It started out simply enough. Dinner with the kids and grands at a local waterfront eatery, lots of laughing, joking around—fun! Then came a restroom run…
A woman was there with her elderly mother. Mom was disoriented. Daughter was worried and exhausted, and the flashback came immediately and without warning. Suddenly I no longer stood before a sink, watching the daughter tell her mom to stay right where she was and then step into a stall. Suddenly I was back in the hospital with my patient mother and in the same worried and exhausted state I’d been in then, with one difference. Then, I was mentally, physically and emotionally drained. Now I was an objective observer, but acutely aware of the emotions of both women.
The daughter’s state was processed immediately; I’d lived it for a grueling six months. But the mother’s perspective was vivid and clear to me now in a way it had not been then. Weary of my limitations, fearful of being “too” much trouble and being put away in a home to wait for death. Angry at my body for betraying me by not doing the mindless tasks that once had been so simple they required no thought. And fear. Fear of being a burden to those I love, fear of having lived too long. Missing my deceased husband, my dead children, my youth…
The emotions tumbled one over the other through me—grateful for everything, for nothing. For just being, and feeling selfish for that gratitude because it meant she lacked the freedom to just live her life. Confusion and an overwhelming sense of no value, of not having spent my life wisely, being a better person, of wondering what I wouldn’t be able to do tomorrow or even later today. All evident in her expression—the soul truly is seen in the depths of the eyes.
And then her daughter walked out, smiled and asked her mom if she was okay. Tears welled in the woman’s eyes and she blinked hard, smiled brightly and said she was fine. The daughter looked relieved. The mother did, too.
I was enlightened.
It’s been a decade since my mother passed away, and during her lengthy illness, I knew she’d had many of these feelings; we talked about them. I’ve always been perplexed by her death. She’d been released from the hospital and moved to a facility to regain strength, after which she’d be ready to go home. Only she died instead and there’s never been a totally logical explanation. At least, there hadn’t been until now. Until I saw all I did in that stranger’s eyes. She wasn’t depressed; she still laughed easily and often. But fighting the weakness, the limitations, the loss of so many she loved . . . she was ready.
I thought on this for days and applied the insight to other people. Even to my beloved Weimer, Alex. She instinctively knew when she was injured not to walk up the steps. She instinctively knew when she was too old to go up them anymore, to jump up on the unforbidden—hubby’s recliner—which she’d done her entire life. When she was ready, she changed a lifetime daily habit. Rather than going to bed that night in her bed beside mine, she went into a different bedroom alone—my mother’s room, and lay on the floor at the foot of her bed. Nothing could coax her into her own bed, which was far more comfortable.
Realizing that brought to mind sitting at my dying father’s bedside, willing him to live. When I reached for his hand, he gently whispered, “Don’t touch me, Tiger.” I hadn’t understood that, then. But he too was ready and detaching from those things here that made him want to linger. He was ready.
And all three, parents and pet, understood instinctively that to each thing there really is a season—and when it is coming to a natural end, one knows. They’d fought the good fight, during fighting season, but when it had passed, they all just stopped breathing, just let go. No fear, no anger, only peace.
They knew instinctively. But entrenched in life, it took me ten years to discover answers to lingering questions and to gain this unexpected insight.
That it came from a simple trip to the restroom proves that everywhere, as well as everything, is fodder.
© 2007, Vicki Hinze