Last week my mother suffered a mild stroke which left her unable to transfer to and from her wheelchair. After a brief stay at the hospital, she has been admitted to a skilled nursing facility - what we used to refer to as a nursing home. Somehow changing the name didn't change the environment of these places where we can park our aging or sick family members while they recuperate or deteriorate - or worse yet, just wait in a holding pattern in lifeless empty bodies whose souls have already departed. What keeps the body clinging to the earth realm when our souls have moved on?
The sights, sounds and smells of these facilities can be quite unsettling. It's disturbing to hear the shouts and moans of the residents who are disoriented and confused about who and where they are. My first exposure was last September when my mother was there to rehabilitate after a fall. She was coherent then and just needed the physical therapy to bring back her strength so she could return home and manage a minimum of self-care. This time, she's one of the disoriented and confused bed-bound residents and it's a crushing emotional experience to see how fragile and vulnerable she is.
Everything became real watching the extent of my mother's disability. My sister and I were both in tears after signing paperwork where we had to complete the Advance Directive and decide whether, if her condition worsened, we wanted our mother to be fed through a tube or not. Witnessing her condition has made me move into a deeper sense of love for her. It's funny how all the old wounds are quickly forgotten when we fear the loss of a parent. I focus on accepting that she's on her journey and I'm on mine and that we're both held in the loving arms of the Beloved. My gift to her is my care - nurturing, loving support that gives her comfort.