My Mother Is in Hospice

On a normal morning, my regular practice made sense. Stretches and meditation were part of a comfortable routine. The world seemed stable, perhaps hinting that small corners of life were controllable.

But since mom fell, nothing has been normal.

For the past month, my days have turned upside down. My mother, 86, has not recovered well from her broken hip and pneumonia. Despite steroids, antibiotics, and respiratory treatments, the infections worsened, her lungs filled with fluid, and her breathing capacity eroded to a shallow spot at the top of her chest.

The fall and the hip surgery were traumatic; the struggle with pneumonia has been tortuous; and now the decision to enter hospice has been a gut-punch, hitting my father the hardest as he watches his sweetheart of 70 years slowly recede. This family emergency has me flailing to find a handhold.

I am worried about my mom’s comfort and her peace of mind. I am worried about my father and the coming devastation he is beginning to feel. I am worried about my children, who have never lost someone this close. And somewhere deeper down, I am worried about my own grief, sitting like an anchor, stuck, not wanting to move.

When I have a spare minute, I try to sit in meditation, but it is difficult. All my worries tumble together like marbles in a can, rattling between my ears. I have no desire to journal. Prayer seems distant, like a poem I memorized in grade school but can’t quite remember how it goes.

My spiritual practice has always been a place where I can center myself, but the last few weeks have made thoughts of “centering” a sick joke; I can’t find the center in this windstorm. I know there will be a return to “normal” someday, but normal is not possible now.

So, I try to manage the last thing I can – where I place my attention. For now, I am focusing on my heart and seeing what happens there, a practice of heart-centered awareness. As I do, my perception begins to shift. My heart feels like a deep well with many layers that I cycle through. I notice things I was closed to before.

  • Where previously, I had focused on the specifics of her care, now I notice the tenderness of the nurses and technicians who are attending to mom, how they gently touch her or speak her name;

  • I notice an upwelling of thankfulness pouring from me. To the staff, of course, for their care and compassion, but I also feel a larger gratitude for life itself, for the opportunity to have known and be mothered by this wonderous, generous woman;

  • I notice am less easily irritated by small things. I want everyone to have the sensation of expanding gratitude I am experiencing.

  • I notice I am afraid to feel the pain that is here, to grieve for this beautiful person who has always put the needs of others before her own;

  • I notice how difficult it is to stay in my heart, that I look for any distraction to leave;

  • And, I notice a softness in my heart that is beginning to grow, a place of surrender, an invitation to open to my fears, looming like monsters in front of me.

The last one surprises me. I am being led to a place where I can let go of my need for control. As I start to loosen, muscles I didn’t know I had start to relax. My outer shell cracks and what needs to flow starts to flow. Up ahead, I sense a spot where I might find a center, a place to stand, or at least be present, even as the floor gives way.

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

4 Replies to “My Mother Is in Hospice”

  1. Steve, Chances are that I won’t get to meet your Mother but I can’t help but think that she played a big part in clearing a path for you to become a loving person. As a recipient of that always present love throughout this year, please thank her for me for all that she has poured into you because a great measure of it keeps running over and into my spiritual cup as well.

    Your friend and SQ21 mentee,

  2. My father is also on hospice and has been so since September. He’s 95, can’t walk and has lost a lot of his memories of the past. I was there yesterday. He’s at home with a full time caregiver but now sleeps about 22 hours a day in both his bed and his recliner. This time , for the first time, he let me know he wasn’t doing great – he’s always kind of faked being fine up until yesterday. I suspect it won’t be long now , though who knows.

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