My daughter and I went to Jackson (Mississippi) to visit my mother again on Friday. It was a tough visit for me, for a couple of reasons. First, because Mom was taking a nap when we arrived, which is unusual for her. An aid helped me get her up and dressed so we could wheel her up to the lobby to visit, since her roommate was also napping. It was sobering and humbling to help the aid change mother’s diaper and to hear Mother apologize for “making a mess.”
“You were napping, Mom,” I patted her hand and kissed her forehead. “It’s fine, you’re all cleaned up now.”
Her frown slowly changed to a sleepy smile.
She was excited about the giant cookies we got for her, and for the next two hours the three of us sat in the lobby eating cookies and visiting. It wasn’t anything new that she couldn’t remember what Beth was doing and asked the same questions over and over. But what was hard was when we got ready to leave. She made the saddest face I’ve ever seen and said, “You didn’t tell me you were leaving so soon!” And nothing we could say would really cheer her up as we hugged and kissed goodbye.
“I’ll be back in about two weeks, Mom,” didn’t dispel her sad expression. She has no concept of time any more. She just didn’t want us to leave.
All weekend I’ve felt guilty that I’m not there for her more, and even that she has to be in a nursing home at all. She’s getting excellent care, and I know it’s the best place for her, but it’s just hard to shake the feelings of sadness that she is living her last days in such a state of mental and physical deterioration, being cared for by people other than her family.
A friend just shared a link on Facebook to Frederica Mathewes-Green’s Ancient Faith Radio podcast from a year ago, “Tender Love and the Dormition.” I listened to the podcast, and then I read the transcript (which you can do at this link) and I was struck by several things.
First, Green also has an 82-year-old mother in a nursing home—in a different city from where she lives—so she understands the stress that I feel about my own mother’s situation. She also reflects a bit in this podcast on how much work is involved in caring for the elderly, and as a result, how elder abuse and neglect have existed throughout history.
Green’s reflections were written last year on this date because of the annual Orthodox celebration of the Dormition of the Mother of God on August 15. I love what she says about the love and care shown for the Mother of God in her old age by the Apostle John, who lived with her and took care of her.
So, my offering on this feast day is Green’s podcast. It only takes about 13 minutes to listen to it, or you can simply read the transcript. Either, way, Blessed Feast Day!
(P.S. Here’s an excellent homily on this feast by a Orthodox priest in the United Kingdom.)
(P.S.S. Because Monday is the date that fans of Elvis Presley commemorate his death, last year at this time I did a blog post called “Schooled on Elvis by an English Nun,” which you can read here if you’re interested.)
This is an icon of the Dormition of the Mother of God.