Don’t let someone you love down – be there, as they won’t be there forever.
Today is the day.
Today I must learn how to live without my mother in my life and right now, in this moment I have no idea where to find the strength to do so. Losing someone you love is always hard; I know that. I have lost people I have loved dearly but this…this is different. I already recognise the differences in me, my mood and my outlook. I am lost.
I had plenty of warning – I knew this was going to happen yet somehow, I pushed the reality aside to deal with it ‘in the moment’ rather than let myself mourn her impending death. So now I am left shattered, broken and sad as everything from the last few years comes to a grinding halt. The rushing, the worry and the battle to keep mum healthy and I lost; we lost.
In March, mum went into hospital for the last time from home. It was a day I remember well as my kids were breaking up for Easter holidays and I was looking forward to the break. It only ever takes one phone call and in an instant, you are catapulted into hell. It was bad, bad enough to warrant thinking the worst. In the days that followed, mum went through horror – some days she didn’t know what was going on, she suffered psychosis, hallucinations and fear. If we left her side for a minute she would flip out and then on the other days she didn’t realise who we were before constantly latching to one word and repeating it over and over and over again. Then she got a little better but not without its problems, she was a nervous wreck. Having fought for her life so many times at this stage she was a fractured lady. That day I begged her not to give up fighting; I begged her to stay but with her current state of mental health it was hard to know how much she understood. Days and weeks followed in a horrible rollercoaster of ups and downs with another infection attacking her before she went back to hallucinations and battled to come back to us.
The funny thing is you always think you have seen the worst because you think it is the worst thing ever, but I have learnt that everything can get worse in time. Soon, she couldn’t breathe on her own and she lay in the bed with tears streaming down her face but mute. She withdrew, and you could sit beside her for hours without her uttering a single word to you. We begged her to eat but she couldn’t, and she developed a dependency on the breathing machine leaving her helpless and it was then her medical team told us we didn’t have long – that was 5 weeks before she died.
We never told her, we decided that her anxiety and fear would become worse if we did so we told her she was terribly sick but never that she was leaving us. We hoped she could get better. Without eating, she didn’t have long and because of her spinal disease that left her paralysed she was not a candidate for a food tube. In the weeks before her death she did start to chat and had her good and bad days. She relied upon the machine for breathing, she couldn’t eat and drank very little. Her pain was extensive, and it will haunt me for the rest of my life watching her wince in pain, and weep silently. Mum couldn’t be alone, and she was only left at night time, before that we did shifts of hours on end to ensure she had someone right next to her always. As I clocked up many hours in the hospital every single day – along with trying to freelance – I began to fall apart. In the last few weeks I have questioned my own mental health and have hit that brick wall many a time. Only last week I went to Dublin for work, but I had half an hour to sit and read; I felt human again. I feel guilty for that as now she is gone, and I’d do anything to go back to running up to the hospital again.
The night before mum died I did the ‘late shift’ and we had the best conversation – one that I will share with everyone one day. I tucked her in like I always did – she was freezing all the time, needing ten blankets. I massaged her paws (I called them that to make her laugh), I lay beside her watching her sleep and before I left I woke her to say good night. I told her to “stay out of trouble” – a common joke as I hit my fist into the palm of my hand. She promised she would and I gave the woman I love the last gentle kiss followed by a big cuddle into her. She said, “That’s lovely and I love you loads, I’ll stay out of trouble.” By the next morning she had fallen asleep and she wouldn’t wake again. My mum had hours to live and sadly, she died later that afternoon.
Now, days later it is finally hitting me. Today I should be in the hospital, I should be filing her nails, cleansing her face and rubbing her hands. I know she suffered and her pain is finally gone but behind her she leaves people who loved her. I miss her already and she had it so tough for so long rarely spending more than 3 months at home in a year, for the last few years. I don’t know how to begin to be normal when hospital visits and minding her were part of my being. I guess time will heal me and my family. For now, I am going to let myself grieve and mourn while putting myself first – just for a little while anyway.
If you love someone don’t ever walk away unless they know how much you love them. I take comfort in knowing she knew how much she meant to me. I didn’t have to say things to her, I showed her by being there and that’s all sick people need. Don’t let someone you love down – be there, as they won’t be there forever.
I’ll make you proud mum and I love you but then you know that already.
About Emma Hayes: Emma is a member of our freelance team and her writing can be found over on https://www.facebook.com/emmasjots/
~Originally published in Heartfulness Magazine (USA) and in the French edition here: Le pouvoir de la paix
CAROL TALLON speaks of epic journeys, spiritual awakenings, the dark night of the soul and the healing power of love.
People talk of epic journeys starting with a single step, but I’m not too sure about this. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that the most epic of journeys is rarely planned. Rather, it evolves over weeks, months, years and decades. Perhaps even over the course of a lifetime. Apple founder Steve Jobs said it best when he described life as a ‘join the dots’ exercise. The journey and the course that it takes is obvious in retrospect, but when you are standing amidst the dotty chaos that is life, you must trust that as you jump, skip or struggle from dot to dot, they will indeed connect in a meaningful way at the end. It all comes down to trust.
But trust is a funny concept. We trust organizations more than the people within them; think banks and bankers. We trust brands more than the products that carry their mark; think Coca Cola and Coke. We trust advisers and counselors we appoint more than ourselves. Why do you think that is?
Trust in a higher power – God, Spirit, the Universe – is inevitably given too easily or not at all. This is probably true for the trust and faith we place in ourselves. We place it too easily or not at all. What would it be like to be able to fully trust ourselves, the world around us and our place within it? No self doubts or imposter syndrome. What would that even look like?
I have no insight greater than yours, but I believe that it would look like peace; personal peace. And if such trust caught on in this viral age, how far could this personal peace expand? To our families perhaps, to our communities, throughout our country or maybe even globally. Is this too simplistic? Perhaps, perhaps not. But I am reminded of the icon who is Malala, and I am reminded of the power of one.
Power. How comfortable are you reading that word? Power. What does it mean to you? What does the word trigger in your mind – corruption, wealth, evil or good? I have learnt to accept power as that internal spark that ignites from my spirit whenever I take the action I am guided to take. When this power kicks in, I can feel it as a palpable, chest-expanding explosion that makes my entire body tingle until my fingers feel like they are shaking. The physical feeling and energy is so strong that I feel sparks coming from my fingertips, like I could start a fire by touch alone.
Twice in my adult life I forgot my own power. I now understand and accept that it is easily done. I believe that we are all born shining, but the challenges of life wear us down and make us forget our innate, personal power. Life can dull our light, and when that happens it can be difficult to see clearly. We need the light. The world needs my light and it needs yours. Part of our role in this lifetime must surely be to nurture our inner light and to keep that internal spark from going out altogether.
The first time it happened, my life went into a state of triage with lots of people interfering, trying to help. Talking about me, never to me. Problems that were not urgent were ignored; urgent problems were attended to but nothing was healed. How could it have been? Frustratingly, nothing was learned. This crisis brought my life crashing down around me, but I resisted change and healing and help that was offered. By struggling to hold firm to my broken life, I denied myself the opportunity of a new, simpler, better life. Gone was all that beautiful potential for learning lessons and releasing destruction patterns. I got back up and limped through another few years. It was almost a decade before the opportunity came around again.
The second time, like before, did not feel like an opportunity. It felt like my world collapsing again, only this time I did not have enough strength left to even try to cling on. I was tired, my soul felt achy with tiredness. I felt broken. There are so many way to describe this time; it was more than a bad patch, this was rock bottom. I was living through my dark night of the soul.
“It reminded me that not
every awakening is gentle.
By surrendering to any help
or consolation on offer,
I experienced love.”
For the first time, I knew that there was simply no fight left in me. And that was to be my saving grace. The value of rock bottom is that there is nowhere left to fall. Therefore, there was no mask to be maintained, no denial, no running away from reality. Nowhere is more real than rock bottom and that very certainty, at a time of swirling uncertainty, became my savior. Adversity can be a powerful launch pad. Gone is the pride that refuses help, gone is the fear of failing, gone is the ego-protecting, face-saving nonsense of which I was particularly adept. It was all gone. And in its place, most unexpectedly, I found a kind of peace. But it was peace by explosion. It reminded me that not every awakening is gentle. By surrendering to any help or consolation on offer, I experienced love. I understood the importance of compassion, for myself and for others. Through these months came clarity, and that changed everything.
We may know that forgiveness, compassion, empathy and love are the way to release negative thoughts and feelings of blame, guilt or victimhood that hold us back. But sometimes that doesn’t come easily. It can be difficult to imagine or visualize sending waves of love to people when the feeling is not real. What I have learned on my journey so far is that it all begins with love.
With love, all healing can happen, as compassion is merely a by-product or symptom of that love. And with compassion, blame fades. Without blame, the need for forgiveness simply floats away. I wish I could pinpoint the moment I started to feel love on my journey. Within a day or two of it happening I had the strongest sensation of light-headedness, and explosive happiness, and peacefulness and something that I can only describe as a chest-expanding wave. None of these were familiar feelings in the six months prior, so I knew that change was in the offing.
While I was surprised, I should not have been. This is what I had asked for, what I had sought and what I had meditated for. Why are we surprised when we get what we ask for? So while I learn, if I can teach anything, let it be love. Love first yourself, and everyone else, then everything else will follow.