I feel compelled to share the journey of this week in some way. Perhaps in order to speak openly about a condition that is not often discussed publicly or as part of my own catharsis. At this juncture I am not entirely sure. Perhaps both.
A year ago my mum was diagnosed with early onset frontotemporal dementia. This is a shrinkage of the brain that causes, among other things, memory loss, confusion, and a loss of empathy. My past year has been coming to terms with much of what this diagnosis has stirred in me. The reality of impermanence, the fragility of life, being present with heartbreak, loss, to name but a few.
What's made it doubly tricky is that my mum lives abroad and so our communication has largely been limited to awkward, disjointed phone calls and a handful of skype calls. (my mum is something of a technophobe)
This week my mum turns 64 years old and so my brother and I decided to fly her over to see many of her friends and family that, to be honest, she may not get the chance to see again. There has been lots of planning and discussion around her ability to travel and whether it might upset or distress her in some way. Every detail has been taken into consideration and yet we each entered this week with no real idea of how it might go.
Needless to say I have been experiencing a range of emotions and sensations leading up to this visit.
I awoke early Monday morning and immediately felt that my body was braced, quite literally 'holding it together'. There was much angst in my stomach, a tight knot of discomfort. I was acutely aware that each of us was venturing into the unknown.
Upon seeing her I was pleasantly surprised to see her looking well. I embraced her with a certain presence that propelled us into a timeless moment where the mother/son dynamic evaporated. There was just love. Clear, open heart and mind.
I spent much of the first few hours observing her without giving away that I was doing so. In group situations she tends to retreat into her self so while the family members chatted she sat quietly, as did I. I was often wondering what her experience might be. She looked calm and relaxed but I had no way of knowing what her inner landscape might be like. I caught her eye on a couple of occasions and just smiled, ear to ear, This momentarily drew her out of her world into a space where we could connect without a single word. Again opening up into timelessness.
I must take a moment say that I am eternally grateful and lucky to have the support of a very dear friend this week, one who is skilled in dealing with situations such as this. I have looked to her for cues and taken her lead in not correcting or questioning my mum when confusion reins supreme. It's amazing how contagious confusion can be.
Instead we live each moment anew. Open and willing to be with things as they are and not insist on it being any other way. I am asked to meet my mother right where she is, even though where she is seems so foreign to me. I must enter her world, not force her to enter mine and yet, where we meet transcends both of our separate realities.
The amount of skill required and constant seamless presence has really been noticeable. A practice in the truest sense of the word.
Reassuring her without being patronizing. Assisting her in a way that allows her to feel comfortable and at ease and in control. Always allowing her to lead the dance.
That said, much of our communication so far has been silent. We sat together with her in my arms for over an hour this morning. Not a word was exchanged. I just held her. It is quite a turnaround to be the one cradling my mother. The profundity of the moment was powerfully moving and seeped in love.
We also listened to old Jackson 5 and Jose Feliciano Lp's and she would really come out of her shell to shimmy and sing along with the lines she remembered. Her smile of rememberance made me cry. Joy and sadness in equal measure.
One of the most striking things has been that she appears in many ways as a child again. Some subtle, some very obvious. A look of innocence. A certain energy of restlessness. The overwhelm of too much stimulus. Her face has softened into a child like face. It's incredible to witness first hand.
What I have also noticed is that amidst all the emotions and sensation there remains a groundedness in me that allows me to be with it all. No urge to turn away or escape. I haven't yet flinched. Instead a deep willingness to be with my mum and dissolve all my ideas about her. To dissolve any ideas of myself in the space of presence. To be with it all in spite of the tragedy of it.
The immediacy and intimacy of each moment and the sheer magnitude of what is unfolding is by no means lost on me. Each look is with loving eyes, each touch with loving hands, each word is greeted with loving ears. I am alive and sensitive to everything.
I will endeavour to report back as the week continues as I'm sure it will take me further into the space I am inhabiting and beyond. I am open to receiving whatever there is in the emotions that arise. I am meeting my mother in a way that perhaps I've never met her before. How ironic that such circumstances should open up so many possibilities to be entirely human. To be love. To be.
<3 <3 <3