Mother Theresa once said,
God does not command that we do great things. Only little things with great love.
It has been just over a month since my mother died and I am still processing it. Many friends and acquaintances have asked about my feelings: “How are you?” or “I can’t imagine how Christmas was?” Most times I felt their love and concern and responded accordingly, “I am well, thanks. I had a lovely Christmas.”
It’s the second sentence that usually stops them in their tracks, or at least raises an eyebrow. As a society we make a lot of presumptions about death and dying – we judge and scrutinize how others act and react to circumstances and events. But especially about death.
We presume that people will grieve through the holidays after a death in the family and that the family celebrations will be subdued and low-keyed.
I have learned from caring for both parents who had Alzheimer’s disease that grief comes in many forms and stages, and I have written about it in previous blogs and in my free ebook The Gifts That We Share – Caring For My Parents With Alzheimer’s, and one thing that I do know is that when we care for someone who has Alzheimer’s or another dementia-related disease grief accompanies us from the day of the diagnosis to the end of that person’s life. The experts call it anticipatory grief.
I have grieved for many years on the loss of my mother as I knew her (and for my father as I knew him when he began to exhibit signs of dementia so many years ago) long before the day that she died in our arms.
So when I shed tears today my tears are for my loss, not hers. It was her time to leave and I know this because of one true and real thing – she died. It was her time because it was the time.
For some time now I have learned that impermanence is the only constant in life…there is nothing of permanence in life, except for Universal Love. Everything, and I mean things, people, our surroundings, nature, and the moments…the days that we enjoy…everything, every little thing is impermanent.
When we acknowledge this, we begin to really live…to live in joy and gratitude for what we do have – at this very moment.
So I did enjoy Christmas. My family gathered in our home and we played our usual secret Santa gift exchange (we have not exchanged gifts for three or four years now; instead we each give to a charity of our own choice); we enjoyed the traditional turkey dinner with vegetable lasagna and lots of roasted vegetables (my daughter-in-law is a vegetarian); and we had lots of twinkle lights and red berry garlands strung throughout the dining room so that the room glowed. After dinner we all played games, games that we have played since my parents introduced them to us when we were children – Charades and Horse Races, just to name two. (Don’t ask.) Simple, yes! Subdued, no!
Mostly we were mindful of the moments gathered together as family. We were grateful for the wonderful times that we were blessed to experience in the past, but we were aware of the future, also. My son and his wife moved into their first new home the week after my mother died and my husband and I spent days helping them transition into their new home. As parents, we basked in their joy and excitement of the new house – and we were so grateful for that.
So when I am asked how am I doing, I answer with gratitude: “I am well.”
Mindfulness leads to gratitude. We cannot practise being in the Now without it leading us to peace, contentment, acceptance…and gratitude.
Mother Theresa once said,
God does not ask that we do great things. Only that we do all things with great love.
When we practise mindfulness, we practise great love. The daily practice leads to acceptance of the moment that we are in. There is no place for competition in the moment. The moment is just as it unfolds; there is no better moment or my moment is better than your moment. Mindfulness unites us; it does not separate us.
In mindfulness, we learn to slow down, be still and pay attention. Once we begin to pay attention, we begin to savour the moment. Everything around us becomes extraordinary when we give it awareness or attention. The ordinary bare tree branch becomes a work of art once we recognize the icy crystals that have formed on a wintry day; the ordinary house sparrow becomes amusing when we observe closely its twitches and herky-jerk movements. We notice that the humble bird is never still.
It is mindfulness that teaches the artist how to see and take the mundane to beauty.
Walt Whitman said that “to me, every cubic inch of space is a miracle” and I ditto that, Mr. Whitman!
When we appreciate and see the miracles that surround us, we begin to see that our lives are full of things, people, nature, and moments that are...gifts.
So, although I am still processing in my head (and in my writing…that’s how I process stuff) the fact that my mother is no longer here on Earth (to support me, inspire me, and to love me) I am still aware of all of the gifts that I shared with her and with the gifts that surround me. It is in those gifts that I find her.
I’m still open; I’m still curious. I will settle into my new normal and I wait to see what that will ensue. How will my life unfold, after Gwen (mom)? I have faith that I am safe (for that alone, I am grateful) and that as Louise Hay often writes, “I am well.”
What is the intent of my blog now that my mother is gone? My intent is the same as it was when I began this journey of blogging on Alzheimer’s disease, other dementia-related diseases, and caring for parents with Alzheimer’s. My intent was, and will continue to be, to help those who are struggling with the challenges of care giving or Alzheimer’s and support them on their journey – to support them in their acceptance of the disease and encourage them to honour their own bodies, minds, and spirits. And to remind them to just love.
As I volunteer in the long-term care facility where my mother resided and I interact with those who reside there, I hope to blog on my thoughts and reflections of life in their world – one not so different from our world on the outside. Because this I have learned – we are all the same. We all want meaning in our lives, and we want to know that we matter.
I am also hoping to blog on a new project that I want to initiate in the long-term care facility – one that is close to my heart: a writing project that involves recording the stories of the residents (with some help from their families). Once the stories are recorded, I hope to write them down because I believe that these stories of their lives will inspire all of us.
Because just as ordinary moments become extraordinary when we pay attention, so too, ordinary people with ordinary stories become extraordinary when we pay attention to them. Under a spotlight, I think we will see them shine!
Our awareness transforms every little thing – including people’s energy. This awareness is how we do all things with great love.
Great love…another gift that we share.