I went to see my mother for Mother's Day on Sunday. This was a Very Big Deal, and not just because she lives 2 1/2+ hours away and it means a full day of 5-6 hours of driving round trip. My mother and I have an extremely complicated relationship - one that I have worked very hard to understand and deal with for the past few years. Which I'm glad I did, because her health is not doing well. It is not doing well at all.
My mother is dying of cancer.
This is difficult under any circumstance. I am trying to process so many complex feelings, and I have just been a jumble of emotions for the past 2 days. I burst in to tears at the drop of a hat. I think the hardest thing in all of this is that I did not have a rosy relationship with my mother, so I am mourning the dream of what I wish our relationship had been. I had no idea on my wedding day if she would show up or not. We have gone extended periods without talking, some at her instigation, some at mine. I forgave her long ago, and understand that she did the absolute best that she could given her circumstances. I know deep down she loves me. And I love her. After all, she's my mother. She gave me life. And now she's losing hers.
My mother tends to exaggerate everything and blow it out of proportion, which has made it extremely difficult throughout her illness to determine the truth from the embellishments. And I think what shook me up the most on Sunday was that her bravado was stripped away, leaving in it's place a scared woman confronting the reality that the end was near.
She was diagnosed with cancer many years ago, and has defied the odds and the doctors' predictions time and time again. This has taken a toll on her...it is exhausting for anyone to deal with the specter of death hanging over their head for so long. I asked her on Sunday how she felt about dying, which was one of the most difficult questions I have ever had to ask. She said, "I just wish it would happen already. I'm tired."
I believe the saddest thing in all of this is that my mother spent the last 15 years "dying." Even when she was in (much) better health, she lived like a dying woman. It makes me sad that she missed so many good years, and so much happiness, and so many good things.
And in the end, I think that this may be one of the most loving things that my mother has given me. I thought she was teaching me how to die. But my dear friend L. pointed out that in this, the final months of her life...she is teaching me how to live.