Monday, March 10, 2008


In September last year, my mother underwent major surgery to have a malignant tumor removed from her stomach. The surgeon also saw fit to remove her Gall Bladder. My sister and brother in law took my Mom into the hospital the day of her surgery. I went by her apartment building to give her a kiss and hug and wish her good luck before she got into my sister’s car.

My mom will be 85 in July. The person I saw get into my sister’s car was an amazing old lady. She lives alone and as she did in her younger years, still keeps an impeccable home. The vision I had for this stage of my Mom’s life was that she would be one of those amazing women who lived to a ripe old age, self sufficient, self reliant and totally independent.

Just a few months before her surgery, I was driving to her place to go and get her to come spend the afternoon at my house. On the way there I thought to myself that we are so lucky to have a mom who at this age we can still pick up the phone to, tell her we are on the way, and pull up at her building to find her waiting downstairs for us. She lives in a seniors building so there are a considerable number of people with walkers, canes, wheel chairs, etc. I recall so clearly pulling up and seeing my tiny – she is really short – little Mommy, always perfectly turned out, and always greeting me with the joy of seeing me reflected in her smile.

Five days after her surgery, we brought her home to recuperate at my house. To make a long story shorter, I had not anticipated the change this experience was going to create in my Mom’s life. The person that I hugged and kissed goodbye at the car is no longer here. In the space of seven months, my mother has become an old lady. She spends all her time in bed and we have just recently placed a full time care giver to live with her. While she did well in not having to undergo any chemo or radiation therapy, this whole experience, and perhaps the effects of the anesthetic and morphine she was on for five days, basically knocked the life out of her.

Needless to say, all our lives changed drastically without any warning or time to prepare for it. My mom went from being totally independent to totally needy, in a time frame that felt like overnight. She herself is struggling with the harsh reality of her life now because she is an extremely proud woman. She is feeling disgusted in herself, hates the fact that she needs the help we are trying to give her, and her resistance of the whole situation makes it so much harder to deal with than it needs to be.

There have been days where I have just sat and cried. I feel bad and sad for her, I feel sad for myself. My mom has always been my rock. She is the kind of person for whom giving up was never an option. She has always dealt with whatever life has thrown at her and come out on top of every situation. There are some mornings when I can hear in her voice that she is actually quite pissed off that she woke up. Today she is again going for a scan as a new situation has arisen and there is now cause for concern with regard to her liver. I don’t know what these tests will reveal and I refuse to dwell in the possibility of the worst case scenario. Until we know, we don’t know.

I have found myself dwelling on topics that I don’t have answers to. I have found myself angry on some days because her exhaustion with it all has made it look like she is giving up. Selfishly, it feels like she is giving up on me and I don’t know how to deal with it. While I am indeed loved by many, there is no greater love for me than that of my mother’s and it is because of this fact that I find it so hard to think of her giving up on any level. I went through a few weeks of being really angry at her. I hated myself for it. I took out one of my favorite photos of her from when she was in second grade and I placed it on my desk.

I did this to remind myself that although she is my mother, she’d had a mother too. My mother at one time had received a mother’s love the same way that she loves me as her child. It was a reminder to me that my grandmother is looking down on this and I have a responsibility to her, to take care of my mother, her child, the way she would have done. This had a very grounding effect on me and it got me through that anger.

This experience has shown me how absolutely essential it is to make preparations for these years of our lives. When we are old, when we might be sick and when we will need complete and total unconditional love and support from our children. It has shown me how we have a responsibility to our children to make financial arrangements for when we are old. We need to make sure there are plans in place that will see us through the years in our lives when we can no longer take care of ourselves the way we used to. I have also seen that these years come way quicker than we ever might have imagined.

I visited my mom yesterday and when I left, I realized that I was feeling so much better than I have in the last seven months. The lady taking care of her is a gem. People who do this kind of work are angels among us. I asked my mom if she was perhaps feeling better for having the help. I know what a struggle it is for her to admit to this, in spite of how much better things might be for her. Her nature dictates that needing help is a sign of weakness. To my relief and joy, she said to me that now she had tried it, she does see it is better for her. I felt a load lift off my shoulders and a weight off my heart.

My sister sent me this video clip and my niece then sourced this second clip which is a follow up to the first. I strongly urge you to watch these. There are so many people who find themselves in similar situations to that which I have just shared with you about my own family, and what you will see in these clips. I know I found comfort in them, and I expect you will too.

I always look for the blessings in all difficult situations in my life. I really do believe they are there to be had if you are willing to look for them. In this instance, I hope that my mother realizes that the sense of responsibility my sister and I feel towards her is a manifestation of the amazing values she taught us and that it is part of her legacy to enjoy while she is still here. Furthermore, if we best teach our children by example, I know what we are doing is the right thing.

JULY 2007 ~ Celebrating Mom's 84th and Ross' 11th birthday.

PAULINE ~ Circa 1929 ~ Jewish Government School ~ Johannesburg, South Africa