Lenten Meditation by Cathy Tamsberg
On the surface, it was a transformation none of us want to experience. Over a period of several years, our intelligent, organized, active mother became a confused, sedentary woman who lost the ability to use the phone (or even find it) or turn on the television. She frequently needed help finding her way back to her room. It was very hard for all of us to watch and our sadness was profound. Yet the way she journeyed through this painful transformation was Mom’s final gift to us.
I was aware for many years that my mother was the kindest person I knew. But be it the product of this abiding kindness so deeply rooted in her soul or sheer luck because of the area of her brain that was slowly destroyed by dementia, she actually became even more thoughtful and kind as the capable Mom we knew slipped away from us. And even luckier for her family, her sense of humor sharpened. She would often laugh at herself and her own jokes. Even when she no longer understood the funny tales told by others, she would laugh along with everyone else.
One day as I was making conversation with her (which was not an effortless enterprise), she began telling me a story about going out in the car to do an errand related to a responsibility she had at church. Suddenly recognizing that something was wrong with her story, she stopped in mid-sentence, touched her forehead with the heel of her hand and said, “Oh…I don’t have a car!” Next her story wandered from the car trip to some item she was looking for in the garage at home. Again she stopped abruptly, touched her forehead and said, “Oh…I don’t have a garage!” Then Mom looked me directly in the eye with a piercing clarity of mind and heart, and said, “Cathy, that is so freeing.”
We had watched my dad struggle as he gave up his golf game, his driving, his independence and his health. It was really hard for him to loosen his grasp. But Mom demonstrated for us the art of letting go. Somehow she seemed able to hold onto things lightly enough so that when the time came she could open her hand and let them go. Everything but her gracious way of treating others that is. Everything but her sense of humor. The losses were great and I know she must have wrestled internally with what was happening to her mind and body. But however deep her private angst, what she shared with her family and friends in her final years was kindness and laughter and gratitude and love. What she showed us was how to let go. What she gave us was a gracious gift. What she left me was a lifelong prayer that I might be transformed like Mom when my life draws to a close.
During the season of Lent, daily meditations from members of the Pullen community are being posted online. Subscribe by email at www.pullen.org/category/meditation.