I am still enjoying the warm glow of time with my family and friends during Christmas and New Year's. It was a special time. Though I do keep coming back to conversations I had with friends and acquaintances on Christmas and New Year's Day. Each conversation started the same, we talked of the holiday, of the past year, and kids or grandkids but eventually, we came to what was weighing most on the hearts of my friends. Their aging parent.
One friend's mother is physically healthy but her mind, the essence of who she is, is disappearing. They were forced to put her in a locked down facility because she kept wandering away from her Assisted Living home. Fortunately, strangers would find her and kindly bring her back. They are grateful and choose not to think of the multiple "what if" scenarios that could have befallen their mother. My friends have taken over their mother's finances and are making the hard decisions required to acquire the money to pay for her new living arrangement. This period of their life is stressful and at times painful.
Another friend is struggling with his strong willed mother. It has become obvious to everyone that knows her that she can not longer live alone but she clings to staying in her house. The panic phone calls from neighbors come regularly to my friend and he is trying to transition from son to...father-son, caregiver or power-of-attorney. He is still trying to find a solution that won't necessitate change on his mother's part and allow her to remain in control of her life's decisions.
I want so much to bring comfort and peace to my friends. I have walked in their shoes and I know first hand the pain, the frustration, the fear and the sadness they are experiencing. My vision for this blog was one of a traveler or travelers on a trail who would share insights about the journey that would make it easier for those who were to follow. But sadly I am afraid the lessons I have learned won't bring much peace to my friends during this time in their life.
How do you tell a friend that what they are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg and that today is the healthiest your parent is ever going to be again? Or how the phrase "this too will pass" keeps coming to mind but what will pass is the ailing parent. Even the positive feels unfair and negative at this point in the journey. I could tell my friends one day the panic calls will stop, you will no longer be called upon to make decisions for the ones who raised you and the anxiety of making the "right decision" will go away. One day your mind and heart will be lighter but that day is weeks or months after the funeral you planned for you last surviving parent. I have written before about embracing the seasons of your life but this period is just plain hard. So while it feels inadequate, I will do what I can for my friends, listen and pray.
I know this is pretty heady stuff for the first Monday after New Year's but it is what is on my heart.