Mother had an unusual reaction to some medication we gave her last night. This was the first time she had complained of pain, so we gave her a small dose a common pain reliever of hydrocodone and acetaminophen that had been provided by the hospice pharmacy.
I assumed it would make her sleepy, but instead she became very, very talkative. More words came tumbling out in the next hour than she has probably spoken totally since the strokes occurred over four weeks ago.
She stayed in what I call her “orientation/disorientation” spot of knowing and not knowing. Present and past appear to be the same to her. Last night, she tapped into some long dormant, or at least unspoken, emotional memories.
She expressed much fear that we were angry or disappointed in her. Her anxiety level at needing the kind of care that she needs (she suddenly seemed much more aware of her health situation--this was new) started to boil over. She’s always been such a giver and has always had a hard time receiving gifts or services from others.
She spoke at length about her own mother, whom we all called Granny, and who had lived with my mom and dad for nearly 30 years after she was widowed. Mother kept talking about Granny’s helplessness in so many areas: she couldn’t drive, couldn’t make decisions, couldn’t figure out how to shape her life, couldn’t live independently. Although we children loved having Granny live with us, I was always aware that this was not easy for my mother. Ever.
I saw more clearly last night where my own mother’s need for radical independence came from. She did not want to repeat that cycle. And now, as I feared would happen, she is in her own nightmare, fully dependent upon others, unable to do one single thing to care for herself, and seeing herself as having failed us.
I drove home much later than I had planned because of the length of this conversation and my need to listen as carefully as possible to her. I’m painfully aware that I’m barely functioning. I can’t seem to hear or speak or think clearly. I stopped by the church and picked up some things I needed and exhaustedly drove to the house.
Then my own anxiety, mirroring my mother’s, took over and I felt swept away by the tide of my own sense of failure. I am having to take some time away from many of my ministry responsibilities. This letter was read this morning in worship and will be given to the congregation. Grief took over last night. I, too, must be on the receiving end of things. I simply can’t keep going without some relief.
My mother and I are in the same place. We have the same choices before us. We can receive gratefully the movements of grace and love that are being poured out upon us by our families, our friends, our colleagues, our churches, and our communities, and find peace. Or, we can let our anxiety take over, our guilt at being the receivers rather than the givers, our anguish at not being in control (clearly a huge issue for both of us) and collapse internally.
The tie to the Gospel message shouts at me with this realization. I cannot serve and give and earn my way into the Kingdom of Heaven. I can only receive the gift given at huge expense, be grateful for the cross, and walk through the door held open for me that leads to the resurrection. But, truth be told, I’d rather do it myself. And I’m just betting I’m not alone. I don’t want to be beholden to God. But I am. Yes, I am. And with that knowledge, I can take another deep breath and go one yet one more hour, one more day, one more crisis.