Matters of Importance

With Mother’s Day just around the corner I’d like to dedicate this blog to my mom who is loved and missed more than I can ever express.  Mom, “I love you forever, I love you for always…”

If you’ve ever been faced with a life-threatening or life-changing injury, illness or diagnosis then you know. If you’ve known or loved or lost someone from one of these then you have a pretty good idea.  The answers to almost every question changes. What becomes important and what is trivial? Do you choose to live now, enjoy and appreciate, find gratitude and joy in the little things? Does it matter at that moment if you’re driving a Ford or a Porsche? Does the color of your hair matter as much as the colors of the rainbow? Is it important that you are a few pounds heavier than you’d like to be, or does the weight you carry on your shoulders matter more? Is it of great importance that someone you love has a different taste in music, or is it more important that you’ve kept your music inside you? Does is matter if your hair isn’t perfectly in place or that you haven’t let down your hair to let the wind blow through it? Do the things you own make your life better or does the love of family and friends seem greater? Does it matter if your house is impeccably clean or is it more important that it is filled with love and gratitude? Does it seem worth hanging on to anger or does letting go and forgiving seem the better choice? The things that are important seem so much more obvious when we are facing life changing situations.

Mom was diagnosed with cancer in February 1995 and lived until October of the same year. After the initial shock and disbelief she let go of all the burdens and anger she’d held onto and fought to survive, but not with the fight of a bull. It was a quiet, gentle, silent fight of a lamb; a strong will to see her grandchildren grow up, but also to hold the little ones who were still babies. She never asked for a miracle. In her mind that miracle belonged to someone else. She appreciated the little things in life; her garden which lay just beyond her wall of windows, beautiful music that played in her home, family and friends who visited regularly, and a slow walk in the park alongside the lake. She said it didn’t matter what you did or said as long as it made someone else feel good. She would tell us the things that really mattered people would remember in fifty years. I was at her home once when my aunt was visiting. Aunt Karen was a cancer survivor so she knew what I did not. I was trying to clean the house while they visited and frantically attempting to get other “necessary” things done. Aunt Karen said to come sit down and visit. When I told her to enjoy her visit with Mom while I got these other things done she said, “Pam, you don’t understand. Those things don’t matter. Once you’ve faced death and seen the other side you discover what’s important and what isn’t. What you’re doing is not important. Come visit with us.”

There was so much I didn’t understand about living when you’re dying (and aren’t we all if you think about it?). This was the first time I had become aware of angels; angels sent from above and angels on earth. So many situations presented themselves that could not be interpreted as anything other than a divine presence. During my mother’s final days on earth we gathered as a family in our parent’s home, each of us coming and going through the room she occupied. Hospice sent nurses and caregivers regularly who would help care for her and guide us, her family, through these days. They left pamphlets and reading material that would answer any questions we may have about the “the stages of death” or as her doctor so beautifully put it, “another stage of life”. One of the things that grabbed my attention was a single sentence stating, it is not uncommon to see a dying person calling or reaching out to a deceased family member. We were told to basically humor her and “play along” rather than deny it happened. I can’t buy into the idea that if this happens to enough dying people to be put into their literature that we would “play along” and not believe they were actually speaking to someone on the other side.  My mom’s mother died when Mom was just nine years old. I sat nearby my mom just a few days before she died and she suddenly began talking to her own mother. She called out, “Mommy” in the sweetest little girl’s voice I’d ever heard. Her mother was there. My mom saw her, embraced her, spoke to her and was filled with a child-like joy. One of her very own angels had come to be with her and help her cross over.

We had her bed in the family room of the home facing the outdoors. The back of the house was all windows and overlooked her garden and beautiful yard which she took such loving care of for so many years. The yard had an abundance of large trees, among them a towering old oak. Each of us noticed and finally began asking the others if they saw a bright white and golden light shimmering in that tree. We knew it was an angel watching over her. It was shining brilliantly and remained there until she finally joined the angel and was guided home to the light just a few hours later.

For those who examine their own lives and spend countless hours thinking about what is really important, I challenge you to think again. Does it really take that long to figure out? Most people who have faced death head on, and survived, return with a new appreciation. The messages we hear repeatedly from these folks is how easy it is to feel love, gratitude, and joy. They find the importance of kind words and thoughts, letting down your hair a little, taking chances, enjoying beauty, giving and forgiving, and listening rather than speaking. They don’t find it difficult to believe in miracles and angels on earth and they trust the great mystery of the divine. Let them be our greatest teachers.

“Ever desireless, one can see the mystery; ever desiring, one sees only the manifestations. And the mystery itself is the doorway to all understanding.” ~from The Tao Te Ching

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5 Responses

  1. Beautifully written and deeply embedded with meaning and passion…happy mother’s day!

  2. I’m sitting and crying at Starbucks. This whole entry resounded with me, but certain pieces resounded even more strongly. Mention of gardens, trying to hold on for grandchildren, and angels all recall some of my last days with my mom.

    I have a hard time flying these days, so I went to my NP for some medicine to help me get on the plane to say that goodbye. My NP–who’s moved on to another clinic, sadly for me–looked at pictures and asked me about happy memories of my mom. She put her hand on my knee and said, “Sweetheart, I don’t know what you believe, but I worked in hospice for decades. Not a single person cowered or cried out in fear. Every single one’s face lit up as they reached for love.”

    I had to leave a few days for my mom died, to give her the freedom to let go, but I remember the people stopping by and all the little bits of peace they left in their wake. One transaction in particular remains in my mind and heart, filling me with love in moments where all I remember is the sorrow of knowing the sands of my mom’s life were soon to stop falling.

    And I remember my mom, unable to talk but comforting me when she had–unbeknownst to us– only a week left to live. I remember my sisters talking about a harp player coming in, and my mom’s face losing all of its worry and pain as the music played on. My sister texted me that she fled the room in tears, knowing our mom’s end was near. And it was. Just a couple of hours later, I got the text message: “She is finally at peace . . .”

    This has turned into a rather longer entry than I remembered, but . . . that’s a testament, I think, to the power of your words. I struggled so much the first year–only just completed!–but remembering those pieces of joy and that light have helped. I didn’t even run that marathon with my sister and her husband, but somehow it was so cathartic . . . allowing us to focus on the light, for there was so much of it.

    That is what is important. Not the little stuff we get sidetracked by but the loving connections that sustain us.

    Just beautiful.

    • Deborah, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here. I am still so touched by the fact that you’ve chosen to always focus on the light. It’s a good lesson for all of us. You’ve said it all here so beautifully. Can you leave another response here directing people to your blog? Loving connections most definitely sustain us!

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