On my desk I have pages of a story given to me by a very dear friend. On the cover is a photograph of a woman, her face covered with tiny wrinkles, lips surrounded by little lines, a touch of red lipstick and beautiful big violet blue eyes. My friend gave me these pages, thinking I might appreciate the read. The big blue eyes intrigued me and made me curious so I read. The story begins with “My dearest daughter, the day that you see me old I ask you please have patience and that, above all, you try to understand…” It is a letter from a mother to her daughter.
Her plea for understanding comes from the reversed roles in her life with her daughter. A reversal she has accepted, but is causing her daughter and their relationship some trouble. She knows she repeats herself, saying the same things over and over again. She knows because her daughter points this out to her, over and over again. In her letter she asks her daughter to just listen and be patient with her as she was with her daughter when she was a little girl, wanting to hear to the same bed time story night after night, over and over again.
She asks her daughter to have patience and try to understand her. What she needs now in her life is simply to be with her daughter and have her daughter listen to her, regardless if she occasionally has lost the memory or thread of conversation. She asks her daughter to live with her in the moment, to be there with her and for her. As she used to dress and groom her daughter, she now needs help to be dressed and groomed herself. As she taught her daughter how to eat properly, she herself now needs help to eat. Instead of holding her hand for her daughter’s first steps, she needs her daughter’s hands for her last steps. And when she cannot do a lot of things, she wants her daughter to be understanding instead of nervous or arrogant, rolling her eyes. To accept that life has slowed down for her mother and that it doesn’t always fit into the fast pace of a daughter’s life. She reminds her daughter of the many things she taught her, and how she can face and deal with life.
It seems to me that this beautiful old woman still has a lesson left to teach. As her daughter comes to understand that her mother grows old and frail, the daughter needs to let go of what was and accept the reversed role of now helping her mother. One day her mother might tell her she doesn’t want to live anymore, that she is ready to die. On that day she wants her daughter to understand, instead of getting upset or angry. When that day comes, she doesn’t want her daughter to feel sad or helpless seeing her as existing instead of living. She wants her daughter to know that she can help, she can help her with love as she journeys to the end of her life. She teaches her daughter a final lesson, that at this point in life the ingredients of love are patience, presence and a deep appreciation for the gift of the time and love they are blessed to share together.
My friend was right; I read a beautiful story about a beautiful mother, and a beautiful final lesson.
If you would like to know more about Ty Watson House and the services offered by the Alberni Valley Hospice Society, please call us at 250-723-4478