November 26, 2003
Michele’s mom is obviously aging quickly now. We saw her last in February and she seemed vital and capable then. Spending time with her yesterday afternoon and evening was difficult as her health has suffered in just 9 months.
For some time now she has complained about difficulty breathing, she wants to place the blame on her apartment. But we have suspected that she is starting to suffer from emphysema. Watching her pant and blow yesterday just trying to eat dinner we had that fear confirmed.
Knowing that she is now eighty years old we can intellectually reason what is happening to her. Seeing her health in person is emotionally and spiritually draining. My mother-in-law is a fiercely independent woman who asks for no quarter and expects none in return. She has lived through extremes of hardship and poverty that I can only imagine, and would never be able to survive myself. She gracefully turns down offers to assist or help, leaving us feeling even more helpless.
Some would have us take away her independence and force a solution upon her in order to make us feel better. Neither Michele or I are willing to take away her rights as a human being in order to salve our wounds or hurts over her choices. So we visit and offer support and love, keeping our deepest fears to our own council.
Our thoughts about the purpose of this trip have shifted away from trying to have a Normal Rockwell Thanksgiving with all the trimmings towards spending time with Virginia. We want to let her know that she cannot do any wrong here, and that we support her totally in any decision she makes about her life. We will step up to the task by taking care of ourselves, saying what we feel without expecting her to change.
A relationship is a responsibility, not just to the other but to yourself. Only by being open and honest in all things, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual, can we have a truly meaningful connection. Part of that responsibility is recognizing when you are wanting to control the other person to assuage your feelings. Michele and I are very fortunate that in each other, we have a safe, secure place to say all the things that need to be said in order to take care of our feelings of loss and pain over Virginia’s remaining time here with us. Only by doing that can we be truly supportive and respectful of her and her wishes.
And if we don’t respect her and her wishes how can we expect our family and friends to be respectful of ours when it is our time to leave this mortal coil?