifts in the middle of the night. It could be quite a challenge, especially if a person took their time letting go.
One time, a woman seemed to hang on forever. Her daughter came by off and on during the day. Because the lady appeared comatose, the younger woman just sat with her. After a week or so I asked the daughter to step outside for a moment. I asked her if there was any unfinished business between her and her mother. The woman took a deep breath, sighed and admitted that her mother had been abusive to her throughout her life. I asked if she had ever been able to tell her that she forgave her. Her eyes filled with tears and she just shook her head. I explained that, even though her mother was unconscious, the sense of hearing often remained with a person and suggested she go in the room and say what she needed to say, as best she could. She hugged me and went into the room alone. What was said, I have no idea, but moments later she called me back in and we watched as her mother, seemingly peaceful, let go.
This is not what I expected to write about when I logged into my dashboard, but who am I to question? Here is the quote I chose to reflect on. We can’t be afraid to journey with another at the end of life. God will be with us.
Note: I wrote this post at the beginning of the month and didn’t realize I had left it in draft form. I believe the message is still meaningful, so here it is. My mother is still holding her own. The process of letting go is as unique as every person.